Environmentally friendly motoring is often associated with electric or hybrid vehicles or improved fuel efficiency.
Now a group of students is challenging the idea that it’s not just the car’s fuel-usage credentials that matter, but its very substance.
The quest for greater fuel efficiency has caused car manufacturers to make cars from aluminium and carbon fibre, as a lighter alternative to steel. But these materials require about five times more energy to make. That means energy saved during the driving stage is actually being spent during the production phase.
It is this conundrum that has led to the creation of Lina – the first ever car to be built from natural fibres; flax and sugar beet to be precise.
Lina is the brainchild of a group of students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The chassis, body and interior of the car are made from a resin derived from flax – a plant that can be grown in any moderate climate – and combined with a bioplastic made entirely from sugar beets.
The resulting material has a strength-weight ratio that is similar to fibreglass. Only the wheels and suspension systems are not yet made from bio-based materials.
This special material means that the car weighs just 310kg, making the electric engine far more efficient. Powered by modular battery packs, Lina can reach a top speed of 80km per hour.
The car has been certified as roadworthy by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority, but still needs to be crash tested to establish how well the resin will withstand pressure.
Other manufacturers are also experimenting with different materials to make cars. In Japan, scientists are looking at wood pulp, while Ford has announced a project to include bamboo as part of its cars.
Say goodbye to metal motors and hello to the hi-tech roadsters of the future: faster, cleaner, lighter and sleeker.