Tesla Motors has built a name for itself with high-performing, sleek electric cars.

With a price tag over $70,000 for most of its early models, the car company felt obligated to appeal to expensive tastes, which, for the longest time, meant leather seats.

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Tesla

Like fashion and food, though, taste in cars is ever-changing.

PETA Pressure

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has a reputation for bombastic advertisements and campaigns in support of their mission. On top of that, the animal rights organization occasionally takes less dramatic steps to appeal to corporations by buying stocks, attending shareholder meetings, and advocating for their positions.

In 2015, representatives from PETA attended Tesla Motors’ annual meeting, asking that the company stop using leather in their luxury cars. By pointing out the plight of the animals whose skin is turned into leather, PETA appealed to Tesla’s green leaning, noting that animal agriculture is awful for the environment.

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Inside EVs

Not only does farming animals contribute to global warming and climate change, but leather’s tanning process requires lots of water and the use of hazardous chemicals. Tesla’s shareholders did not approve PETA’s proposal at that time, but CEO Elon Musk said he’d look into the issue. Now it appears that the billionaire not only looked into the proposal but acted on it.

Sneaky Details

Tesla didn’t have a press-conference announcing that it was no longer offering leather seats. Rather, the electric car company simply removed language related to leather seats on their design web pages. This small detail was picked up by Electrek, “a news site tracking the transition from fossil fuel transportation to electric.”

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Tesla

Electrek writer Jameson Dow pointed out that the shift to vegan seats doesn’t mean that these cars are entirely leather-free yet. “Cars still come with a leather-wrapped steering wheel standard,” writes Dow, “but Tesla has offered to provide a non-leather steering wheel upon request in the past for customers who make a point of avoiding all leather.”

Hold Your Horses, if not the Horsepower

Of course, it’s important to recognize that polyester and a number of other synthetic leather products come from oil. While eliminating leather is certainly more humane to livestock, oil-based alternatives aren’t without environmental costs of their own.

Even though the direct emissions from an electric car are low, the source for charging the vehicle can be an issue. For example, if the vehicle gets charged by non-renewable resources like coal or natural gas, even a super-efficient Tesla is contributing to dangerous carbon emissions.

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WIRED

Caveats aside, Tesla Motors is still making remarkable vehicles and people are doing extraordinary things with them.

Jordan Hart and Bradly D’Souza set a new record this summer by driving from Los Angeles to New York City, a 2,830-mile journey, in less than 52 hours. If they hadn’t stopped, that would mean an average speed of 54 miles-per-hour. But the duo stopped to charge their Tesla Model S 85D some 20 times.

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They undertook this record-breaking adventure to raise awareness about the millions of victims of human trafficking, “in hopes that people can more readily identify victims and rescue them from the grips of human trafficking, and the threats posed by their captors.” You can support that cause here.

Tesla is making remarkable automobiles, and they are pushing themselves and their drivers to be more conscious consumers and citizens. You can’t complain about that.