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Canada’s first Bio-Composite Bodied Electric Car

  • Monday, 6th September 2010
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

The car, called the Kestrel, is an electric 4 passenger compact vehicle, designed and engineered by Motive, the body of which is made from impact resistant bio composite material.

Kestrel designer Darren McKeage says – “electric cars need to be efficient, therefore the Kestrel design had to be simple (minimized part count) and light weight, while still being unique and eye catching.”

The bio composite material is made from Hemp mats produced by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) in Edmonton Alberta from Hemp stock grown in Vegreville, Alberta. Nathan Armstrong, President of Motive says “we saw a unique opportunity to make significant advancements in the automotive sector and support the Canadian Auto Sector by providing sustainable products and opportunities to create new green manufacturing jobs.”

Prototyping and testing will begin on the vehicle later this month. The goal is to achieve the same mechanical properties as glass composites while achieving a reduction in weight. According to Dr. John Wolodko at AITF, bio- composites are becoming more popular due to their low cost and light weight. “Natural materials such as hemp can offer a green and sustainable alternative to conventional fibres used in composites.” Composite materials are currently used in formula one vehicles and many road going vehicles and have been found to have strength and safety benefits above that of steel.

Initial production work on the Kestrel four-passenger electric vehicle prototype began in August. The Kestrel will weigh an estimated 850kg, achieve a top speed of 135 km/h and a maximum range of 160km with a lithium-ion battery.

The Kestrel has been designed and will be manufactured entirely in Canada by a yet undisclosed consortium of technology and manufacturing partners coming together under the title of Project Eve, an entirely Canadian Initiative with the goal of furthering the production of electric vehicles and electric vehicle components in Canada. A full announcement about Project Eve will be made during the Vancouver EV 2010 VÉ Conference and Trade Show in September.

Motive says that its purpose in creating the Kestrel goes beyond simply creating another electric vehicle option for consumers. The company states “”the Kestrel was designed to encourage a new era in design and manufacturing for the automotive industry and also to support the Canadian perspective by supporting industry and jobs. The project is developed to fulfil a mandate from the Government to identify the feasibility, costs and benefits of creating a Canadian brand of highway-capable EV’s””. The manufacturing techniques used for the Kestrel by Motive and its partners will allow the vehicle to be made profitably at smaller initial volumes than traditional vehicles. “”The cost to tool a traditional vehicle is in the hundreds of millions. The techniques we are using will allow us to scale up the tooling and manufacturing process as demand increases with ramp-up costs affordable for a new company””.

The other benefits achieved using advanced composites versus metal are increased impact absorption, rust resistance, and reduced weight. “”Composite materials have been used in advanced applications for many years because of its relative light weight and ability to absorb impact, while a steel stamped vehicle will absorb impact by crumpling under pressure, a composite vehicle will absorb the energy then return to its original shape””, comments Nathan Armstrong, President of Motive.

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