A roof made of sugar and flax.

NOAH is apparently “the world’s most sustainable car”. It was constructed by 30 students from the Netherlands. BMW Group experts have now met these young engineers, the objective being to exchange ideas and inspire each other.  

The vehicle standing in front of the BMW Group factory premises looks a little like a city car that has been washed too hot and has shrunk as a result: The car is small, podgy and blue. It goes by the name of NOAH and is the prototype of the “world’s first circular car”. The moving vision of the future is the result of a study project at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. 22 students from various different disciplines worked meticulously on this prototype for more than a year with the aim of finding out how a vehicle should be conceived in order to be produced as sustainably as possible. Reason enough, therefore, to meet up with BMW Group sustainability experts. 

Above all, the NOAH features innovations in terms of the choice of materials for the bodywork and interior trim: “We rely on bio-plastics, for example. This material can be gained from sugar and is therefore particularly sustainable,” emphasizes Cas Verstappen from the students’ project team. Combined with stabilising, plant-based flax, so-called “sandwich panels” were produced, these being ideal for the construction of this eco-car. “Compared to aluminium and carbon, our materials require only a sixth of the energy for the manufacturing process,” the students stress. “However, it is also particularly remarkable that, in addition to the material, the team has developed a concept for the utilisation and reuse of recycled materials,” emphasises Jury Witschnig, head of the BMW Group’s Product Sustainability Strategy. Through their commitment and their ideas, the students had gained a great amount of vital experience. 

However, if the students’ prototypes are compared with concepts lying around in the drawers at BMW, it soon becomes clear that whilst BMW has to keep an eye on costs, series production, approval, comfort and traffic safety, the students have more freedom to place a focus on sustainability. But it is because of their (in this field somewhat radical) creativity, that the students from Eindhoven gain great respect from BMW experts in Munich: “The interest, ability and courage to develop an independent concept and to align it with BMW Group know-how is for the benefit of us all,” emphasises Jury Witschnig. When exchanging ideas with a young and creative team, a company like the BMW Group could always learn something new. 

The students also gained vital experience from the meeting with the sustainability experts. “In addition to the recognition our ideas, it was important to see how extensive and manifold the expertise is at the BMW Group, particularly in the area of sustainability,” Verstappen comments. During the shop talk, it had become clear how much is tested and further developed behind the scenes: “BMW does not present new technologies until they are 100% ready for the market. Therefore, the public is hardly aware of what goes on in the innovation and testing stages.” But it is for this reason in particular that the students now wish to stay in contact with the BMW experts: Perhaps they could assist each other with the development of sustainable vehicles, they said, because after all, they did have the same goal.