Solar-powered cars made from hemp sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel. However, these innovative vehicles are becoming a reality sooner than you might think.
Aptera Motors, a California automaker, is currently accepting early orders for solar-powered hemp vehicles. According to media reports, around 8,000 people have already put down their deposits, and production is expected to begin before the end of the year.
What type of vehicle is it?
Technically, this high efficiency, emission-free vehicle is not a car. It is classified as a motorcycle or autocycle and is marketed as “the world’s first Never Charge Vehicle.”
The vehicle has three wheels — two wheels in front and one in back, similar to a Spyder motorcycle. It can transport two people and reportedly costs between $26,000 and $46,000.
Does the vehicle run only on solar power?
The Aptera vehicle is powered by a rooftop solar array. Future owners will also have the option to supplement this solar array with solar panels placed on the vehicle’s hood and rear hatch. The solar panels are reportedly easy to upgrade or replace as needed.
The rooftop solar panels allow for a 44-mile driving range. A backup battery pack that can plug into a standard 110-volt outlet allows drivers to travel an additional 1,000 miles per charge, which could come in handy on cloudy days and at night.
“Depending on where you live and how much you drive, you may never need to charge Aptera at all,” the company website claims.
With a range like this, the Aptera reportedly outperforms competitors like the Tesla Model 3 Long Range and the BMW I-3.
How does hemp improve the vehicle’s construction?
Admittedly, the aerodynamic body of the vehicle looks a bit like a spacecraft, but the design is intended to reduce wind resistance, which can help make the vehicle’s impressive driving range possible.
The materials used in the vehicle’s body also help make the long driving range possible. Aptera vehicles are made out of composites comprised of carbon, Kevlar and hemp.
This may surprise you, but hemp-based vehicles are nothing new. Henry Ford created a hemp car back in 1941. His vehicle reportedly used hemp fiber and plastic to form an extremely strong body.
Although hemp may have fallen out of favor in the automotive industry, it has recently been experiencing a comeback.
For example, Motive Industries released the Kestrel in 2010, which had a body made from hemp mats infused with polymer resin. The body was reportedly light and strong with increased impact absorption.
Another example is the custom hemp-bodied sports cars made by Renew Sports Cars in Florida. These bodies reportedly are constructed from woven hemp that is treated with bio-based epoxy and molded. These bodies are reportedly dent-resistant because the hemp fiber in these vehicles absorb energy like the hemp-based Kestrel body did.
Now, Aptera Motors is using hemp in the bodies of their new vehicles. The lightweight combination of carbon, Kevlar and hemp used in their vehicles is reportedly the same technology that has been used in some racing cars to provide safety and strength.
“Inspired by fighter jets and race cars, our resin-infused sandwich-core construction produces lightweight composite structures many times stronger than typical steel-based vehicle designs,” the Aptera website says.
Aptera’s hemp vehicle may look like it belongs in the distant future, but using hemp as an automotive material is actually old technology. However, its strength, impact absorption and light weight helped make this vehicle’s other advancements possible.
Whether old news or not, hemp seems to offer the perfect combination of attributes for the automotive industry. Hopefully, it will continue to become a bigger and bigger part of our not-so-distant future.