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This adorable little electric car is made of trash

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One person’s trash is another person’s zero-emissions car, goes the old saying… right?

In what might be my favorite demonstration of just how much we can benefit from recycling, students at the Eindhoven University of Technology have unveiled Luca, a cute electric car made largely from plastic you threw away years ago.

The team of 22 students first revealed its design back in December 2019, and have now completed its construction using a range of recycled materials. The project has taken a total of 18 months, and also involved numerous companies who helped with various materials needed to build it.

Luca. Image | TU/ecomotive
An early render of Luca’s design

You can watch a video of the car in action, as well as views from all sides and its cabin over on Dutch outlet NOS’ site.

The exterior is made of flax fibers combined with various plastics, including waste plastic fished out from the ocean, PET bottles, and recycled ABS; a sandwich panel made of these materials was used for the chassis. The yellow finish isn’t paint, but instead a wrap, also made of recycled material. The same goes for the glass, which gets a natural dark tint. The whole car weighs just 360 kg; its batteries add just 60 kg more.

Isn't the Luca an absolute beauty? It's hard to believe this is mostly recycled waste.
Credit: Bart van Overbeeke / TU/E
Isn’t the Luca an absolute beauty? It’s hard to believe this is mostly recycled waste.

Pop into the sporty coupe and you’ll find seats made of coconut husk and horsehair, wrapped in recycled PET. Two electric motors power the rear wheels to help the Luca hit a top speed of 90 kmph (56 mph), and achieve a range of 220 km (136 miles). The university notes that this efficiency translates to about 180 kilometers per liter of gasoline.

“With this car, we want to show that waste is a valuable material, even in complex applications like a car,” said team member Matthijs van Wijk. It’s certainly a remarkable experiment to demonstrate that; the next challenge will be to meet requirements for safety and reliability over time.

The students aim to eventually have Luca inspected and allowed on public roads. Hopefully, it’ll also encourage automakers to start thinking actively about recycling more for their future vehicles.


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Published October 8, 2020 — 13:39 UTC