If there was ever a conspiracy-fueled argument to be made simultaneously for and against the auto industry’s lack of a decent electric car, it could be this beautiful, handmade vehicle by a few German university students.
Rennholz, which translates to "Race Wood," is a vehicle driven by the power of an off-the-shelf Bosch screwdriver and nothing else. "The goal was to create an extraordinary vehicle powered by an e-motor," explains project participant Jirka Robert Wolff. It was an entrant to HAWK Hildesheim’s bi-annual race, which restricts entrants to using electric screwdrivers in lieu of high power motors.
While a few key components, mostly lifted from bicycles, are aluminum, the car is constructed primarily of custom-fabricated bent plywood. Three forms were each layered with nine to 11 layers of veneer, then united to create the flowing chassis. "We choose this material, because wood is a renewable material," writes Wolff. "And because it has a very special look and feeling."
The resulting racer is truly gorgeous. It’s a sled with wheels, a pinewood derby racer with a master’s in design, a Poäng chair fueled with retro testosterone instead of flat beige cushions.
And it’s a technical achievement. Instead of drilling in screws, an everyday tool drives the racer at 15 mph for up to 10 minutes at a time.
With a larger battery pack, it could potentially run for hours, assuming the motor held up (which Wolff doubts). The potential is somewhat remarkable. But at the same time, when you begin to do the math, what sort of motor would it take to reach 80mph? How much more energy would that consume? What about safety and durability? What about a roof? Well, you realize that, as easy as Rennholz makes this whole electric vehicle thing look, we’re gonna need a lot more innovation than a bigger screwdriver and a few Duracells.
That is, unless we’re all willing to drive these beautiful wooden racers instead of our Priuses. And that future doesn’t sound so horrible to me.