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Lotus Eco Elise: Solar-powered sports car really is dope

Sports cars aren't supposed to be green. They're supposed to snort petrol, belch fumes and cause innocent passers by to develop nasty chest infections. Lotus disagrees

Sports cars aren't supposed to be green. They're supposed to snort petrol, belch fire and cause innocent passers by to develop nasty chest infections. So when Lotus rolled up to the British International Motor Show in an a solar-powered Eco Elise made out of plants, it raised more than a few eyebrows.

See those brown bits on the car? That's foliage, that is. And not just any foliage -- it's pressed hemp. Yes, hemp -- what you make cannabis from. We've no idea if this car's designers had ingested some kind of 'hemp' when they came up with the concept of a car made of ganja, but on closer inspection it's actually not a bad idea.

Hemp is a renewable, lightweight material that absorbs CO2 through photosynthesis, which is good for the planet. The particular brand of hemp used is ethically farmed and grown locally to Lotus, so the amount of CO2 needed to transport the raw materials is kept to a minimum. It's good news for the car itself, too. Hemp is very light compared to metal, which improves performance and promotes greener, more fuel-efficient driving. It doesn't compromise on safety either -- all the parts that are important for structural integrity are metal.

The solar panels in the roof are an interesting addition. They can't power the car itself, but they can drive the Eco Elise's electrical subsystems, including the iPod/MP3-compatible stereo. When it's in use, it can also take the strain off the car's alternator so it uses less petrol, and emits fewer harmful particles.

Aside from that, it's a normal Lotus Elise -- which is a good thing. If you don't mind sitting in a cockpit surrounded by what could just as easily have been marijuana, and don't mind being constantly pulled over by police with sniffer dogs, we'd recommend it. Unfortunately you won't be able to buy it any time soon. It's a concept car, but Lotus promises that "certain features might find their way into future models".

Check the pics over the following pages. -Rory Reid

The solar panels are located on the roof, which can actually be removed. When in place, it provides power to the car's electrical systems, such as the stereo. That brown stuff between the panels is ground-up ganja.

More mushed up weed can be found on the inside of the car. Both seats are made from hemp too -- rather than plastics derived from crude oil. Note the wooden gearstick and handbrake. We think it might be taking recycling a little too far to nick the seat-belt clips from an 80s school bus.

More hemp can be found on the bonnet of the Eco Elise. We hope the, er, higher front end doesn't upset the car's balance in any way.