Could Bamboo Surfboards Inspire Bamboo Cars?

Bamboo composite is a high-strength material currently being used to make surfboards. But there's hope that it can be used to build cars.

Electric vehicles enthusiast Greg 'Gadget' Abbott usually spends his days thinking and talking about alternative car batteries. But an unlikely innovation, test-driven in the gnarliest waves Hawaii's Big Island has to offer, may soon have him saying "surf's up." Surfboards made from woven bamboo composite, favored for their light weight and resiliency, are inspiring electric vehicle tinkerers to explore bamboo as a possible solution to some of the thornier design challenges posed by building electric vehicles.

Abbott, a combustion-engine-to-EV converter, builds vehicles from kit cars, which could one day be constructed from woven bamboo composite and vegetable resin instead of carbon fiberglass. It’s a huge misconception, Abbott says, that bamboo and vegetable resin is weaker that other materials. Because bamboo doesn’t absorb the resin, he says, “you can build thicker composites ... the strength-to-width ratio is somewhere between carbon fiber and fiberglass.”

The benefit of bamboo composite is that it’s an extremely lightweight material, which would compensate for the weight added to cars by heavy battery packs. That added weight—with a battery range of 100 miles—can total more than 200 pounds. Could the car of the future run on electricity and be constructed from renewable materials? Let's hope.

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