I’ll forgo the usual joke about the designers of this concept car sampling the raw materials, and get to the real issue – automakers exploring alternative manufacturing materials and solar power as components in making a car greener and more energy efficient.

Sports cars are supposed to be all about performance, almost exclusively at the expense of the environment. But this Lotus, which recently made an appearance at the British International Motor Show, makes a nice move to the greener side of the highway.

The brown sections of the body of the Lotus Elise pictured above are a made from renewable, lightweight, pressed hemp.  The hemp used is ethically farmed and grown locally to Lotus, so the amount of CO2 created in shipping the material is minimal and the hemp plants themselves absorb CO2 in the growing process. The hemp body parts are lightweight and not structurally critical.  The roof-mounted solar panels power the Eco Elise’s electrical subsystems, including the iPod/MP3-compatible stereo, which increase MPG.

Of course calling it “Eco” is more than a little bit of a stretch since the Eco Elise is still a gas guzzling sportscar at heart, but it does show the industry designers pushing body construction and power systems in a positive direction.  Now about that engine…

photos + via: asia.cnet.com

another photo after the jump