One of the world’s first all-wooden cars has made its debut at the China Eurasia Expo. Dubbed the Umut, this 4 metre long, 7-seater car is composed completely of wood, made entirely by hand, and is powered by an electric motor. With an expected top speed is 60km/h, it can last about 2.5 hours or 150km on the road. As a whole, the Umut is priced steeply at 300,000 yuan, or $47,000 US.
Despite debuting at the automotive section of the expo, the Umut is ultimately an illegal vehicle. While this inability sparked a few comments at the expo that the wooden car is just a glorified golf cart, the point of the car is less about its practicality and more about making a statement. After all, the vast majority of our cars is made up entirely of mined and smelted metals. 55% of a car’s weight is made of steel, with aluminum making up a distant second with 8% of the weight; on an average car weighing in at 4,150 pounds, up to 2300 pounds of steel and 332 pounds of aluminum alone is used in its creation.
Take into consideration the amount of emissions released in order to mine the iron, coal and aluminum, to ship these raw materials to smelting plant, to smelt these raw materials into bars, to ship these bars to a manufacturing plant, to melt the bars into parts, to construct the parts into a car, and to ship that car to a dealership. All that mining and smelting and shipping creates upwards of 10 tones of CO2 emissions. And that’s not even taking into consideration the emissions created when driving the car on a regular basis.
To put the sheer amount of waste into perspective, those 10 tones of CO2 is the pollution generated for just one standard vehicle. This year, we are expected to create 60 million cars, adding to the already 1 billion cars on the road. Without taking into consideration trucks and SUVs (which generates up to 35 million tones of CO2 emissions in its creation), that’s at least 600 million tones of greenhouse gas emissions.
While electric or solar powered cars may aid us in limiting automotive emissions, they aren’t universal solutions. Even if car manufacturers manage to make more hybrid vehicles (which, to their credit, they are slowly promoting), the positive benefits are quickly minimized if it still takes the same inefficient mining, smelting, and shipping methods to make it. The composition of the cars matters just as much – and if the Umut has anything to say, it’s that there are always greener alternatives.