This electric car captures carbon from the atmosphere as it drives

When highly invested students want to push the industry towards a new paradigm, the results can be impressive!

The emergence of electric vehicles is one of those trends that are already helping to reduce the carbon footprint of transport, even though this industry is still in its infancy. But there are some for whom the current model is not nearly ambitious enough. This is the case of a team of students from the University of Technology in Eindhoven who came up with a one-of-a-kind concept: an electric car that actively pumps carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it drives. .

This is a long-standing project, the beginnings of which date back to 2018. Since then, the seven sorcerer’s apprentices have developed numerous prototypes; in an interview at New Atlasthey presented the seventh offspring of this small family, baptized ZEM (EM-07).

The philosophy of the prototype being to limit the carbon footprint of the vehicle as much as possible, the students did not dwell on the engine. We just know that it will carry a 22 kW motor and nine 2.3 kWh batteries. On the other hand, they were much more generous in detail on the environmental aspect.

Environmental objective

To start, they used a 3D printing process to produce all of the body elements with minimal waste of material. The plastic elements are all made from recycled materials, and they can be recycled again at the end of the car’s life cycle.

They have also chosen to do without glass, which traditionally comes from a very energy-intensive sector. Their choice fell on the polycarbonatea family of plastic polymers that the team believes are more environmentally friendly.

They also thought about replaceable elements, such as bulbs or electronic components. Here, no proprietary equipment: everything is built from standardized elements available on the market and reusable when the vehicle dies.

As mentioned above, this is an electric car. By definition, it therefore does not consume fossil fuels and does not emit greenhouse gases when driving.

And just because it’s electricity doesn’t mean it should be wasted; the ZEM is also equipped with regenerative braking technology which recovers a fraction of the kinetic energy lost during braking in the form of electricity. In the same vein, the roof and bonnet are also covered with photovoltaic panels.

A list already well supplied to which we must add the most striking innovation of this ZEM: a mobile carbon capture system that hides behind the grille.

A CO filter2 on wheels

When the vehicle is moving, the air passes through a filter which, once saturated, extracts the carbon dioxide for storage. According to the students, it would then be possible to reuse it in many industrial sectors. They think in particular of the production of concrete, plastics… or quite simply sparkling drinks.

For now, the performance of this filter is far from revolutionary. According to its designers, to capture 2 kg of CO2the ZEM must roll more than 20 000 km. For comparison, according to the large conglomerate of European manufacturers (THAT), the average emissions of a standard car is of the order of 100 g of CO2 per kilometer. Based on these figures, this means that such a car would emit the same amount of carbon dioxide in 20 km. Either a not really flattering ratio of more or less 1000:1.

These are obviously very vague estimates. But in any case, it is not the precise numbers that are important. What matters is that, according to the students, a very simple device of this kind could have a very significant impact if deployed on a large scale.

An innovation effort that must challenge the industry

It will be very interesting to follow the progress of this beautiful project. Nothing says that it will lead to the marketing of a commercial vehicle; but even if we never cross the slightest ZEM on our roads, it is in any case a very interesting proof of concept which should encourage the giants of the sector not to rest on their achievements.

« We want to tickle the industry by showing them everything that is already possible explains Nikko Okkels, the team’s spokesperson at the New Atlas. ” If 35 students can design, develop an almost carbon neutral car in one year, there are also bound to be opportunities and possibilities for the industry. “, he concludes by inviting all manufacturers who wish to take inspiration from their concept. A good hearer!

All additional information on the project is available on the team website.