Lotus goes Green with their Hemp-laced Eco Elise.
Lotus motors, a British carmaker, is known for their lightweight sports cars that exhibit exceptional handling. Lotus is headed in an innovative direction with a new project called the Eco Elise. The Eco Elise is a spin-off of the brand’s iconic sports car, the Elise S. Lotus has introduced a host of recyclable materials and greener manufacturing technologies in the new project, not the least of which is hemp. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting and innovative of the changes.
Let’s cover what is the same first. The Eco will receive the normal Elise S engine and drive-train. Lotus has invested a large amount of time on the current engine setup and it is already more eco-friendly than many passenger cars on the road today at an average fuel mileage that can reach above 30 MPG combined. Yes, combined. Horsepower comes in around 138 and combined with the now even lower weight and mileage friendly changes it is hard to complain about the combination.
The body panels are the star of the show. They are constructed of hemp-fiber impregnated with a polyester resin. This is similar to the process used to create fiberglass body panels, but with a huge reduction of the environmental impact of other composite bodywork construction methods. It retains the lightweight and stiffness of fiberglass, yet hemp is easily broken down by nature. The new composite isn’t just used outside of the vehicle, as the new lighter seats, and interior, even the spoiler mounted to the rear of the car makes extensive use of hemp. To show off all the hard work, the car has sections of transparent paint that display the lovely brown grain of the hemp composite.
Lotus has also made a concerted effort to lower the total carbon miles that go into the car, choosing local materials whenever possible and sourcing them from carbon aware companies. Even the paint technology, developed in tandem between Dupont and Lotus, is impressive. Switching from the prevalent solvent-based paints to a new water-based system, Lotus has stated that it expects this new system will be in production use in the near future. The wheels have been lightened and when combined with the new body material there is a 70-pound weight reduction from the standard model. To top all of these changes of the hardtop has two integrated solar panels which assist the electrical system.
All of these changes together show a directed effort to remain relevant in today’s more environmentally conscious society. I think Lotus has nailed it with a fun to drive and highly fuel efficient entry into the sports car sector. It’s changes in weight and materials come together to have made big improvements that should help make less substantial impacts where it counts, the environment. Let’s hope mainstream car manufacturers are paying attention. The Eco Elise’s big brother, the Tesla D series is faster, all-wheel drive, and utilizes a hybrid drivetrain. But some people want a more simplistic yet still effective solution. I think the Eco Elise is a perfect fit.