A team of engineers based at the Volkswagen Design Center in Santa Monica, CA, recently unveiled a concept car that would not be built on a traditional assembly line. Instead, the Nanospyder would assemble itself with nanotechnology.

According to Patrick Faulwetter, one of the designers who created the vehicle, the team worked under the following premise: It’s 2015, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated that vehicles must be 100 percent recyclable. “We envision that Volkswagen would respond to this mandate by initiating a companywide change in the manufacturing processes by adopting the latest advances in nanotechnology,” says Faulwetter.

“The Nanospyder would be the cutting edge of recyclability,” adds Faulwetter. “It would use nanotechnology to create a vehicle capable of being assembled, disassembled and reassembled on a microscopic level.”

Nanotechnology, supported by hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, wheel-mounted electric motors and inflatable organic body panels, would combine to form the unusual shape of the two-seat vehicle. The Nanospyder would be formed out of a latticework of billions of tiny programmable nano devices measuring less than half a millimeter in diameter.

“Each of these tiny devices can be programmed to be as strong or weak as required, meaning active crumple zones can be created,” explains Faulwetter. “The ‘spine’ of the vehicle, onto which the rest of the components are attached, remains immensely strong. Using sensor data, the machines would be able to sense an impending collision and strengthen or weaken their connection to each other to ensure the survival of the passengers.”

The nano-lattice chassis would be covered with body panels formed out of a mix of organic materials, which could inflate to provide further cushioning in the event of an impact. The material would double as a power source. This, coupled with hydrogen fuels, would generate power to drive tiny electric motors mounted within the hubs of all four wheels.