Soon, you’ll be able to drive hemp. Literally, thanks to the Kestrel car, named after the colorful raptor.
Right now, Canadian company Motive Industries, Inc., is testing the materials for a biocomposite hybrid electric car made from hemp and other natural and synthetic fibers. If all goes according to plan, Motive will finish its prototype mid-2011, and make the car available to the public in late-2012 or -2013, according to Nathan Armstrong, Motive’s president.
The material used to manufacturer the body is impact-resistant composite from hemp mats; these are supplied by Alberta Innovates-Technology Future (AITF), while hemp is grown in Vegreville, Atlanta. Here’s the kicker, AITF is Crown corporation, owned by the Canadian government.
“Plus, it’s illegal to grow it in the U.S., so it actually gives Canada a bit of a market advantage,” said Armstrong to the CBC.
The four-passenger, three-door electric vehicle—created to showcase new automotive technology coming out of Canada—can reach speeds of almost 85 mph. It’s the result of Project Eve, a for-profit collaboration aimed at combining “Canadian skills for the purpose of producing and supporting Canadian electric vehicles and components,” according to Project Eve’s website.
The Kestrel’s a solid step in that direction. “It won’t have any smell. It should be quieter. It should be warmer,” Armstrong says. “The vibrations that we get from the natural fibers are actually quite pleasant.” Plus, he adds, the car’s safer in a crash because it springs back rather than crumbles into a squished-metal ball.
Because of the nascence of the technology being used, Motive doesn’t yet understand how long-term wear and tear will affect the biocomposite car. However, the idea’s to create something durable and easy to repair. If it comes to fruition, “we’re really leaning toward something that’s going to last a long, long time,” Armstrong says.
CBC is reporting that several battery options will be available making the hemp electric vehicle affordable to many people.
Where does the reference to the colorful kestrel come in? “It was initially because we were using design cues from the bird, for aerodynamics,” Armstrong says, “but later [we] found out the kestrel is quick and nimble but has a limited range—perfect for an EV [electric vehicle]!” Get ready to fly in this lightweight, better-for-the-environment, cool-looking hemp-mobile.