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Hemp car sparks a buzz

The blogosphere is abuzz about an electric car made of hemp developed by a team of Canadian companies who plan its debut at the EV trade show in Vancouver next month.

The compact four-passenger car, with its body made of hemp bio-composite, will have a top speed of 55 miles per hour and a range of 25 to 100 miles before needing to be recharged, depending on the battery, CBC News reported.

Calgary-based developer Motive Industries Inc. said hemp achieves the same mechanical properties as glass composite without the weight, an important goal when designing the body of a battery-powered vehicle.

“Didn’t Cheech and Chong already try this?” wrote one observer on Slashdot.org.

“Model THC?” quipped another.

Hemp is a natural fiber product of the Cannabis sativa plant and is comparable to cotton as a fiber. It is bred differently from the Cannabis indica plant that produces marijuana, which is outlawed under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act.

“It’s illegal to grow it in the U.S., so it actually gives Canada a bit of a market advantage,” Nathan Armstrong, president of Motive Industries told the CBC.

Industrial farming of hemp is practiced in 30 countries including Canada, France, England, Germany, Australia and Russia but cultivation is illegal in the U.S.

Last year, an Ontario company secured $1.8 million from investors to open the first North American bio-processing plant for industrial hemp, The Canadian Press reported.

Hemp for the Kestrel is supplied by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, a Crown corporation in the western Canadian province that purchases its cannabis from an industrial hemp farm in Vegreville, Alberta.

The vehicle is slated for prototype and testing later this month.

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GE launches eco challenge to clean energy wizards

General Electric is inviting clean-tech geniuses to come out of the energy closet. The company has launched a $200 million challenge to businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students with novel ideas on how to build the next-generation power grid.

Called GE Ecomagination Challenge, the project is a partnership between GE and venture capital firms, including Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital.

The competition is split between three categories: Renewable Energy, Grid Efficiency and EcoHomes/EcoBuildings.

Selected entries will be given the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through investment, validation, distribution, development and growth. Applications are open now and close on September 30.

Each entry must include a clear, detailed proposal describing an innovative, original smart grid technology. English is the lingua franca of the project and GE asks applicants to disclose whether they already have filed a patent application or received a patent on any part of the project submitted. Information about the applicant, his/her team and how the idea came up is also welcome.

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