Meet the student-built coupe that cleans the air as it drives


What’s better than a zero-emission electric car? Well, how about a negative emission car that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it drives? 

TU/ecomotive, a student team from TU Eindhoven in The Netherlands, has developed a prototype machine called Zem. It’s a sportily styled coupe, and it’s designed as a truly zero-emission car.

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The Zem features a built-in special filter that can capture up to two kilograms of CO2 over around 20,000 miles of travel. The CO2 pulled in by the filter is then stored in the car until it can be disposed of.

Although a single vehicle using the filter would only be capable of removing a small amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, TU/ecomotive notes that 10 cars would combine to store as much carbon dioxide as the average tree – and if every car worldwide was fitted with a filter it would make a huge different in effort to reduce global warming.

Besides, TU/ecomotive team manager Louise de Laat said that “we can already see that we will be able to increase the capacity of the filter in the coming years”. The filter is currently in the proof-of-concept phase, and the students are in the process of applying for a patent for it. 

It takes around 200 miles of driving to fill the filter, and the team is aiming to develop a system where a filter can be changed while the vehicle is charging.

The Zem has plenty of interest on it besides the filter, though. The team chose to develop a coupe-style machine to showcase that zero-emission motoring can still offer performance, and has worked to make production of it as carbon-neutral as possible.

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So the monocoque and body panels have been produced with minimal waste using 3D printing, and use circular plastics that can eventually be shredded and recycles after use. 

It’s also been designed to offer bi-directional charging so that it can provide power to other devices, and is fitted with solar panels to help top up the charge when it’s on the move.

The Zem is the seventh concept car produced by the TU/ecomotive squad, which started with the Penny that was developed for the Shell Eco-Marathon in 2013. 

More recently, the firm produced the Luca in 2020, showing how recycled waste taken from items such as PET bottles could be used for car production. Before that was the Noah, a ‘fully circular car’ which was designed to be sustainable in production, use and recycling.



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