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Everyone wants a smoke’n car, but would a toke’n car be a good thing?

A consortium of Canadian firms under the group name Project Eve is hoping the Kestrel, which may be the world’s first electric hybrid hemp car, isn’t just a home grown pipe dream.

The Kestrel‘s launch is scheduled for 2012, but Motive Industries was flashing it’s specs at EV 2010 conference and trade show in Vancouver last month.   With a body made from a bio-fibre based composite (an impact-resistant composite material produced from mats of hemp) and weighing in at only 850kg including a 16kw/h lithium-ion battery, the Kestrel, a three door compact, still manages to carry four-passenger, reach a range of 100 miles (160km) on a full charge and achieve a top speed of  83mph (135km/h).

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According to Motive Industry plans, the Kestrel will be certified for sale in Canada in late 2012.

Of course the Canadian group wasn’t the first automaker to discover the wonders of the non-marijuana producing side of the cannabis family.  Automotive pioneer Henry Ford, of Model-T fame, built a ‘plastic hemp car’ made from hemp fibre and resin more than half a century ago. It was even fueled by hemp ethanol.


In 1925, Henry Ford explained the upsides of ethyl alcohol in a  New York Times interview (via Hempcar.org):

"The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years."

Of course the oil industry stepped in with a toxic, but cheaper product – domestic oil (leaded, of course) and put an end to ethyl’s popularity.

But why the use of hemp in auto body construction now?  Energy efficiencies in production.

...fibreglass and carbon fibre-based composites have gained popularity as materials for the body of racecars because they are strong, but light. Such composite materials consist of pieces or fibres of a hard reinforcement material, such as glass or carbon fibre, surrounded and supported by a matrix of a material such as plastic.

Producing composites from glass or carbon fibre requires intense heating in furnaces and multiple chemical processes, [Nathan] Armstrong [of Motive Industries] said, making it very energy intensive.

In contrast, plant-based fibres grow in a field using the energy of the sun."As a structural material, hemp is about the best," [Nathan] Armstrong [of Motive Industries] said, as it has about twice the strength of other plant fibres. It doesn't require much water or pesticide use, and grows well in Canada, providing a high yield per hectare.
      --Emily Chung, "Cannabis electric car to be made in Canada", CBCNews

Sounds like a win-win.  So why aren’t the US automakers exploring the wonders of hemp?

"...it's illegal to grow it in the U.S., so it actually gives Canada a bit of a market advantage," Armstrong added.

Since the U.S. does allow the importation of processed hemp, maybe we can import some of Canada’s hemp and make our own electric hybrid Cannabis-mobiles.

You know, of course, that home-grown is always better.


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