If you think this is another eco-activists’ project, you are right. In pursuit of the zero emission concept, the Austrian studio EOOS has created the ZUV (Zero-emissions Utility Vehicle) electric tricycle with a 3D printed body made from recycled plastic waste.
In theory, such an object can be printed in one go using a large-format 3D printer — for example, the Modix 120Z has the Z-axis of 1200 mm, with both horizontal axes reaching 600 mm.
The demonstration sample was prepared for the climatic exposition of the Museum of Applied Arts at the Vienna Biennale, held under the slogan "Ideas for Change". The idea of this project is that any 3D printing workshop can make a body from plastic waste and then equip the vehicle with conventional, purchased bicycle components: wheels, handlebar, brakes, signals, electric drive.
“We wanted to design around local, affordable production. Because of the high labour costs in Europe, almost every bike frame is produced in Asia. But we want a local ZUV production facility in every city around the world. What we envision is a circular economy of mobility. Service schemes with a designed 'take back' will be the future. And it's way easier to close the loop if you do it locally rather than sending around ships full of waste as we do today, which is stupid,” says Harald Gründl, founder of the EOOS studio.
It took about seventy kilograms of polypropylene from food packaging (most likely bottle caps) to 3D print the prototype. The body was made by the Greek subsidiary of the Dutch studio The New Raw — the Zero Waste laboratory, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company, and using a robotic arm with an extruder installed. Basically, this company is engaged in the additive production of plastic furniture from recycled materials.
In the case of the ZUV, the multi-axis additive system made it possible to do without 3D printing of support structures. With a total weight of one hundred kilograms, the tricycle is capable of transporting two adults along with a load in the front luggage compartment.
“A car has maybe 800 kilogrammes of battery while a bicycle has eight and it does the job for many of the journeys that we want to make in a city. A lightweight vehicle has the benefit of having less effort in the production but it also uses less energy to transport people. The more sustainable you want to make a mobility system, the less weight it should have,” explains Harald.
What about all carbon dioxide and other emissions associated with the generation of electricity for plastic recycling and 3D printing itself? The authors of the project have an answer to this as well — 3D printers based on renewable energy sources. Although this may not result in zero emissions per se, it is still better than just burning waste, as is done by Viennese supermarkets, thinks Harald.