Location: La Neuveville, Switzerland
What will the car of the future look like? Thirty years ago maybe the answer would have been a car that flies, and today everyone is preparing for the car that drives itself. Those ideas get the attention, but there are ideas out there that are far more worthy of our attention. For example, what about a car with next-to-no environmental impact?
Every major car company in the world is coming out with “green” cars, and companies that specialize in electric cars are quickly becoming household names. The greenest of the green cars that these big companies are pumping out, however, can’t come close to the radical environmentalism of Softcar, a Swiss company soon to release a uniquely eco-friendly four-seater called the UPGO. The UPGO embraces the green mentality in more than just lowered tailpipe emissions (though it is, of course, fully electric and gets the equivalent of 340 miles per gallon). Softcar’s concept is ecological throughout the car’s lifecycle, from factory to disposal. Before it even hits the road, UPGO minimizes its footprint by eschewing paint and chemical treatment, instead using rotomolded biopolymers. Using these specially molded parts allows Softcar to drastically lower the number of parts in their car, making production simpler and more efficient, and also makes the car unbelievably light, weighing in at just 480 kilograms. On the other end of the car’s life, once an UPGO has seen the last of its driving days most of the parts can be easily disassembled and recycled, and all of the parts are at least mildly degradable. These steps aren’t just good for the planet, they’re good for the customer. The biopolymers perform exceptionally well in crash tests regardless of their low weight, and the UPGO’s battery is designed to provide minimal risk of battery fires and short circuits in the event of a crash. Even better, the efficient production process gives UPGO the potential to be, by far, the cheapest electric car on the market upon release, an economic benefit that’s compounded by the minuscule fuel costs. The low-cost production also means that Softcar has the potential to break even while still in its infancy, making it an environmentally and fiscally sustainable solution.
The UPGO has been in the works for five years but is in the final stretch: production should be underway within two years, with plans to focus first on Chinese and then on European markets. From conception, Softcar has been showered with recognition, from finalist status in the VELEC Competition to being chosen as among BILAN’s 50 best Swiss start-ups in 2013. The public have shown confidence in the concept as well, with presentations at various motor shows raking in thousands of pre-orders and cities in both China and Europe expressing interest in using Softcar to outfit public vehicle fleets. Those developments are all votes of confidence in UPGO being the true car of the future: a sustainable car that will let us have a future.
Environmental impact: Avoided use of harmful chemicals, avoided waste, and reduced emissions, specifically reduced emissions of GHGs and harmful substances
Measurement: Softcar SA
Credits: Softcar SA
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