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Wil Sillen

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This startup is developing an electric solar car that extracts CO2 from the air
During the CES 2023 tech fair in Las Vegas, Lightyear presented the design of its next solar car: Lightyear 2. A group of Eindhoven students is taking it a step further. They are working on a car that not only extracts energy from the sun, but also extracts CO2 from the air.
At startup Lightyear, they have already developed a complete solar car that generates energy by means of built-in solar panels. The first copy of the Lightyear 0 has already been delivered and in the meantime the company is looking forward to a new and much more affordable model.

During the CES 2023 tech fair in Las Vegas, Lightyear presented the design of its next solar car Lightyear 2. Cost: 40,000 euros. The bolide is a lot more price-friendly than the first Lightyear 0, which has been rolling out of the factory since November for 250,000 euros. The production of the new solar car must start at the end of 2025.

Solar car and CO2 eater Zem
A wonderful innovation. Student team TU/ecomotive, affiliated with TU Eindhoven, just like Lightyear, is taking it a step further with their project Zem.

The team developed a car that not only extracts energy from the sun, but also extracts CO2 from the air. This requires an explanation from team leader and TU Eindhoven student Louise de Laat
A car that captures more CO2 than it emits, how exactly does that work?

“We charge the car circularly, by using bidirectional charging (bidirectional electric cars not only charge, but can also function as an energy source, ed.) and solar panels. For example, we have developed a system that captures CO2 while the car is moving. We developed and implemented this system this year. It is still in a construction phase, but it can already remove 2 kilograms of CO2 from the air per year. That is equal to 10 percent of what a tree can absorb per year.'

The built-in filter is important for the CO2-positive element, explains De Laat. “With a car moving from A to B, you have to deal with air pressure. We use that pressure to center the air in a car, so that it can pass the filter. When the air enters the filter of the car, it is cleaned on the basis of CO2. The clean air then exits the car through a slit we designed. The CO2 is stored in gaseous form in a filter and can also be extracted at a later time.'
I understand that special charging stations are also needed with a shelter for such a CO2 filter. Are you already far with that?

‘Yes, we have developed a use case for that. We have made an extra integration so that you can remove your filter from the car and place it in the charging station. While you are charging your car, the filter in that charging system is cleaned on the basis of CO2. It is collected with this filter and the CO2 is stored in an external tank. You can use the CO2 again to feed agricultural crops. Many other industries are also working on converting the CO2 into carbon and O2.”

Do you ultimately want to market these poles yourself, or would you rather have another company do this?

‘No, this is part of the ecosystem of the filter. This is why I will continue with my own company. The team is applying for a patent.”

The discharged CO2 can eventually be converted into new energy. Will you soon be able to charge your mobile with your car?
“Yes, you can, because the car is charged bidirectionally. The car, as we know it, can be connected to a charging point and charged. Our car, on the other hand, can also be seen as a battery, with which you can use the car as an energy source to charge your phone, for example.

The students' car can drive 120 kilometers per hour, says De Laat. 'But for safety reasons we have set it to 60 kilometers per hour.' It is the intention that a new student team will continue with the Zem project next year. As mentioned, De Laat will continue with its own company, which focuses on commercially offering the filter system. "It would also be nice if it could be used in other cars."
I understand that Zem was inspired by Lightyear, the company behind the solar car that also originated at Eindhoven University of Technology?

'Yes! Lightyear originated from the solar team of Eindhoven University of Technology. That is a student team that is mainly concerned with racing on solar energy. We maintain close contact with the companies around us, including Lightyear. We want to participate in the trend of solar cars, because we believe that solar energy will drive cars. We believe, just like them, in that sustainable perspective, in which cars can be used as an energy supply.'

Finally, you were in the United States last year to promote your car. What exactly were you doing there?

“We did a coast-to-coast tour. We have entered into discussions with various consulates, universities and companies such as Nissan about how we can promote sustainability in the automotive industry. For example with projects like ours, which we could also develop further in America. We even met the royal couple, which provided a great opportunity to present our ideas to them.'
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