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Published on July 30th, 2008 | by Andrew Williams

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Grow Your Own – The Solar Powered Lotus Made From Hemp

British car-maker Lotus has unveiled an environmentally-friendly concept car, which is partly made of hemp, at the British International Motor Show. The Lotus Eco-Elise (pictured above) sports body panels manufactured entirely from hemp (they’re the brown bits on the roof and bonnet).

Compared to metal, hemp is a very lightweight material, which helps to improve vehicle performance and promote greater fuel-efficiency. Hemp is also a renewable, lightweight material that absorbs CO2 through photosynthesis. In addition, the particular type of hemp used by Lotus is ethically produced in close proximity to the manufacturing plant, keeping a lid on the emissions made through transportation.

The Eco-Elise also sports integrated roof-mounted solar panels capable of powering all of the car’s electrical subsystems and, when in use, taking some of the strain off the alternator, leading to a drop in emissions.

Otherwise, the car is a standard Lotus Elise, with all the style and performance credentials we’ve come to expect from the sports car specialists. Sadly, this means that overall CO2 emissions are still quite high, particularly compared with, say, the Toyota Prius, or even the Tesla Roadster. However, if Lotus can figure out a way of combining the advantages of plant-based materials with a more eco-friendly electric, hydrogen or plug-in hybrid based power train, they could be onto a very good thing. Could this car show us a glimpse of a future where cars are not only emissions free, but also 100% biodegradable? – far out!!

Recent Posts Related to Eco-Friendly Cars:

Image Credit – Rory Reid, CNET-UK

[Update: References to any connection between marijuana and hemp have been removed from this post.]




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About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.



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  • Uncle B

    It takes a very special kind of A**hole, an American A**hole to be sure, to not distinguish between hemp and the marijuana plant. They are not the same at all, as any pot dealer will tellyou, you cannot get high from industrial hemp, and it is used all over the world for its fiber and oil content except in the U.S.A. where the government has chosen to protect the godamned oil companies and the cotton industry from its successful exploitation. Hemp cansave aour forests too! If the Toyota Prius was built with polymer composites or hemp based fiber panels,lighter, stronger and more fuel efficient cars can be built, but not if the government protects big steel companies by crippling the fiber industries. The county is run by powerful lobbies and Tom Delay and slick layers like Abramson and the like! Tahts why we are so badly screwed!

  • Uncle B

    It takes a very special kind of A**hole, an American A**hole to be sure, to not distinguish between hemp and the marijuana plant. They are not the same at all, as any pot dealer will tellyou, you cannot get high from industrial hemp, and it is used all over the world for its fiber and oil content except in the U.S.A. where the government has chosen to protect the godamned oil companies and the cotton industry from its successful exploitation. Hemp cansave aour forests too! If the Toyota Prius was built with polymer composites or hemp based fiber panels,lighter, stronger and more fuel efficient cars can be built, but not if the government protects big steel companies by crippling the fiber industries. The county is run by powerful lobbies and Tom Delay and slick layers like Abramson and the like! Tahts why we are so badly screwed!

  • Uncle B

    It takes a very special kind of A**hole, an American A**hole to be sure, to not distinguish between hemp and the marijuana plant. They are not the same at all, as any pot dealer will tellyou, you cannot get high from industrial hemp, and it is used all over the world for its fiber and oil content except in the U.S.A. where the government has chosen to protect the godamned oil companies and the cotton industry from its successful exploitation. Hemp cansave aour forests too! If the Toyota Prius was built with polymer composites or hemp based fiber panels,lighter, stronger and more fuel efficient cars can be built, but not if the government protects big steel companies by crippling the fiber industries. The county is run by powerful lobbies and Tom Delay and slick layers like Abramson and the like! Tahts why we are so badly screwed!

  • John

    Hemp is not marijuana. The sooner you realize that, the better off the world will be.

  • John

    Hemp is not marijuana. The sooner you realize that, the better off the world will be.

  • John

    Hemp is not marijuana. The sooner you realize that, the better off the world will be.

  • PeteY

    I once bought a hemp denim style jean-jacket. I took it home and showed some friends. One of chronic fools decided to cut a piece out the inside of it when I wasn’t looking, cut it up abd tried to smoke it…

    …he ended up having a coughing fit so bad we nearly had to take him to hospital. He couldn’t breath properly for 5 hours after it. Serves the moron right.

  • PeteY

    I once bought a hemp denim style jean-jacket. I took it home and showed some friends. One of chronic fools decided to cut a piece out the inside of it when I wasn’t looking, cut it up abd tried to smoke it…

    …he ended up having a coughing fit so bad we nearly had to take him to hospital. He couldn’t breath properly for 5 hours after it. Serves the moron right.

  • PeteY

    I once bought a hemp denim style jean-jacket. I took it home and showed some friends. One of chronic fools decided to cut a piece out the inside of it when I wasn’t looking, cut it up abd tried to smoke it…

    …he ended up having a coughing fit so bad we nearly had to take him to hospital. He couldn’t breath properly for 5 hours after it. Serves the moron right.

  • http://N/A another american a-hole

    Sounds like good PR for Louts. Now if they ran it off of biodiesel made from algae that would be even better.

    Something like the Opel Eco Speedster running on biodiesel with hemp fiber body. Now that would be pretty sweet.

    Also the hemp fiber car has been around since 1941,possibly before. Google ford hemp car.

  • Snake

    How do you clean a hemp car?

    You lick it. :)

  • Snake

    How do you clean a hemp car?

    You lick it. :)

  • Snake

    How do you clean a hemp car?

    You lick it. :)

  • Tom

    I’m going to have to go with John on this… Hemp is a cousin of the Cannabis plant, however it does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

  • Tom

    I’m going to have to go with John on this… Hemp is a cousin of the Cannabis plant, however it does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

  • Tom

    I’m going to have to go with John on this… Hemp is a cousin of the Cannabis plant, however it does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

  • http://lotussportscars.com/ John Kirkham

    co2 emissions are not quite high, especially compared to the Prius. Normal driving will achieve similar co2 emissions/fuel economy.

    http://www.wintonsworld.com/cars/carnews/carnewstext/fuel-economy.html

    I think Lotus deserve some credit for trying to reduce the environmental impact a car will have over it’s life time, rather than trying to find ways to con people into thinking they are saving the world when they aren’t. For many years they have been producing the most fuel efficient performance cars available, including the Tesla, which is made by Lotus. But with electric cars you need to consider the co2 produced when generating electricity, and the reduced efficiency/performance due to the weight of the batteries.

    There is no perfect solution yet, original thinking is required, that is what Lotus specialise in.

  • http://lotussportscars.com/ John Kirkham

    co2 emissions are not quite high, especially compared to the Prius. Normal driving will achieve similar co2 emissions/fuel economy.

    http://www.wintonsworld.com/cars/carnews/carnewstext/fuel-economy.html

    I think Lotus deserve some credit for trying to reduce the environmental impact a car will have over it’s life time, rather than trying to find ways to con people into thinking they are saving the world when they aren’t. For many years they have been producing the most fuel efficient performance cars available, including the Tesla, which is made by Lotus. But with electric cars you need to consider the co2 produced when generating electricity, and the reduced efficiency/performance due to the weight of the batteries.

    There is no perfect solution yet, original thinking is required, that is what Lotus specialise in.

  • http://lotussportscars.com/ John Kirkham

    co2 emissions are not quite high, especially compared to the Prius. Normal driving will achieve similar co2 emissions/fuel economy.

    http://www.wintonsworld.com/cars/carnews/carnewstext/fuel-economy.html

    I think Lotus deserve some credit for trying to reduce the environmental impact a car will have over it’s life time, rather than trying to find ways to con people into thinking they are saving the world when they aren’t. For many years they have been producing the most fuel efficient performance cars available, including the Tesla, which is made by Lotus. But with electric cars you need to consider the co2 produced when generating electricity, and the reduced efficiency/performance due to the weight of the batteries.

    There is no perfect solution yet, original thinking is required, that is what Lotus specialise in.

  • GaltKnows

    That’s an interesting use of hemp. Check out this guys video on turning hemp into power/electricity. He runs his house, job site, and CAR with his gasifiers.

    Lotus or any car manufacturer could look into powering cars with gasification eliminating the step of turning the energy into a liquid state. If not, individuals can run their gasifier at home (they come in various sizes and prettiness the video just shows one made out of recycled parts) to charge their electric cars. There is also a cool gasification social network for people interested in this type of alternative energy at http://www.VictoryGasworks.com

    Love seeing the world turning to green energy. The oil lords must be starting to worry so they’re lowering their prices lately…huh…

  • GaltKnows

    That’s an interesting use of hemp. Check out this guys video on turning hemp into power/electricity. He runs his house, job site, and CAR with his gasifiers.

    Lotus or any car manufacturer could look into powering cars with gasification eliminating the step of turning the energy into a liquid state. If not, individuals can run their gasifier at home (they come in various sizes and prettiness the video just shows one made out of recycled parts) to charge their electric cars. There is also a cool gasification social network for people interested in this type of alternative energy at http://www.VictoryGasworks.com

    Love seeing the world turning to green energy. The oil lords must be starting to worry so they’re lowering their prices lately…huh…

  • Travis

    I just wanted to point out that this isn’t a new idea, and isn’t all that crazy. Henry Ford himself produced a car in the 1930’s that was built from a combination of hemp and other annual crops and was designed to also run off of hemp. The Ford company even had a secret biomass conversion plant in Michigan to make polymers and other products from what they called “domestic carbohydrates”. The reference for this information is – “The Great Book of Hemp” by Rowan Robinson – 1996. Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont.

    It even has a picture of Henry Ford beating this car with a sledge hammer to show it’s strength.

    We could do so many things with such a versatile plant, but much of its illegality and continued prohibition is made possible by oil companies, the police (some may say military) force of our country, and anyone who can profit from the war on drugs. Many other countries use this material for much of their packaging, and its health benefits as a food source are immense.

    So many alternatives that many just don’t know exist.

  • Travis

    I just wanted to point out that this isn’t a new idea, and isn’t all that crazy. Henry Ford himself produced a car in the 1930’s that was built from a combination of hemp and other annual crops and was designed to also run off of hemp. The Ford company even had a secret biomass conversion plant in Michigan to make polymers and other products from what they called “domestic carbohydrates”. The reference for this information is – “The Great Book of Hemp” by Rowan Robinson – 1996. Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont.

    It even has a picture of Henry Ford beating this car with a sledge hammer to show it’s strength.

    We could do so many things with such a versatile plant, but much of its illegality and continued prohibition is made possible by oil companies, the police (some may say military) force of our country, and anyone who can profit from the war on drugs. Many other countries use this material for much of their packaging, and its health benefits as a food source are immense.

    So many alternatives that many just don’t know exist.

  • Travis

    I just wanted to point out that this isn’t a new idea, and isn’t all that crazy. Henry Ford himself produced a car in the 1930’s that was built from a combination of hemp and other annual crops and was designed to also run off of hemp. The Ford company even had a secret biomass conversion plant in Michigan to make polymers and other products from what they called “domestic carbohydrates”. The reference for this information is – “The Great Book of Hemp” by Rowan Robinson – 1996. Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont.

    It even has a picture of Henry Ford beating this car with a sledge hammer to show it’s strength.

    We could do so many things with such a versatile plant, but much of its illegality and continued prohibition is made possible by oil companies, the police (some may say military) force of our country, and anyone who can profit from the war on drugs. Many other countries use this material for much of their packaging, and its health benefits as a food source are immense.

    So many alternatives that many just don’t know exist.

  • Kyle

    Um, hemp is not a “cousin” of marijuana. Marijuana (flowering buds) and hemp (fiber) come from the same plant, cannabis sativa (or indica).

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=hemp

    “Also called Indian hemp, marijuana. A tall, coarse plant, Cannabis sativa, that is native to Asia but naturalized or cultivated in many parts of the world and is the source of a valuable fiber as well as drugs such as marijuana and hashish.”

    Don’t forget, marijuana’s just slang term invented to demonize and confuse the public about hemp.

    It would have been impossible to make cannabis illegal (back in the 30s) if everyone knew they were just talking about hemp, which was being used for plenty of things, especially during the first World War.

    We smoke the flowering buds of the cannabis plant, and we get hemp fiber from the cannabis plant.

    Yes, through genetics and strain selection we have cannabis seeds that we grow specifically for recreational purposes, just as we have seeds selected specifically for hemp…

    …but they’re not different things.

  • Kyle

    Um, hemp is not a “cousin” of marijuana. Marijuana (flowering buds) and hemp (fiber) come from the same plant, cannabis sativa (or indica).

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=hemp

    “Also called Indian hemp, marijuana. A tall, coarse plant, Cannabis sativa, that is native to Asia but naturalized or cultivated in many parts of the world and is the source of a valuable fiber as well as drugs such as marijuana and hashish.”

    Don’t forget, marijuana’s just slang term invented to demonize and confuse the public about hemp.

    It would have been impossible to make cannabis illegal (back in the 30s) if everyone knew they were just talking about hemp, which was being used for plenty of things, especially during the first World War.

    We smoke the flowering buds of the cannabis plant, and we get hemp fiber from the cannabis plant.

    Yes, through genetics and strain selection we have cannabis seeds that we grow specifically for recreational purposes, just as we have seeds selected specifically for hemp…

    …but they’re not different things.

  • Kyle

    Um, hemp is not a “cousin” of marijuana. Marijuana (flowering buds) and hemp (fiber) come from the same plant, cannabis sativa (or indica).

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=hemp

    “Also called Indian hemp, marijuana. A tall, coarse plant, Cannabis sativa, that is native to Asia but naturalized or cultivated in many parts of the world and is the source of a valuable fiber as well as drugs such as marijuana and hashish.”

    Don’t forget, marijuana’s just slang term invented to demonize and confuse the public about hemp.

    It would have been impossible to make cannabis illegal (back in the 30s) if everyone knew they were just talking about hemp, which was being used for plenty of things, especially during the first World War.

    We smoke the flowering buds of the cannabis plant, and we get hemp fiber from the cannabis plant.

    Yes, through genetics and strain selection we have cannabis seeds that we grow specifically for recreational purposes, just as we have seeds selected specifically for hemp…

    …but they’re not different things.

  • http://earthyfinds.blogspot.com Hyla
  • http://earthyfinds.blogspot.com Hyla
  • woe

    Hemp and Marijuana ARE the same plant. Grown differently – pollinated differently – female plants or males. The Canadian government routinely check THC levels in hemp crops and if something got cross pollinated and the level is above a certain standard – they burn it.

    Do your homework, people, if you are going to comment about these things.

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