Swedish researchers have produced the world’s first model car with a roof and battery made from wood-based carbon fiber. According to the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, who worked on the car with research firm Swerea, the key ingredient in the carbon fiber composite is lignin, a part of the cell walls of nearly all plants that grow on dry land. They say lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose. Lignin batteries can be produced from renewable raw materials, in this case the byproduct from paper pulp production.

The research and development by KTH is the world’s first application of lignin as a precursor to carbon fiber parts for a car. According to Göran Lindbergh, Professor and Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Technology at KTH, lignin-based carbon fiber is extremely cost effective.

“The lightness of the material is especially important for electric cars because then batteries last longer,” Lindbergh says. “Lignin-based carbon fiber is cheaper than ordinary carbon fiber. Otherwise batteries made with lignin are indistinguishable from ordinary batteries.”

Lindbergh says that eventually, carbon fiber bodywork and batteries could be combined to simultaneously manage mechanical loads and store electrical energy.