A team of students from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Netherlands, unveiled a biodegradable car made almost entirely of sugar beets resin and flax during Dutch Technology Week on May 17, 2017. Since then, students from the team have been touring the roads of the Netherlands in the car to showcase their creation.
The “core material” of the car is a “honeycomb structure” produced from sugar beet, according to a TU/e press release. “It is enveloped in bio-composite sheets that have been composed on the basis of flax, a plant that is also grown in the Netherlands,” reported the university, noting that the bodywork of the car is also made from flax.
“In terms of its strength-weight ratio, the bio-composite is comparable with the familiar fiberglass but manufactured in a sustainable way,” explained TU/e.
The lightweight car, known as Lina, is 700 lbs or 300 Kg. It is able to carry four people inside, and can reach up to 50 miles per hour or 80 kilometers per hour. As an electric vehicle, its three motors, powered by two batteries, are able to run for approximately 60 miles, according to Autoweek.
The only parts of the Lina that are not biodegradable are the tires, the battery, and some other necessary metal parts. Autoweek reported that the chassis of the vehicle and the breaks are aluminum.
Although the car has been certified by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority as roadworthy, according to the University, the only catch is that it cannot pass a safety test. Discover reported that the biodegradable car cannot pass a crash test because the flax and sugar will break instead of bend like medal when it is hit.
The university reported that the student team from TU/e was presented their vehicle at the Shell Eco-marathon in London this past May. According to the Shell Eco-marathon website, the students did not win any awards.
Lina has been touring Netherlands this summer.
Although the goal of designing a biodegradable car was to make an environmentally-friendly vehicle, Sky News reports that “while the cars being developed may not use as much energy to drive, that energy is often spent during their manufacture, according to the researchers.”
"Energy that is saved while driving the car is now spent during the production phase," said the team leader Noud van de Gevel, according to Sky News.