In an extraordinary display of ingenuity, a group of students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a solar-powered car dubbed ‘Zem’, which stands for “zero emissions mobility”. A noteworthy feature of the Zem car is its ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere as it drives, earning it the title of a “carbon-eating” vehicle.
A Novel Approach to Carbon Capture
Constructed using recycled plastics shaped by a 3D printer, the Zem car showcases a departure from traditional automotive construction materials. The vehicle incorporates a carbon capture device located on its underbelly, which becomes operational as the car moves.
While the car is in motion, air is funnelled through two filters where carbon dioxide sticks to the filters. These filters need to be emptied every 200 miles, a process facilitated by a specially designed EV charging station that also extracts the carbon dioxide for future use in clean fuels or safe storage.
Powering Up: Solar Panels and Lithium-Ion Batteries
The Zem car employs lithium-ion batteries from Dutch company Cleantron for power. In addition, it utilises solar panels from Watllab to generate up to 15% of its charge.
Though the carbon capture mechanism currently only absorbs a small fraction of the car’s total emissions, the team is optimistic about refining the technology. At present, it captures approximately 4.41 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 20,000 miles driven, equating to just 0.04% of the average vehicle’s annual carbon emissions.
Collaboration Fuels Innovation
The development of the Zem car was a team effort, with a group of students at its core and partner sponsors providing the necessary materials. The carbon output of the car was scrutinised using SimaPro software, enabling a comprehensive lifestyle analysis.
Despite the daunting prospect of competing with well-established industry giants, the student team has made impressive strides in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
Community Responses and Future Potential
The Zem car has generated much excitement within the community. Commentators appreciate the potential applications of this technology, particularly in densely populated regions with temperate climates. Others highlight the Zem car as an inspiring testament to the innovation and drive of the younger generation.
While some concerns have been raised about the challenges of solar-powered technology and carbon capture efficiency, many are hopeful about the future, citing the continuous improvements in solar panel and battery technology.
Despite its early stages, the Zem car presents a fascinating exploration of innovative, sustainable vehicle design. As this technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for carbon-neutral transportation expand. The students’ commitment to the project, and their determination to achieve carbon neutrality, offers a promising glimpse into a future where the automobile industry could play an active role in environmental conservation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What powers the Zem car?
The Zem car is powered by lithium-ion batteries from the Dutch company Cleantron and also gets up to 15% of its charge from solar panels.
2. How does the Zem car capture carbon dioxide?
The Zem car captures carbon dioxide using two filters situated on its underbelly. As the car moves, air passes through these filters, and carbon dioxide is absorbed.
3. How often do the filters need to be emptied?
The filters on the Zem car need to be emptied every 200 miles.
4. What happens to the carbon dioxide captured by the car?
The captured carbon dioxide can be repurposed for other clean fuels or safely stored to prevent it from re-entering the atmosphere.
5. What does the term “Zem” stand for?
“Zem” stands for “zero emissions mobility,” which was the goal of the student team that developed the car.