Dutch researchers are equipping a prototype with a special filter system designed to capture and store carbon dioxide.
When will we drive climate-neutral cars? In five years? Or in ten to 15 years? Maybe never? No one can seriously answer this question(s) at the moment. Industry and science can only further increase their efforts in this regard. Some Dutch researchers approach the task in a particularly creative way. They are developing a car that – to put it bluntly – eats up carbon dioxide and is intended to bring humanity a whole lot closer to a CO2-neutral vehicle.
The small electric car comes from the brains and hands of scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology. The secret of the prototype, which is nicknamed Zem, is that it has a filter system through which the outside air flows, not only catching CO₂ but also storing it. The researchers have not yet revealed exactly how the whole thing works. They are currently in the proof-of-concept phase and in the process of applying for a patent. "But we can already see that we can increase the capacity of the filter in the next few years," says Louise de Laat, the team leader of the 35-strong research group.
The filter is full after 320 km
Speaking of capacity: the car can currently drive 320 kilometers before the filter is full. Assuming an annual mileage of 20,000 kilometers, with the current state of the art, two kilograms of CO₂ should be able to be captured during this period. "That means that ten cars can store as much carbon dioxide as an average tree," calculate the scientists. Such a small fleet does little to combat man-made climate change. However, if every car used worldwide has this technology, much larger dimensions have been achieved and the effects are all the more positive.
Zem was designed, developed and built within a year. The e-mobile comes in the form of an extremely compact coupe whose monocoque and body were produced using a 3D printing process. Advantage: There is almost no waste from material residues. The plastics also consist of individual materials that can be easily shredded and reused after use. To generate additional range, Zem has solar panels on the front hood and roof. There is no detailed information on the drive technology so far. All that is known is that the e-car can be charged bidirectionally – i.e. it can also release energy from its battery.
Wake-up call towards the automotive industry
The students want to continuously improve Zem in the coming years and call on the automotive industry to get involved. They are pursuing the goal of making it carbon neutral throughout its life cycle and finally getting it on the road. It should not cause CO₂ emissions either during the production process or when driving. On top of that, the researchers are striving for maximum recycling of the materials used. And as for the CO₂ filter, the team envisions a future where the full filter can simply be emptied at the charging station when the car is being refueled.
As is so often the case with such announcements, the question arises: have the students from Eindhoven actually made a technological breakthrough here or do things look much more negative on closer inspection? This cannot be judged until the research group explains their invention in more detail. The Dutch are to be expressly praised for their unusual idea.