Electric Cars made from Vegetables and Waste Materials

foto: Bart van Overbeeke

This week I would like to follow in Christopher’s skorchmarks with an article about electric cars.

Students at Eindhoven University of Technology have unveiled a car built almost entirely from waste materials, including lots of plastic that was reclaimed from the sea. See it in the photo above.

They call the car LUCA, and she has some impressive stats:

TOP TRUMPS

Name: LUCA

Top Speed: 90 km/h

Action Radius: 220 km

Weight: 360 kg without batteries

Battery weight: 60 kg

Consumption conversion: 180 km per litre.

It’s a two seater sports car.

The chassis is made from a mixture of flax and plastic recouped from the sea with the core constructed from recycled PET, the body is made of recycled ABS, a hard plastic used in many consumer products such as toys, televisions and kitchen products, and covered in a wrap rather than being painted.

The seats are made from recycled materials, as are the side and rear windows and the console.

The idea behind the car’s production is to demonstrate possible other uses for waste, but the team that produced LUCA have long been busy producing other interesting cars.

The University runs TU Ecomotive, 22 students from 7 different courses, whose aim is to make mobility greener in every way possible. LUCA is car number 6!

Each car boasts its own incredible stats and features, based upon its production goal.

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Name: ISA

Action Radius: 90 km

Battery weight: 12 kg

Consumption conversion: 400 km per litre

ISA is legal to drive ion the road and is therefore the most efficient car in Europe.

NOAH is a city car made predominantly from sugar and flax, is for the modern you, and is equipped with several smart features focused on the driver. Noah can be unlocked with any smart device with an NFC chip, immediately recognizes who you are and adjusts all the interior settings to your preference, loads your contact list and finds your destination from your phone to enable the GPS and get you to your appointment on time.

TOP TRUMPS

Name: NOAH

Top speed: 110 km/h

Action Radius: 240 km

Weight: 360 kg

Consumption Conversion: 300 km per litre

Smesh Gearing and lots of interactive technology

Name: NOVA is a modular car whose body shape can be changed to suit its purpose.

Name: LINA is biobased, with the chassis and bodywork built from vegetable flax. She has 100 km range and is also certified for European roads.

All of the cars are electric, and you can download press packs and further details from the website here.

Could this be the future of mobility? A circular industry?

How do self-charging cars work?

Toyota, Lexus and Kia use self-charging as a term to describe their mild hybrids.

Mild hybrid doesn’t sound as exciting or technologically advanced as a self-charging car, which is probably why their marketing departments opted for the more mysterious and intelligent-sounding self-charging terminology.

How Do Self-Charging Cars Work?

A self-charging hybrid has a small battery and an electric motor. When the vehicle brakes, the initial phase of braking is used to charge the battery. Brakes (disks and pads) then kick-in after.

This is a basic form of regenerative braking (or regen) something plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (BEVs) do too, but to a greater degree and effectiveness.

The small amount of energy recovered from braking is then able to be used to drive a limited distance.

What Powers a Self-Charging Hybrid?

Exhaust pipe emissions on a self-charging car

Unfortunately, a self-powered car breaks the laws of physics, as the energy must come from somewhere. In one of Kia/Lexus/Toyota’s mild hybrids, the power comes from burning fossil fuels – the petrol in the internal combustion engine.

This means self-charging cars are 100% powered by petrol. All the propulsion achieved is down to petrol – since the cars don’t plug-in.

If we refer to mild hybrids as self-charging, we should really refer to all petrol and diesel cars as self-charging, since these cars don’t need plugging in to charge their 12-volt battery which powers the wipers, headlights and other electrical ancillery services.

How Far Can A Self-Charging Car Travel?

Toyota et al claim that their mild hybrids can be driven over 50% of the time on “pure electricity”. That makes them seem awfully green, given we tend to associate electricity with being green and petrol with being polluting. This claim is misleading for two reasons:

  1. It’s crucial to remember that Totota reference time not distance – if you drive in stop-start traffic, the engine might be off for a large proportion of the time as you’re stationary. Some of the slower speed driving may be achievable using the battery, but because the battery is very small, it will drain extremly quickly and require recharging – so the petrol engine turns on. In terms of distance driven, I’d estimate only around 5-10% of miles/kilometers are driven using the battery.
  2. All the electricity used to driver is generated by burning petrol, so it’s certainly not the clean energy you can get from the grid or solar on the roof of your house for example.

Do Self-Charging Cars Exist?

Will we ever see a car that can power itself? In the Toyota sense of self-charging, no. It’s not possible to drive a mild hybrid without putting petrol in it.

Lightyear One

However, there are projects like Lightyear One, working to create cars that you may never need to plug-in! These are pure electric cars (not hybrids, so no fossil fuels) and can be charged by plugging-in, or from the solar panels built into the roof, bonnet and boot! ☀️⚡🔋🚗

Lightyear are aiming to be able to charge an impressive 12 kilometres (7 miles) from 1 hour of sunshine charging – using the solar panels on the roof! For those who drive short distances, or only travel infrequently, that could mean you’d never need to plug-in!

More info on the Lightyear One in this Fully Charged video.

Should Self-Charging Be Banned?

In Norway (home of the EV, where over half of cars sold in 2020 were fully electric) they’ve banned adverts that reference “self-charging” believing the term is misleading.

I believe marketing a petrol car (100% powered by fossil fuels) as self-charging should be banned, as it’s extremely misleading. It makes polluting cars that burn fossil fuels seem cleaner and if you don’t do your research, you might think you’re doing your bit to look after the environment when actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Electric car cost per mile

Last time I looked at the difference in energy usage between petrol and electric cars. Another way of comparing EVs, hybrids and ICE cars is cost per mile. Using the Mini Cooper, we can compare all three. This example is based on UK units, assuming petrol is costs £1.30 per litre and electricity 14p/kWh – i.e charging at home.

Petrol

The petrol Mini Cooper S has a 44 litre fuel tank, and an average consumption of 44 miles per gallon – UK/Canadian mpg. A full tank of fuel can take the car 425 miles at a cost of £57.20, meaning each mile of driving costs 13.5 pence.

Hybrid

The Mini Countryman Cooper S plug-in hybrid has a 36 litre fuel tank and a 7.6kWh battery. Combined mpg figures range from 50.8mpg to 56.6mpg so we’ll use 53.4mpg for the comparison.

That means with a full tank and a full battery, you can travel around 423 miles – similar to the petrol car. The cost of 36 litres of petrol is £46.80 and 7.6kWh of electricity costs £1.06, making the total cost per mile around 11.3 pence.

Electric

The Mini Cooper Electric

The Mini Electric has a 32.6kWh battery and a range of 115 miles. It costs £4.56 to “fill up” the battery meaning each mile costs 4.0 pence.

Hybrid Inefficiencies

Interestingly, the hybrid is less efficient than the electric car when running on battery power and less efficient than the petrol car when running on the petrol engine. This is because it’s not just carrying an engine and a fuel tank, or a motor and a battery pack, it’s carrying all four all the time!

Hybrids were a great tool in the transition from ICE to EV, proving the concept and raising awareness. I believe they are no longer relevant however, as they’re significantly less efficient than their EV counterparts and don’t offer the electric range that people really need. The addition financial and efficiency costs don’t make hybrids worthwhile.

Most Efficient Car Pence Per Mile

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric

We’ve already established electric cars are far more efficient than petrol and hybrid-powered cars, so what’s the best of the best, the most efficient electric car? That title is shared by the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus which use just 240 watt-hours of juice per mile.

The Ioniq can drive an impressive 160 miles on a 38.3 kWh battery pack. It costs £5.36 to charge empty to full, at a cost per mile of 3.4 pence.

Just 3.4 pence for every mile of travel! That’s a quarter of the cost of the petrol Mini Cooper S!

The Model 3 can drive 195 miles (140 in winter, 275 in summer) on its 50 kWh battery pack. 50 kWh costs £7.00 on a £0.14/kWh home supply, which gives it a cost per mile of 3.6 pence. Worst case that’s 5.0 pence per mile in winter, best case it’s as low as 2.5 pence per mile in summer.

EV Tariffs

Some electricity providers now offer electric car tariffs, which make it even cheaper to charge. Some even pay you to take power off the grid when demand is low but supply is high!

£0.05/kWh is not uncommon. Charging a Model 3 at that price could give you 275 miles of range for £2.50.

0.9 pence per mile.

Petrol cars simply can’t compete with electric cars on pence per mile. EVs are too efficient 🙂