If you thought that hemp was only good for marijuana or rope, then you need to know about the cannabis car. A Canadian engineering firm called Motive is producing an electric car which includes lightweight composite body panels made mostly of hemp. The four passenger car, called the kestrel, will be introduced at the Electronic Mobility Trade Show in Vancouver in September.
Engineers have found that the hemp can replace such conventional materials as Kevlar and carbon fiber. It is said that the hemp composite has similar impact resistance as fiberglass but it is lighter, cheaper and is more efficient to manufacture. Moreover, a lot more energy is used to produce conventional composites like glass or carbon fiber, but hemp is grown using energy from the sun, is pest resistant, is a high yield plant and little water is needed to grow it.
The hemp is being grown in Vegreville, Alberta and then is being processed into a bio-composite material by the Alberta Innovates Technology futures Program. A Motive representative pointed out that it is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. but it is legal to do so in Canada. And since one of the objectives is to create sustainable products which will lead to more green manufacturing jobs, the Motive spokesperson quipped that the effort gives Canada a bit of a market advantage. Although hemp cannot be legally grown in the U.S., processed hemp is allowed into the country.
The idea of using hemp to make parts for cars appears to be an original idea, but the Motive spokesperson noted that Henry Ford constructed a car using hemp fiber and resin more than 50 years ago. It is reported that the first 20 Kestrels will come off the assembly line and will be delivered to EnMax, a Calgary-based distribution company, in 2011.