Motive Kestrel EV

A vehicle made from hemp? That's the word from Motive, a Canadian based manufacturer. They've released a teaser image of the Kestrel EV, a four passenger compact with body panels made from impact-resistance hemp mats. They plan to reveal it at the EV 2010 VE electric vehicles conference and trade show in Vancouver, September 13-16. It promises to be low weight, low cost, strong as an ox, super sustainable and yes, even electric.

And to further reduce its carbon footprint, the hemp from which the Kestrel is constructed is homegrown so to speak, in Alberta, Canada.

FYI, hemp, a soft, durable fiber, has been farmed for thousands of years and used to manufacturer everything from clothing to car parts. Cultivated from Cannabis sativa plants, it is not to be confused with the other hemp. That particular variety has poor fiber quality and, due to its high volume of the psychoactive substance THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), is sometimes used as a recreational and medicinal drug.

The lightweight hemp is reportedly as durable as fiberglass composite and stronger than steel.

But hemp is no stranger to the automobile industry. Biocomposites of nonwoven hemp matting and polypropylene or epoxy are pressed into parts such as door panels and luggage racks, replacing heavier and less safe fiberglass composites.

Currently, Ford is examining the possibility of replacing fiberglass parts with natural fiber reinforcements made from cellulose, soy protein, hemp fiber, flax fiber and other bio-based materials.

As for a car made of hemp? That's not news.

In 2008, Lotus unveiled a prototype, the Eco Elite, which used sustainable hemp in body panels and the spoiler.

And as far back as 1941, Henry Ford constructed a vehicle out of biodegradable cellulose fibers derived from hemp, sisal and wheat straw that was promoted as "lighter than steel, but could withstand ten times the impact without denting." Unfortunately for Ford, the vehicle didn't resonate with car buyers in the 40's.

Then again, alternative, eco and electric vehicles weren't popular in that era either. A car like the Kestrel has a better chance of flying in the 21st century.

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Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.

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