Forget cars on a circuit; this one runs on a circular economy

Meet Luca. He’s a swanky looking and has all the attributes of a brand-new, flashy sports car; a smooth, shiny exterior, with the speed potential of a whopping 90 km/hour.

What’s less obvious is that Luca is made entirely from recycled plastic. Yes, entirely.

He doesn’t feed off petrol, either: he runs on an electric motor and is powered from six batteries rescued from disused road cars.

As often, it’s the young that are coming up with such ingenious ideas: Students at the University of Technology in Eindhoven built Luca “to show that waste is a valuable material”. And they were right: the car not only looks expensive but is economically and environmentally valuable as well. Dubbed ‘the waste car’, the Luca was created out of plastic rescued from the ocean, including bottles and household waste. The inside seats are made from coconut and horse hair. The Luca weighs only 360 kg, which makes him all the more fast.

Luca is not the only car which is running on a circular economy. It’s become somewhat of a fashion - and for good reason. Some other car companies, like BMW, Nissan, Ford and Honda are beginning to incorporate recycled materials into the production of new car models. And some of the materials they are using are really inventive, including things like soy-beans, plastic water bottles, rice grains and old clothes. The options are almost limitless!

But first let’s define what a ‘circular economy’ means: it’s basically an ecosystem aimed at reducing waste and re-using resources. So rather than using brand, spanking new materials to make millions of cars a year, then dumping them into a scrap-yard, these cars are re-incarnated again and again. It’s almost comical.

Let’s be clear: crushing cars and recycling their parts isn’t new. In fact, auto recycling is the 16th largest business sector in the United States and contributes $25 billion a year to the economy. According to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 95% of cars off the road are recycled every year.

The valuable parts of a car include the tires, batteries, wheels, car seats and carpets. Tires, for instance, are often used to make new roadways. Or glass scavenged from cars can be made into porcelain or even jewellery.

Electric cars are nothing new either: brands like Tesla have been revolutionising the green car industry for over a decade, and brands like Volvo, Volkswagen and Jaguar are beginning to follow suit. Top Gear’s top 15 electric cars of 2021 shows how much these types of cars have entered into the mainstream.

The novelty of the Luca, though, is that it is itself made entirely from recycled materials, which means it is cutting across the vicious cycle of car production that is poisoning the earth, and it is electric. It’s basically the planet’s biggest fan.

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