When you think about cars, the first word to come to mind is probably not sustainability. While more and more cars are becoming electric, they are still made from metal and plastic. Now, students from the Eindhoven University of Technology (NL) have created the world’s first bio-composite car, called Lina, made from flax.
Flax (Latin: Linum usitatissimum) is a great material, because it has a very strong structure. When the fibres are stacked crosswise and compressed, these panels have a similar strength to carbon and aluminium, which are materials widely used in the car industry. Carbon and aluminium are lightweight, but use six times more energy to produce than steel, which annuls the energy they save after production.
Flax is therefore an interesting alternative. It costs less energy to produce than aluminium and carbon, and it is a renewable material. What’s more, it is lightweight and can be recycled. Flax grows all over Europe, including the Netherlands.
On Wednesday (17 May), Lina the bio-composite car was revealed. The complete chassis, the body of the car and the interior are all made of bio-based materials. The chassis is made of a combination of bio-composite and bio-plastic. The honeycomb structure bio-plastic, or PLA, is used as the core material and is manufactured entirely from sugar beet. It is enveloped in bio-composite sheets that have been composed on the basis of flax. In terms of its strength-weight ratio, the bio-composite is comparable with the familiar fiberglass but manufactured in a sustainable way. The bodywork is also flax-based.
The car is electric-powered and has a total weight of 300 kilograms (661 pounds). Lina is certified by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority as roadworthy and is suitable to carry four people. It is a city car, reaching speeds up to 85 kilometres (52.8 miles) per hour. The car only needs a licence plate before it can drive on public roads.
While the students have shown that it is possible to build a car from bio-based materials, it is unlikely the car industry will pick up the idea immediately. However, there is definitely a future for bio composite cars.