The ZEM is an electric car that absorbs CO2 from the air as it drives

A Eindhoven University of Technology student team It has built ZEM, a prototype electric car that removes and stores carbon dioxide from the air it passes through. As he moves down the road, he is able to capture more COtwo of which is emitted during the complete life cycle of the vehicleincluding its production, thus becoming a vehicle with zero net emissions.

The ZEM is built from a monohull, with body panels whose manufacture has used additive techniques that reduce material waste and produce “the least possible amount of CO emissionstwo“, according to the University. At the same time, they are also used recycled plastics that can be shredded and reused for other projects.

The use of these recycled plastics is also transferred to the interior, together with sustainable materials like pineapple skin. The polycarbonate it is the material of choice for the windows over glass, which the team says is more environmentally friendly. The ZEM also has a modular infotainment system with modular electronics and a lighting system that is also modular, which means that all of this can be reused in other products.

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The ZEM has been built using recycled plastics, 3D printing, modular and reusable electronics, and sustainable materials.

The fact that the ZEM is an electric vehicle means that does not emit carbon dioxide while drivingie it is a vehicle zero local emissions. Given the project’s focus on the car’s carbon footprint and recyclability, details about the powertrain that powers it are very scarce. It is known to carry nine 2.3 kWh modular battery packs that feed a little 22kw electric motor (29.5 hp). Also, an old differential from an Audi with a relatively high gear ratio has been used to increase torque.

Incorporates a regenerative braking system that allows to recharge the batteries in the braking and deceleration phases. The battery is also helped by the photovoltaic solar cells that have been mounted on the ceiling. Both systems slightly extend the autonomy of the ZEM. Other technology included is bidirectional charging and the digital rear view mirrors to reduce aerodynamic drag.

What defines the ZEM as a prototype with an innovative technology it is the front grille that will be patented by the students. Although it looks like a fairly standard item, it actually incorporates a system for the direct capture of COtwo of the air as the vehicle moves forward. The team claims that up to 2 kilograms of COtwo for every 20,600 kilometers traveled at a speed of 60 km/h. Although these are not huge numbers if you consider a single car, a technology like this implemented in millions of vehicles around the world has the potential to make a real contribution to the efforts to decarbonize the planet.

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The ZEM project is based on building a passenger car with very low carbon emissions during production that are offset by clean air when in operation and zero local emissions from its powertrain. In addition, when its useful life ends, its materials and components are reusable and recyclable.

The ZEM filter can be used during 320 kilometers until it is completely filled. The idea is that such filters can be cleaned using green energy and the COtwo captured is stored in a tank when the electric car recharges its battery at a public station. In this way, when it recovers its energy it also recovers its ability to clean the air it passes through.

Relative to COtwo captured, it is not clear what happens to him. Some interesting projects in this regard are its use to manufacture ecological concrete, to create synthetic fuels or to create plastics from chemical building blocks.

Although it is a proof of concept, “we can already see that we will be able to increase the capacity of the filter in the coming years,” says Louise de Laat, team leader. “The capture of COtwo it is a prerequisite for offsetting emissions during production and recycling.” The students have also analyzed what would happen to the ZEM at the end of its useful life with the aim of reusing and recycling as many of its materials and components as possible. His work continues on improving the concept.

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ZEM is a proof of concept designed to inspire others to take on the zero carbon challenge.

The members of the team and the ZEM They will travel to the United States in August to tour universities and businesses and showcase their work, hoping the concept will inspire others to take up the challenge.

“We want to tickle the industry by showing what’s already possible,” says Nikki Okkels, the team’s external relations manager. “If in a year, 35 students can design, develop and build an almost carbon-neutral car, the opportunities are much greater at an industrial level than we challenge to accept the challenge and, of course, work together with them,” he adds. Okkels. “We haven’t finished developing the whole project yet, so we warmly invite car manufacturers to come, take a look and help us make great strides in the years to come.”

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