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Zero-Emissions LEGO Car Nails It

An insane life-size zero-emission car made out of LEGOs recently had its official debut. Sam Laird of Mashable calls it “the ultimate nerd invention.”

Steve Sammartino (front) and Raul Oaida complete the Australian test-drive of their air-powered LEGO car.

Steve Sammartino (front) and Raul Oaida complete the Australian test-drive of their air-powered LEGO car.

Steve Sammartino (‪@sammartino‬), the Australian entrepreneur, concept designer, and marketing guy who dreamed up the LEGO car, and Raul Oaida (@oaida) — a brilliant, self-taught, 20-year-old techie from Romania whom Steve met on the internet — used half a million of the patented plastic toy bricks to build it.

Sammartino’s YouTube video of this phenomenon zoomed from zero visitors to over 3 million (and counting) in less than 10 days. Check it here:

The inventors financed their entire development effort by crowdfunding. They announced the investment proposal for the car with a single tweet, made at around 7 am on Leap Year Day (February 29, 2012) last year.

How the LEGO car got crowdfunding: one tweet.

Following this cryptic tweet, Sammartino shared more regarding his plans with Mashable:

In 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis the 3 CEOs of the Detroit car companies hoped on private jets to fly to Washington and beg Congress for money. They did this because they didn’t understand what the future looks like. Come with me and build a full-size car that runs on air, from toy pieces, with strangers on the Internet – and you’ll be part of the future.

Far-thinking patrons, including two other members of the Sammartino family, reached into their pockets. The Super Awesome Micro Project was born.

Here are some stats about the Sammartino-Oaida LEGOmobile:

  • The black and yellow car is almost entirely made from standard LEGO toy pieces. The only exceptions: wheels, tires, four load-bearing struts, and gauges. The inventors concede that LEGO wheels would have made for a pretty rocky ride. Sammartino was also honest about interior comfort: “I must point out that those [flat, hard] seats are probably the most uncomfortable seats in automotive history.”
  • The car is neither electric nor hybrid. It runs 100% on compressed air stored in two small tanks. These power four linked “orbital” engines (rotary, similar to Mazda) made entirely of LEGOs. Check out the photo. Each engine has 64 cylinders, and LEGO pistons power the engines.

Lego motor fm 45 deg

  • The car goes about as fast as a cantering (loping) horse. Top speed runs somewhere between 12-20 mph.

“It doesn’t go all that far, but just the mere fact that it does go is quite something… It’s really a technical experiment to show what’s possible in a connected world.”–Internet entrepreneur Steve Sammartino

The inventors conducted the official road test at an undisclosed location in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The guys took it a little slow on the first run because they feared a colorful “giant LEGO explosion” if they put the pedal to the… uh, plastic. Reportedly, the LEGOs are not glued together.

“It’s a Hot Rod design,” say the inventors, who were born long after the days of hot rods. “Mainly because hot rods are cool.”


Seats two. Gives “Little Deuce Coupe” (a sporty 1932 Ford made famous by The Beach Boys) a whole ‘nother meaning. As Demonizer68 commented on the LEGO car video, “And the best part is, if you have a crash, you can always put it back together! Providing that you have the instruction manual….”

Oaida's Space shuttle on his LEGO car wheel

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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