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University Students Design EV Car That Removes CO2 From The Atmosphere as you drive

Students at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a technology which removes CO2 from the atmosphere as you drive. The team of students’ task was to create a carbon-neutral electric vehicle (EV).

The end result after 10 months’ work is a car called Zem. Not only was Zem built with advanced waste-free manufacturing, it also contains a filter, which collects CO2 from the atmosphere as you drive.

Whilst EVs do not typically emit carbon emissions whilst driving, it is well documented that they still contribute emissions during manufacturing, during repair and whilst being broken down at the end of their life. To combat this Zem was designed to capture more CO2 emissions over its effective lifespan than the total CO2 it would emit, including manufacture, running and eventual disposal.

How Zem captures CO2

Zem is able to capture CO2 with a special filter designed by the Eindhoven students. The filter works by collecting CO2 that’s floating around in the atmosphere whilst the car is being driven, effectively sucking the carbon into the filter. The filter can currently capture around 2 kilos of CO2 for every 20,000Miles (32,186KM) of travel. If ten Zems travel 20,000 miles each in a year this is the same amount of carbon as a tree would capture in the same time frame. Whilst that might not sound like much, if you consider that there are over one billion cars on the road, if every car was fitted with this technology, that is a lot of carbon captured.

Built to be carbon-neutral

The Zem was built to be as carbon-neutral as possible. The students used 3D printing to minimise material waste. Additionally they used recovered and recycled plastics. Glass was dumped in favour of polycarbonate for windows, as it is considered more environmentally-friendly.

The team that created Zem
The team and Zem Photo: Bart van Overbeeke/ TU/Eindhoven

What’s next in store?

The team have filed to patent their design and the unique air intake and filter system. Whilst the air intake looks like a standard car grill on the outside, as air flows through the special filter it strips carbon from the air as the car drives along. Team manager Louise de Laat says:

“It is really still a proof-of-concept, but we can already see that we will be able to increase the capacity of the filter in the coming years. Capturing CO₂ is a prerequisite for compensating for emissions during production and recycling.”

The students plan to improve the filter and expect it to be able to strip 2kg of carbon for every 12,800 miles (20,600 km) traveled at an average speed of around 37 mph (60 km/h). De Laat also commented:

“That may not seem like much, but the overall payoff is significant if you were to soon implement it on a large scale in every passenger car… After all, there are more than a billion passenger cars driving around the world.”

The team envision a future where a full filter can be emptied easily at the charging station when the car is charging where the carbon will be reused, potentially to generate electricity. The car can currently drive 320 kilometres before the filter is full and requires emptying.

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  1. Don’t trees also take CO2 from the atmosphere for photosynthesis? If all cars were fitted with the filter that removes CO2 from the air, might it remove too much, thereby endangering our forests, woods, and trees in cities, etc?

    • Hi Vicki,
      A very good question, however no this would not cause an issue for our existing forests. It is estimated that there are around 3 trillion trees in the world today, with around 15 billion trees logged yearly and only around 5 billion new trees planted every year. In fact, before humans, it was estimated the number of trees was double, with around 6 trillion trees. So, planting more trees or innovative ideas such as the CO2 filter created by these students will only offer benefits to our environment, air quality goes a long way towards helping combat climate change.


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