Your Prius is good for the environment? That’s cute.

For the most part, cars have not always been the favorite subject of environmentalists, though we suspect this particular machine would pass even the most extreme environmental scrutiny.

That’s because this ride is made mostly of plants and sugar beets; it uses electric power, and it will carry four passengers up to a speed of 50 miles per hour. The car is called Lina, and it was built by students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than just that.

We actually mentioned this car earlier this Summer, but there's now a bit more info to, ah, digest. The body, chassis, and interior are made from a bio-based composite that has properties similar to fiberglass. A plant called flax adds a strong, fiber-based structure to the composite, while a bio-plastic made entirely from sugar beets is formed into a honeycomb-shaped core and placed between the composite flax sheets. The only items not bio-based are the suspension, wheels, and of course the car’s electric powertrain which includes modular battery packs and a pair of electric motors.

While it’s certainly an interesting achievement, there are some downsides that bear mentioning. Though this prototype has been certified as road worthy, it hasn't been crash tested. Given the fiberglass-like structure of pretty much everything it probably wouldn’t fare too well – aside from literally cracking up under stress, passengers would be woefully unprotected since the vehicle’s crumple zones are basically disintegration zones. And then there’s the styling, which admittedly is subjective but still, it’s not what we’d call a looker.

Regardless, we applaud the efforts of these students for thinking outside the box. Obviously we aren’t going to be stepping into such home-grown cars anytime soon, but the steps being taken here to create strong, lightweight, bio-based structures can certainly play a role in future vehicle development while also providing better environmental solutions. We love cars, but we also love a clean environment in which to enjoy them.

Source: Reuters, TU/ecomotive

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