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Issue 01/2018

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Automotive By: Cas

Automotive By: Cas Verstappen Public Relations Manager TU/ecomotive Eindhoven University of Technology Eindhoven, The Netherlands Lina, the world’s first biocomposite car Fig. 1: Fully public traffic approved A car made from plant fibres? A group of 22 students from the Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, have made it happen. Last year they produced Lina, the world’s first structural biobased car. The fully electric car seats four people and weighs in at a mere 310 kilograms, thanks to the revolutionary material used in its construction: flax fibres. The car’s chassis, body and interior are all made from a flax-fibre-reinforced biocomposite material with a core of sugar-cane derived PLA. As a result, Lina’s chassis is made from over 80 % organic material. The newly developed material’s structure is similar to a glass fibre composite, which means it is strong enough to be used in automotive applications. The sandwich panel that was used to build the chassis is made up of two different materials. The first is the biocomposite based on flax fibres – a raw material that grows in any moderate climate, and is hence widely available in western Europe where the car industry is booming. The flax fibres are processed into unidirectionally oriented sheets (Fig. 2), after which the next step is to press several of these sheets together to form a plate that later can be used to form the sandwich panel. These plates contain between 8 to 12 layers, dependent on the required strength of the panel. A honeycomb-structured core of 95 % PLA (made of sugar cane) (Fig. 3) is placed between two plates to form the sandwich panel (Fig. 4). The panel is then used as the basis for the car’s structural framework. One of the major benefits of the material is its light weight, as a result of which the car - measuring 3.5 metres in length and 1.3 metres in width – weighs in at just over 300 kilograms. Because of its low weight and optimized drivetrain, Lina is also extremely efficient. The car is equipped with two electric motors in the front, powered by three modular batteries. This redesigned battery pack makes swapping batteries easy and convenient, and opens the door to new battery technologies. Instead of having to recharge the battery by plugging the car into a power source, the batteries themselves can be swapped out, saving considerable charging time. Moreover, the battery packs have a total weight of just 30 kilograms, which is about 10 % of the weight of the car. As a result, Lina is extremely efficient, achieving the equivalent of approximately 350 kilometres to 1 litre of gasoline. But why the need to implement such materials in cars? Nowadays, car manufacturers focus on developing cars that drive more efficiently, but largely overlook the way these cars are produced. A significant factor determining the fuel economy of a car is its weight. Seeking to build lightweight cars, manufacturers turn to the use of materials such as aluminum and carbon fibre. These materials allow the weight of a car to be significantly reduced; however, some 5 to 6 times the amount of energy is consumed during their production than steel, which is the material they are trying to replace. The amount of energy consumed for the production of the materials used to build Lina are comparable to steel. The lightweight properties and energy consumption of the material make this especially suitable for use in the automotive industry. The team built Lina last year to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon, a vehicle efficiency competition in London. However, the true challenge of Lina was to construct a car using this material, that was road legal; in other words, able to obtain a license plate. After thorough testing by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW), Lina was judged to be safe and, in late October 2017, was issued with license plates. This means that Lina qualifies as a real car that can be driven on the public roads. While the team mainly focused on the environmental benefits of the car, they also equipped the car with several features to make it future proof. One of the most important features was the implementation of an NFC scanner in the doors of the car. This allows the car to be unlocked by a smart device which, quite litreally, opens the door for carsharing initiatives. As every user will have their own code, the car can recognize who is driving and can activate his 10 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/18] Vol. 13

Automotive or her personal user settings, such as playlists, frequent destinations and telephone contacts. In September 2017, a new team of students took over the Eindhoven office and is now working on a new car. A followup to Lina, this car will strive for even more sustainability in the automotive industry. This year, however, the car will not feature at the Shell Eco-marathon. The team decided that the true test of the car would be to drive it under real world conditions, on the public roads. Only then would the actual capabilities of the car and the material be fully demonstrated. The 2018 car will further develop the material used in Lina while tackling another major problem in the field of mobility over the world: waste production and recycling. With this car, the team will produce the world’s first circular car. The team is paying extra attention to the details in this car, to a make it look like any other car parked in the streets in any urban area in the world. According to Jelle Vonk, the team manager, the ultimate goal is to build a car that stands out, however not because it is biobased or the cutting-edge technology under the hood but rather because of its looks. In February 2018, the team showed the design for the first time to the public. “Now the design process is finished, in the following few months the team will focus completely on building the car and testing it to make it road legal again,” Jelle Vonk declared. The team expects the car to be finished sometime in June or July. The final step is to test the capabilities of the new car on the public roads of Europe this summer. With this tour the team, hopes to prove that biocomposite cars are not just a dream in the distant future, but a reality today. Fig 2: Unidirectional flax fibre tapes Fig. 3: PLA-Honeycombs Fig. 4: Sandwich structure bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/18] Vol. 13 11

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