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  • 10.19.15

The Newest Lexus Is An Origami-Inspired Car Made From Cardboard

Be careful, it isn’t exactly street legal.

Driving down the street, a new paper car–hand-glued from 1,700 pieces of cardboard–looks more like a piece of animation than a real-life object.

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Using the digital files for an actual Lexus IS sedan, designers sliced up the drawing into tiny pieces and then cut that pattern out of cardboard with lasers.

It took three months to put together, as modelers dealt with problems like the fact that no sheet of cardboard is perfectly straight. “We had to glue one sheet at a time,” says Daniel Ryan from Lasercut Works, one of the companies that helped build the car for Lexus.

The car is an homage to “master craftsmen” at a Lexus factory, who have to prove their skill by folding a tiny origami cat with one hand. (While some work is done by robots, humans still take care of details like stitching on upholstery, and they need to be nimble).

“It’s about dexterity,” says Scott Brownlee, who runs U.K. press relations for Toyota, which owns Lexus.”It’s about proving you can eventually learn to do something you think is impossible–overcoming those kind of barriers to think differently and think more creatively.”

After making a short film about the origami test, a marketing team at Lexus wanted to do more. “We started knocking about ideas, and someone said, can we make a full-size origami car?” Brownlee says. “Of course, it was physically impossible because of the weight–it wouldn’t be able to support itself. But this was inspired by origami. It retained that notion that you could make it full size, out of paper, and that was still fairly astonishing.”

By attaching the cardboard to a metal frame with casters, along with the motor from a scooter, someone can actually get in the car and drive it. (It isn’t street legal.)

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It’s a piece of art, not something practical. But it’s a reminder of the versatility of a cheap, sustainable material. “I believe that corrugated card has many practical uses in construction . . . Its relative strength to weight ratio and green credentials mean it is something which should not be ignored,” says Ryan.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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