When it comes to carbon emissions, cars are king. In fact, the EPA found that transportation is the biggest driver of greenhouse gas emissions due to burning fossil fuels. And while electric cars offer a promising alternative, it still doesn’t address the carbon that’s already in the air.
That’s why a group of 35 students at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands developed a concept car that actually cleans the air while it drives.
TU/ecomotive, the student team at Eindhoven, unveiled their sustainable vehicle, dubbed Zem, on July 21. The car utilizes a process called direct air capturing. This allows the vehicle to suck in carbon dioxide through a filter where it is then stored in the vehicle. Currently, Zem can clean roughly two kilograms of carbon dioxide after traveling about 20,000 miles.
The car, dubbed Zem, can capture two kilograms of carbon dioxide with a filter at 20,000 travel miles.
Bart van Overbeeke
Sure, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot at first blush. But remember: It’s still a proof of concept. That means that there’s plenty of room for the technology to be refined and grow. As of now, though, 10 Zems could hold as much carbon dioxide as an average tree—which is still impressive, especially since the vehicle could have a profound impact on reducing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere if rolled out at a large scale .
“[We] can already see that we will be able to increase the capacity of the filter in the coming years,” Louise de Laat, team manager of the project at TU/ecomotive, said in a press release. “Capturing carbon dioxide is a prerequisite for compensating for emissions during production and recycling.”
In addition to sucking carbon out of the air, Zem is also constructed using a sustainable 3D printing process. For example, creating the car’s body panels and structural frame resulted in nearly no residual waste. The plastics used in the 3D printing process can also be recycled and reused for other products too.
35 students from TU Eindhoven created a car that captures more carbon dioxide than it emits while driving.
Bart van Overbeeke
The team believes that not only does the car offer a lot of promise in upending the way we approach sustainability, but it can also serve as a direct challenge to an automotive industry that has long dragged its feet when it comes to climate innovation.
“A car is not just a box that goes from A to B,” Philip van Veelen, the chief automotive designer at TU/ecomotive, said during the unveiling event. “If you tell people that if they want to be sustainable then they have to take the train, that’s not how it works. That’s not how you change the world. You have to accommodate their needs.”
“We want to tickle the industry by showing what is already possible,” Nikki Okkels, the external relations manager at TU/ecomotive, said in the release. “And working together. If 35 students can design, develop and build an almost carbon- neutral car in a year, then there are also opportunities and possibilities for the industry.”
In other words, Zem is a massive flex over the auto industry. If a few dozen college students can create an innovative car of the future, what’s stopping multi-billion dollar auto manufacturers from doing the same?
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