A group of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands has designed and built a car it says could be the future of sustainable motoring.
The four-seat vehicle, which the students have named Lina, is an electric city car whose body, interior, and chassis are made entirely of organic materials.
According to the students’ press release, the car’s body consists of a honeycomb-shaped core of bio-plastic made from sugar beets sandwiched between two sheets of a composite sourced from flax seeds.
The project was born out of the students’ desire to come up with vehicle manufacturing techniques that would result in an ultra-lightweight car without resorting to aluminum and carbon fibre. Those materials are known for their lightness and strength but their processing also consumes five to six times the energy as steel, which the students say only transfers energy consumption from driving a car to its manufacturing process.
Only the suspension and brakes are made of conventional metals, which helped the team keep the car’s weight to 300 kg, though that’s without the batteries that lend the car a range of about 100 km and a top speed of 85 km/h.
That’s not a lot of speed compared to any brand-new vehicle you can buy today, but consider that even with the car’s three lithium-ion batteries on board, it achieves that from a pair of electric motors that generate just 11 hp and 101 lb-ft of torque.
It’s that light weight and low power the students say makes their car more energy-efficient than some high-profile mass-produced electric vehicles like the BMW i3, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model S 60D.
Lina also incorporates some practical high-tech features, like near-field communication (NFC) to allow the car to detect different drivers, a function that lends their creation to car-sharing programs.
The Eindhoven students took Lina to the Shell Eco Marathon in London in June 2017, and while the car’s weight meant it didn’t qualify for competition, they used it as an opportunity to show the car off to the media.