‘Cannabis car’ gets spark from Alberta grad

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Alex Glazerman
The Weal (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology)

CALGARY (CUP) — Just when it seemed hippie activists established all possible uses for hemp, Motive Industries Inc. introduced the Kestrel — an electrical vehicle being dubbed “the cannabis car.”

Alberta College of Art and Design alumnus Darren McKeage is the brains behind this innovative design. At only 29, McKeage is the co-founder and vice-president of design for Calgary-based Motive Industries.

McKeage began developing his unique esthetic while attending ACAD, where he received his bachelor of design. Following his graduation in 2005, he traveled across the pond to complete a master’s degree in automotive design at Coventry University in the United Kingdom. This almost didn’t happen as he was originally set to attend university in Italy.

“[My wife] and I had everything underway to move to Italy until I was accepted at Coventry University in the U.K. It only took a half hour to change our minds to go to the U.K. instead.”

“I learned a global understanding of what design is to people,” said McKeage. “There are so many Asian and Indian influences that you just wouldn’t get here in North America,” he said. Showing off McKeage’s unique design vision, the Kestrel is itself a pioneering project, given that its body’s structural material is made of hemp fiber.

“We never even really realized this car is made of pot until we began to receive so much attention from the media,” admitted McKeage.

Drawing its inspiration from the greyhound, the Kestrel runs purely on electricity, and features a spacious four-passenger capacity. It hits zero to 60 km/h in seven seconds, topping a maximum speed of 139 km/h. But it’s not designed for distance, as its battery lasts for only 160 km. And fast charge ports, electrical “gas” stations, are seldom found outside city limits.

Twenty test cars are set to hit the roads in early 2012.

Wanting to mentor local talent including future ACAD and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology grads, McKeage plans to expand the design department at Motive in the next five or 10 years.

“An automotive interior designer, an exterior designer, a clay modeler and a couple Alias Autostudio CAD modelers,” will hopefully create a well-rounded and creative design team. “There are many talented people in Alberta and it would be awesome to help others realize their dreams and let them explore unique industries like automotive design that don’t really exist in this area outside of what we’re doing,” said McKeage.

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