ZEM - the car that cleans the air while driving

25 July 2022 | David Young

Zem aims to inspire the automotive industry to look to at the full life cycle of their cars

ZEM - the car that cleans the air while driving

Photocredit: Bart van Overbeeke

Zem hopes to inspire the automotive industry to look to at the full life cycle of their cars. They also want to dare the industry with this concept car, if it is possible for 30 students to create a sustainable car in one year, why is the industry not taking any major actions? By implementing new technologies, materials, and production methods, they are reducing emissions and optimising the reusability and recyclability of their car.

The transport sector is a major polluter, producing about a quarter of the EU's total CO2 emissions a few years ago. Passenger cars are responsible for more than 60 percent of these emissions. The amount of CO2produced by passenger cars is the main reason that the students wanted to create a car that not only has low emissions in the production process, but also reduces CO2 emissions while driving. Their long-term ambition is for the car to become fully CO2 neutral in all life phases.

Sustainable production methods

In the production, they worked with a new method, additive manufacturing. This method helped create our concept car with as little CO2 emissions as possible. Collaborating with partners as CEAD and Royal3D, they have developed the monocoque and the body panels to be fully 3D-printable. By 3D-printing these parts of Zem, the exact shape that was needed could be printed and almost no waste material was produced. Printing these car parts with circular plastics that can be shredded and re-used for other projects, contributes even more to our goal of having very low to no CO2 emissions during all life phases.

Capturing CO2 while driving

Their vehicles clean the air while driving instead of emitting, we are doing this with a technology called "direct air capturing". Direct air capture is a new method of cleaning the air by capturing CO2 into a filter. The idea is very simple: while driving, air will move through our self-designed filters and the CO2 will be captured and stored.

Design for recycling

The compatibility of materials, easy separation, and the use of additives among other features determine the recyclability of Zem. By designing most parts within our car to be reusable or recyclable, we are making sure that the CO2 emissions in the after-life of Zem are lowered in comparison to "conventional" cars. Since all these materials and car parts can be used for other purposes and very little new materials has to get into the cycle, this felt like the most sustainable option.

Recycling carbon black

Since up to 1.8 billion tires enter the global waste stream every year and the very useful carbon black is normally wasted, we have collaborated with Black Bear Carbon to implement recycled carbon black back into the refinishing of our car. This circular approach not only solves an important waste management problem, but also drastically reduces the CO2 that is normally emitted during this process.

Bi-directional charging powered by solar panels

Another upcoming technology that is implemented into Zem is bi-dicectional charging. The bi-directional charging technology makes it possible for cars to provide energy to houses when no renewable energy is being generated at that moment. You can see Zem as a sort of external battery to your house, providing the house with green energy when needed. The bi-directional charging technology has been paired with solar panels that are implemented on the roof of the car. In this way, Zem makes use of both the batteries and the space on the roof to make the vehicle and its surroundings more sustainable, even when it is not driving.