World's First "Carbon Negative" Car Concept at Expo 2010 in Shanghai


Image: autohome China

SAIC-GM sponsors the award-winning pavilion at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai with the theme Take a drive to 2030. The concept car Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. plans to show at the Expo (more images in the extended) betrays tremendous pressure to set the highest standard. Combining all of the wildest dreams of electric vehicle buffs into one concept car, SAIC claims to achieve a net vehicle emissions balance of less than zero. The world's first negative emissions vehicle.

But does it matter that the concept probably "breaks the laws of physics", as Wired discloses? No. We'll tell you why.
Image: autohome China

The Ye Zi, which translates as "leaf", may not be headed for production lines anytime soon. But the Ye Zi "Leaf" does bundle up an alluring package of feasible technologies. The visionary vehicle represents a dream which may become a reality; we need only to grasp the possibilities. It lays down a challenge to a rising generation of designers and engineers: "why not?"


Image: autohome China

Well, maybe not exactly as envisioned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. engineers. After all, collecting the wind on wheels propelled by the power of that wind represents a bit of a perpetual motion machine. But the possibility to leave a stationary car in a situation where a passing breeze could help charge a battery is certainly within reach. The solar power collectors on the roof are feasible today. Of course, the real estate available on the roof of a vehicle cannot provide for much of its power needs at today's efficiencies. By 2030, paint-on photovoltaics with 50% or better efficiencies could be reality.


Image: autohome China

The Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) integrated in the car's leaf shaped roof also represent science that is about to spring out of science labs and into the everyday world. These designer molecular lattices preferentially absorb CO2 from the air. The CO2, once concentrated by MOFs, can be converted by microbial fuel cells into methane for fuel, releasing O2 back into the atmosphere. What Wired blithely dismisses as "somehow emits oxygen" is the natural result of microbes using the H from H2O (water) and the C from CO2 to make CH4 (methane), which leaves O2 to be emitted.


Image: autohome China
Wired queried Spencer Quong, an automotive engineer with 15 years experience in advanced vehicle technologies, who notes that MOFs are heavy and generate a lot of heat when working. And we have often noted in these pages that microbial processes can be too slow to directly power a vehicle (respect to the designer that did not make this one look like a sports car). Maybe that points out that I am too naive to see that the SAIC "Leaf" is just another pretty piece of artwork without engineering value. But then, who would have thought man could walk on the moon? The dream has to start somewhere.

More electric vehicles:
17 Electric Cars You Must Know About
Nissan Unveils the All-Electric LEAF to the World (Exclusive Photos)
Nissan to Take LEAF Electric Car Reservations in the U.S. in Spring 2010
Better than a Test-Drive: Hertz to Rent Nissan LEAF Electric Cars in 2011
Electric Vehicle Survey

Tags: China | Driving | Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles

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