Swedish researchers have built what they call the world’s first model car with a roof and battery made of wood-based carbon fibre.
The recyclable lightweight material used to make the car’s components was created using lignin - one of the main components of the cell walls of most plants growing on dry land. Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose.
"The lightness of the material is especially important for electric cars because then batteries last longer," said Göran Lindbergh, Professor of Chemical Engineering at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, who led the team building the innovative vehicle. "Lignin-based carbon fibre is cheaper than ordinary carbon fibre. Otherwise batteries made with lignin are indistinguishable from ordinary batteries."
The car is not yet fit to carry human passengers as it is the size of a toy. However, the researchers said it still represents a major leap towards more environmentally friendly cars. Such cars would not only be recyclable, but also considerably more lightweight than current metal-based vehicles, thus offering much lower fuel consumption as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The team previously experimented with lignin as an electrode material during research that focused on making batteries from the by-products of paper pulp production.
The work was funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and the KTH researchers cooperated with Swedish research institute Innventia and Swerea, a research group for industrial renewal and sustainable development.