TU Eindhoven student team TU/ecomotive has developed a sustainable electric passenger car that captures more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than it emits when driving. This is a prototype called Zem, which cleans the air through a special filter. By storing captured CO₂ and then releasing it, Earth can contribute to reducing global warming. The students will continue to improve the car in the coming years with the goal of making it carbon neutral for its entire life cycle and eventually hitting the road.
The transport sector is a major polluter, producing a quarter of the EU’s total carbon emissions a few years ago. More than 60 percent of these emissions are accounted for by passenger cars. To reduce these emissions, 35 students designed, developed and built a car that emits less or no emissions both during production and on the road. In addition, the team strives to achieve optimal reuse of materials in the future.
The car can capture 2 kilograms of CO₂ through a special filter every 20,000 miles of travel per year. This means that ten cars can store as much carbon dioxide as one tree on average. That may not seem like much, the team claims, but if you were to implement it on a large scale in every passenger car soon, the overall gains would be significant. After all, there are over a billion passenger cars in the world that could capture CO₂ instead of emitting it.
The filter through which the outside air passes is unique: the students applied for a patent for this innovation. “This is really still a proof of concept, but we can already see that we will be able to increase the capacity of the filter in the coming years. CO₂ capture is a prerequisite for offsetting emissions during production and recycling,” explains team manager Louise de Laat. TU/ecomotive envisions a future where the complete filter can be easily emptied via a charging station when charging a car. The car can now travel 320 kilometers when the filter is full.
Life cycle analysis with SimaPro software can be used to determine whether a vehicle’s life cycle – from construction to use and end-of-life – is CO₂ neutral. Several innovations contribute to this goal. Check out the 3D printing techniques students are using. The monocoque and body panels are produced via 3D printing, resulting in almost no residual waste. In addition, the student team is printing circular plastics that can be shredded and reused for other projects.
The electric and stable four-wheeler has a sporty look. Students say that the automotive industry faces a sporting challenge. After all, road transport should be more sustainable. Nikki Okkels, external affairs manager at TU/ecomotive: “We want to tickle the industry by showing what’s already possible. And work together. If 35 students can design, develop and build a nearly carbon-free car in one year, there are opportunities and opportunities for industry as well.”
Okkels: “We are calling on the industry to solve the problem and of course we are happy to think with them. We are not done with our development yet and we want to take some big steps in the coming years. We warmly invite car manufacturers to come and see.”
All images courtesy of Bart van Overbeeke of Eindhoven University of Technology.
Finally, it was time to discover Earth; a car that cleans the air while driving! With Zem, we are inspiring the automotive industry to look at the full life cycle of their vehicles. We also want to dare the industry with this concept car, if it is possible for 30 students to create a sustainable car in a year, why is the industry not taking any major action? By applying new technologies, materials and manufacturing methods, we reduce emissions and optimize the reusability and recyclability of their vehicle.
The transport sector is a major polluter, producing a quarter of the EU’s total CO2 emissions a few years ago. More than 60 percent of these emissions are accounted for by passenger cars. The amount of CO2 produced by passenger cars is the main reason why students want to create a car that not only has low emissions in the manufacturing process, but also reduces CO2 emissions when driven. Our long-term ambition is for the vehicle to be completely CO2 neutral in all phases of its life.
Sustainable production methods
We work in a very new way in production; additive manufacturing. This method helped us create our concept car with as little CO2 emissions as possible. In collaboration with partners such as CEAD and Royal3D, we made the monocoque and body panels fully 3D-printable. By 3D-printing these parts of Zem, the exact shape needed can be printed and almost no waste material is produced. Printing these car parts with circular plastics that can be shredded and reused for other projects further contributes to our goal of very low or no CO2 emissions at all stages of life.
CO2 capture while driving
We’re shaking up the industry by cleaning the air while driving to the point of emission, using a technology called “direct air capture”. Direct air capture is a fairly new method of cleaning the air by trapping CO2 in a filter. We have used this innovative technology and implemented it in our car. The idea is simple: while driving, the air will pass through our self-designed filters and the CO2 will be captured and stored.
Design for recycling
Compatibility of materials, easy separation and use of additives, among other features, determine Zem’s recyclability. By designing the majority of parts in our vehicle to be reusable or recyclable, we ensure that the Zem’s CO2 emissions are reduced in its subsequent use compared to “regular” cars. Since all these materials and car parts can be used for other purposes and very little new material is introduced into the cycle, this seemed like the most sustainable option for us.
Recycling of carbon black
With up to 1.8 billion tires entering the global waste stream each year and highly useful carbon black normally going to waste, we’ve partnered with Black Bear Carbon to reintroduce recycled carbon black into our vehicle processing. This circular approach not only solves an important waste management problem, but also dramatically reduces the CO2 normally emitted during the process.
Bi-directional charging powered by solar panels
Another technology implemented in Zem is bi-directional charging. Bi-directional charging technology allows cars that are not currently producing renewable energy to power homes. You can think of Zem as a kind of external battery for your home, supplying the home with green energy when needed. Two-way charging technology is integrated with solar panels on the roof of the car. In this way, even when Zem is not driving, he uses both the batteries and the roof space to make the car and its surroundings more durable.
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