Seeking a splashy way to display the impressive potential of trash, a recycling executive rescued a scrapyard sedan, rebuilt it as a recycled electric vehicle and equipped it with battery power from old laptops and other electronics discards.
Then, he went behind the wheel to prove its prowess. In different roadway experiments, the renovated BMW, dubbed the Phoenix, outperformed sleeker name-brand electric vehicles, including a Tesla P100D, according to Eric Lundgren, who launched the project, and Jehu Garcia, an observer.
“It’s not the prettiest. It’s not the fastest. But it does go farther [without recharging] than a premium, premium product,” says Garcia, who posts videos about electric vehicles on YouTube.
In a recent run on regular roads and highways, the Tesla reportedly traveled about 315 miles before recharging, while the recycled Phoenix ticked off about 382 miles. “It was built using garbage,” Lundgren says. “How cool is that?”
Benefits of ‘Hybrid Recycling’
Lundgren is founder and CEO of ITAP, an electronics recycling firm in Chatsworth, Calif. The Phoenix, he said, is intended as an exciting and fun way to focus public attention on the benefits of repurposing bits and pieces of discarded items to their fullest potential. It’s an approach he refers to as “hybrid recycling.” At ITAP, employees extract usable parts from broken and discarded smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices, then identify or design ways to repurpose the pieces in other products.
“I understand it’s waste — it doesn’t mean we need to be wasteful with it,” Lundgren says.
Strategically repurposing discards offers various economic, environmental and humanitarian benefits, including reducing or eliminating unhealthier waste disposal methods.
Paving the Way
Lundgren and his pals designed and built the Phoenix in a backyard for about $12,900. Approximately 88 percent of the vehicle, by weight, is recycled materials.
Garcia, who posted a YouTube video about the Phoenix, said he was impressed with the project. “I think it’s a great publicity stunt to raise awareness of his mission,” he says. “There’s not enough repurposing going on in America, and I think Eric’s mission is to point that out.”
In a different YouTube video about the Phoenix, Lundgren expresses his enthusiasm for hybrid recycling. “It doesn’t make sense to just recycle [items] for commodity value,” he says. “That’s bringing everything down to its lowest common denominator of value and that’s hurting our environment because then factories are building new ones, when we already have working parts and components that we can reintegrate and reuse.”
Lundgren wants to use the Phoenix to set a world record for distance by an electric vehicle. Guinness World Records lists its record for greatest distance by an electric vehicle on a single charge as 807.78 miles, achieved on a race track in Japan. Lundgren’s goal is establishing a different record category, based on real roads at highway speeds.
In addition to setting records, Lundgren said his primary purpose for the Phoenix is to build enthusiasm for hybrid recycling among the public, manufacturers and others in the recycling industry.
“I hope they copy me. I hope they start looking into this,” he says. “I’m not in this for money. I’m in this for impact. I want to make a difference in the world. I can’t do it alone.”
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