Lotus Eco Elise Concept Emphasizes Renewable Materials

While Lotus's previous attempt at a green car - the Exige 265 - focused mostly on biofuels, their new Eco Elise concept, debuting at the London motor show, showcases the company's work with green materials.

In an attempt to maximize the use of recyclable materials, engineers incorporated hemp, wool, and sisal throughout the Eco Elise. Not surprisingly, the car uses a considerable amount of woven hemp as interior trim, using the material not only on the center console and dashboard but on the seats as well.

Perhaps more important is the use of recyclable materials on the car's exterior. A number of body panels on the Eco Elise are made of a hemp-based composite. Lotus claims the hemp fiber itself is quite strong and durable, but the material's limited development forced the use of polyester in the composite. Lotus does hope, however, to have a fully recyclable material developed in the near future.

The Eco Elise sports other trick features, including water-based paint and roof-mounted solar panels tied to the car's charging system, but in typical Lotus tradition, engineers tried to strip as much weight from the car as possible. Custom lightweight wheels, along with the composite body panels, shave nearly 70 lbs from the 1895-lb curb weight of an Elise S. Although Lotus hasn't tweaked the 1.8-liter Toyota-sourced I-4, it hopes weight savings and efficient driving methods will return better fuel economy.

The Eco Elise is solely intended to be a demonstration vehicle, but Lotus says it hopes many of the technologies used will become production-viable in the near future.

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