Zero-emission car developed by Dutch students captures carbon dioxide in the air

TU Eindhoven student team TU/ecomotive has developed a sustainable electric passenger car that captures more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than it emits while driving. It is a prototype called Zem that purifies the air through special filters. By storing the captured carbon dioxide and then processing it, Zem can contribute to reducing global warming. Students will continue to improve the vehicle over the next few years, with the goal of being carbon neutral throughout its life cycle and eventually hitting the road.

The transport sector is a major source of pollution, producing around a quarter of the EU’s total carbon emissions a few years ago. Passenger cars account for more than 60 percent of these emissions. To reduce these emissions, 35 students designed, developed and built a car that produced fewer or no emissions during production and on the road. In addition, the team is committed to achieving optimal reusability of the material in the future.


The car travels 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) a year and captures 2 kg of carbon dioxide through a special filter. That means ten cars can store as much carbon dioxide as an average tree. That might not seem like much, but if you implement it at scale in every passenger car soon, the overall payoff is significant, the team believes. After all, there are more than a billion passenger cars driving around the world, and they can capture carbon dioxide instead of emitting it.

The filter through which the outside air flows is unique: the students are patenting the innovation. “It’s actually still a proof-of-concept, but we can already see that we’ll be able to increase the filter capacity over the next few years. Carbon dioxide capture is a prerequisite for compensating emissions during production and recycling,” team manager Louise de Laat explained. TU/ecomotive is considering a future where the entire filter can be easily emptied via the charging station when the car is charging. The car currently has a range of 320 km before the filter is full.


Life cycle analysis using SimaPro software can be used to determine the extent to which a vehicle is CO2 neutral over its life cycle – from construction to use to service life. Several innovations help achieve this goal. Consider the 3D printing technology students use. The monocoque and body panels are produced by 3D printing with little residual waste. In addition, the student team printed circular plastic that could be shredded and reused for other projects.

Electric and sustainable quad with a sporty look. That’s for good reason, students say, given the challenges the auto industry faces. After all, road transport must become more sustainable. Nikki Okkels, External Relations Manager at TU/ecomotive: “We want to influence the industry by showing what is already possible, and work together. If 35 students can design, develop and build an almost carbon-neutral car in a year, Then there are also opportunities and possibilities in this industry.”

Okkels: “We’re calling on the industry to take on the challenge, and of course we’d love to think with them. We’re not done with development yet, and we want to take some big steps in the next few years. We warmly invite automakers to come and visit.”

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