Students at the Technical University of Eindhoven in The Netherlands have created Noah, one of the most innovative electric cars since the original Tesla Roadster. Its frame – if you can call it that – is constructed of rigid material created from flax and sugar. Older readers may remember that no less an automotive luminary than Henry Ford once created a car that used body panels derived from soybeans, wheat, and corn to save weight. The development team calls their car, “the most circular electric car,” meaning most of it can be recycled or repurposed when it reaches the end of its useful life.
Noah is a two-seater intended primarily for driving in urban environments. It uses special lightweight batteries and weighs a total of 420 kilograms – less than half a ton or one-fifth the weight of a Ford F-150. Without batteries, the car weighs in at a featherlight 360 kilograms – about 800 pounds. Top speed is given as 66 mph (about 106km/h) and the car has a useful range of 240 kilometers/150 miles. Weight is vital to the efficiency of an electric car and Noah demonstrates that fact particularly well. It has a theoretical fuel economy of 1:300 – meaning it can go 300 kilometers on the equivalent of 1 liter of gasoline.
Built by a team at the university known as TU/ecomotive, Noah has not yet been certified for use on public highways. Nevertheless, the team plans to take it on tour this summer throughout Europe to demonstrate the technology behind its lightweight structure and battery, according to Electrive.
The structural components for the car consist of composite panels that use flax fiber sandwiched between sheets of recyclable bio-plastics made from sugar to make a strong but lightweight composite material. The TU/ecomotive team claims the bioplastics and other lightweight materials used to construct the car require up to six times less energy to produce than conventional materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber. The students say they have even managed to create a structure that incorporates crumple zones for passenger safety.
The proposed body of the car is made from flax fiber and bears a passing resemblance to the Uniti One electric car being developed by engineering students at Lund University in Sweden. Uniti has already gotten $60 million worth of advance reservations for its car, proving the old saw about people not wanting to buy electric cars to be a lie that car companies and the oil industry wish were true.
Is Noah the ideal car for a family road trip to the West Coast? Of course not. But it very well might be ideal for families living in Amsterdam, Paris, London, or any other urban European city. Noah is as transformative and disruptive of conventional thinking as the first Tesla and for that the TU/ecomotive team deserves tremendous credit. Just the lightweight battery alone is a major breakthrough in electric car technology.
This car is about more than zero emissions. It is also about lowering manufacturing costs and making cars that can be easily recycled so they have a lighter environmental footprint on the Earth throughout their useful life. Well played, TU/ecomotive. We’ll look forward to seeing next steps for this vehicle.