Aug. 30 - According to its Dutch developers, an electric scooter made entirely from natural materials, including around 80 percent hemp, offers a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel power. The Be.e scooter has enough power on a single charge to travel for 80 km at speeds of up to 25 km/h - ideal for fast and flexible city travel. Matthew Stock reports.
Legal marijuana is part of Amsterdam's tourist culture, but this new scooter - made mostly from hemp - is creating a different kind of buzz in the Dutch capital. Designed by local start-up company Van.eko, the prototype is called the Be.e. It's fully electric and can travel for around 80 kilometres at speeds of up to 25 km/h - ideal for fast and flexible city travel. Van.eko founder Vaniek Colenbrander (pron. Van-eek Colenbrander) designed the scooter for his 2007 graduation project. He now has four fully-functional hemp scooter prototypes and is now looking for further funding to launch the project on a mass scale. (SOUNDBITE) (English), VAN.EKO FOUNDER, VANIEK COLENBRANDER, SAYING: "We use fully sustainable material, so the whole body and the whole frame, which is a body, is a monocoq structure made from bio-composite, hemp fibre and bio-resins....That means we use no more steel and no more glass-fibre or carbon-fibre materials to support the whole structure. The whole structure is supported by bio-composite material." Co-developer Simon Akkaya works for one of several partners who see great potential for sales among increasingly ecofriendly consumers. He says the monocoq shell - which provides structural support to the entire vehicle - is a true innovation. (SOUNDBITE) (English), WAARMAKERS DESIGNER, SIMON AKKAYA, SAYING: "This technique is new to scooters, but it has been used in high-end sports cars before and maybe Formula 1, but it's really new for the scooter." The designers admit it will be a challenge to put a dent in Amsterdam's traditional love of pedal-power, but see markets in cities all over Europe where they believe the combination of sustainable hemp and electric power will offer a popular alternative.