According to a recent report, almost 95% of American households own at least one car. Even though most people today own or have owned a vehicle, few know about the detrimental environmental effects that go into manufacturing their dominant means of transport. Auto production leaves a giant footprint because of all the materials involved in making a car fit for the road – not to mention, the huge expense of manufacturing the same.
An article in The Guardian explains the immensity of the footprint auto manufacturing leaves behind. For one, ores have to be dug out from the ground, metals need to be extracted and then subsequently turned into car parts. International transport is required, and every car-manufacturing unit has infrastructure and equipment that itself leaves a carbon footprint. At every stage in the manufacturing process, energy is needed and used plenty.
Not only does car manufacturing have enormous environmental side effects, it also has far-reaching economic implication. This June, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne called for an automotive megamerger. “Consolidation needs to happen soon as the industry pours 2 billion Euros ($2.2 billion) a week into developing new cars,” Marchionne said in an interview. Marchionne is pushing the auto industry to consolidate so that the cost of developing new technologies for cars can be shared and thus reduced. Unfortunately, his pleas have been unheeded.
With these sorts of environmental and economic effects involved in the auto industry, the need for an alternative solution is urgent. Enter Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors. Rogers believes that the traditional way of producing cars, through the acquisition and manufacturing of many individual parts is gravely outdated. His proposal, which has recently come into fruition, is a 3D printed car. You might have heard of the relatively recent 3D printers, that allow for objects to be printed in 3D (as opposed to regular printers). With advances in technology, 3D printing has helped simplify the production of a variety of different objects. For example, a 3D pen now allows you to write in 3D. We can now include cars in the objects that are able to be “3D printed”. Local motors created “Strati”, the world’s first 3D printed car. It is a two-seater car electrical car, the first of many other models Local Motors plans on building. The company has already set up two factories, scheduled for completion in late 2015.
The car itself has a raw, almost unfinished design. Rogers said, “We milled the sides to show how that would look. Some of the other parts are just how they came out of the printer, so you can see that. But we can make it look however we want.” In terms of its sustainability, the car is fully reclyable. As an added benefit, the electric car also does not cause environmental problems through emissions during use. In terms of manufacturing, the creation of the Strati doesn’t require the extraction of metals, worldwide transportation, or high costs. Rather, it is printed in approximately 44 hours, and is made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, a relatively cheap material that could bring about some new approaches in safety. Finally, if something goes wrong in the printing process, the model can be melted down and simply re-printed. This is a lot more cost efficient and environmentally friendly than regular car manufacturing, where individual parts have to be removed, dismantled, restructured and reinstalled in the case of a problem.
All in all, Local Motor’s 3D vehicular model seems like a viable idea. Those that have test-driven the Strati claim that it runs smoothly and is fun to drive. With its innovative design and proven benefits, the Strati, and other such models are sure to appeal to younger generation of environmentally conscious, frugal-minded and technology obsessed people. With increased cost efficiency and lesser detrimental effects, we hope to see some more sustainable alternatives to the problems caused by car manufacturing, like the Strati itself, in the near future!
Akshata Mehta: Blogger, technology enthusiast, and follower of trends that will move us into the future.