The Car That Cleans the Air While Driving

At the moment, the automotive industry is transforming. Governments and car manufacturers are looking for ways to make cars more sustainable while meeting future CO2 emission standards. This means that by 2025, new cars need to emit only about half the CO2 of current models. A team of researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology has revealed an invention that addresses these issues, called Zem (Electric vehicle research, 2022).  It’s not just an eco-friendly car but also a portable air purifier. That’s right — the same technology used by the world’s first AI-powered smart purifier now comes embedded in a tiny car

The research team’s external relations manager Nikki Okkels said “We want to tickle the industry by showing what is already possible. If 35 students can design, develop and build an almost carbon-neutral car in a year, then there are also opportunities and possibilities for the industry. We call on the industry to pick up the challenge, and of course, we are happy to think along with them. We’re not finished developing yet either, and we want to take some big steps in the coming years. We warmly invite car manufacturers to come and take a look.”

Capturing CO2 while driving

Capturing CO2 directly from the tailpipe might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but it is a very real possibility. Zem Car does this by using a sorbent material (like activated carbon) to soak up CO2 from the air through a chemical process called absorption. This technology has been around for decades, but the challenge is to do it efficiently enough to make it worthwhile. Zem’s breakthrough is a high-efficiency carbon-based sorbent that can capture CO2 at a 99% rate. Captured CO2 can be recycled and used to grow plants and make fertilizer, as well as for other industrial uses.

Design for recycling

A car’s lifespan is typically about 20 years – but the materials inside it have a much shorter shelf life. This means that, once a car has reached the end of its useful life, the metal and plastics need to be recycled. However, the Zem Car also has a design that enables easy recycling. Its body parts will be made of biodegradable materials, such as vegetable oil-based resins. 

Recycling carbon black

Carbon black is a black pigment used in tires and high-grade asphalt. It comes from the incomplete burning of heavy petroleum products, such as oil and coal. Because of its high carbon content, carbon black is highly toxic and difficult to recycle. However, according to research, the ZemCar will use its carbon black wheels to make high-value carbon black. This is a black pigment that’s used in a wide range of products, from paints to tires. The Zem’s continuous thermal generation process will recycle carbon black into high-value carbon black that can be used in a wide range of products.

Bi-directional charging powered by solar panels

Solar panels have been used for years to generate electricity for use in homes. Now solar power is being used to recharge electric cars. This technology is known as bi-directional charging, and it allows electric vehicles to be self-powered. The ZemCar has been designed so that when in the sun, its solar panels charge its batteries. When the car is in motion, it can draw power from its batteries and feed it back into the grid. This makes the Zem car not only carbon-free but also bi-directional. 


As you can see, the Zem car is a car that cleans the air while driving and can even recycle the CO2 it captures to make useful things like carbon black. Its carbon-black-based wheels can also generate power when parked in the sun. In short, ZemCar is a truly sustainable car that has the potential to transform urban transportation and make our cities cleaner, and more livable places.

Author Ntchindi Chilongozi Theu