Plastics are everywhere and it ends up polluting the environment, depriving the economy of a valuable resource. According to a report, Europe produces about 58M tonnes of plastic every year. Since, most of the raw material is fossil fuel-based, if the current production trends continue, by 2050 plastics could account for 20% of oil consumption, 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, and there could be more plastics than fish in the sea.
Europe also produces nearly 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, of which only 30% is recycled, 39% is incinerated, and 31% is discarded in landfills. The EU plastic sector is huge – it employs 1.5 million people and generated a turnover of €340B in 2015. As per reports, an increase in its sustainability can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.
22 students 18 months and a “waste car”
Currently, the European car industry collectively produces 2.1 billion tons of waste per year. Aiming to demonstrate that you can reuse this waste in a new and useful manner, students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have made a car almost entirely out of waste.
“With this car, we want to show that waste is a valuable material, even in complex applications like a car,” says team member Matthijs van Wijk.
The car has been developed by TU/ecomotive – a student team at the University of Technology Eindhoven.
Luca’s chassis consists of a unique sandwich panel developed by the students in collaboration with several companies. The exterior is made of flax fibers combined with plastic which is fished from the ocean. Although this material was submerged in the ocean for several years and consists of different types of plastic, it is able to give the chassis sufficient strength when combined with the natural fibers.
The core of the material is made of recycled PET bottles – which can be recycled no more than ten times. The body, finish, windows, and the interior is also made of recycled materials, including PET bottles, hard plastic ABS, and household waste.
The result is a sporty-looking electric car called ‘Luca’. The car was unveiled by Dutch physician and ESA astronaut, André Kuipers.
‘Luca’ light & efficient
Luca is a compact car and is powered by two motors – one on each axle – and these combine for a humble power output of 12kW.
It can reach a top speed of 90 KM/hour. Voltage is drawn from six batteries scavenged from disused road cars, and these give Luca an impressive range of 220km.
The consumption can be converted to about 180 KM/ltr of gasoline. In addition, due to the low weight, (360kg without batteries), it is half as light as comparable cars.
A whole lot of waste
The car’s body is made of recycled ABS – a hard plastic used in many consumer products such as toys, televisions, and kitchen products. The car gets its yellow color from a wrap – a colored film – instead of paint. This film can also be removed without leaving any residue.
This leaves pure plastic and makes the final recycling process a lot easier. The side and rear windows are also made of recycled material. The recycling process immediately gives the windows a luxurious black tint.
A lot of waste has also been used in the interior. For example, Luca has two comfortable custom-made chairs, the cushions of which consist of a combination of coconut hair and horsehair. The fabric around them is made of recycled PET but feels and looks like suede. The center console consists, among other things, of a plastic additive from household waste.
In addition, there are even residual materials from Luca’s own production process: small pieces of flax with the plastic from the ocean are compressed into stylish, useful plates.
With all this, the team hopes to make people aware of their consumption behavior and thus contribute to the development of a circular economy.
Other cars developed by the Eindhoven TU/ecomotive team
This is not the first car that the Eindhoven TU/ecomotive team has developed. Before Luca, there was Isa, Nova, Lina, and Noah – an electric car with a body and chassis made entirely from plants. According to TU/ecomotive, these cars are also equipped with the latest technology, ensuring not only sustainability but also efficiency and safety.
Image credit: Eindhoven University of Technology