People and cargo transportation present a great impact on our lives, health, and environment. Nowadays, we are facing great problems due to toxic emissions from factories and vehicles, which have profound negative effects on the environment and people’s health. With a few correct choice’s things could have gone in a different direction. We still have this choice. The role of hemp for the vehicle of the future is very important and you can read what could have been in this article.
WAR AND PRIORITY CHANGE
1940s, the 20th century. The world was at war. People, as well as companies from different industries had to make sacrifices. US factories had to use the metals and other materials as military stock and decrease their production capacities.
Henry Ford, the world-famous founder of the Ford Motor Company, who in this time uncovered a vehicle made of 100% bioplastic, was also trapped in this process. As cited by the Henry Ford Museum, he wanted to solve multiple problems with one product:
Merging farming and industry (he was a great supporter of farming).
He believed plastic vehicle will perform better and be safer than traditional vehicles.
Due to war he wanted to explore the possibility of replacing metal with plastic.
Hemp is not present only in bioplastic. In addition, using hemp to construct the vehicle, Henry Ford also wanted the vehicle to run on hemp fuel. Below you can find a short video of this revolutionary hemp car.
HEMP CAR & HEMP FUEL
When Ford Motor Company presented its latest technological marvel on August 13th in 1941, more than 10,000 people gathered at the traditional festival in Dearborn, Michigan. They presented the Ford 60, which was made almost entirely from plastic. But not from any plastic, 100% of the plastic was made of plants (most vehicles are made of steel and glass).
In 1941 he stated for the New York Times:
“This will be a vehicle with a better design in every way. And do not forget, automobile industry is only one of the industries where we can find new ways to use plastic made of things that are grown from the soil.”
The vehicle was a big surprise at the festival and was a product of 12-year development by 29 young scientists lead by Henry Ford in a research on the use of farming products in industrial area (New York Times, 1941). The vehicle was being developed from approximately the end of WW1, till the beginning of WW2. Although motivation did not come only from supporting the war efforts, the vehicle launch came at an interesting time. Due to war, vehicle production slowed down substantially, and Henry Ford had to leave the new plastic vehicle production on a sidetrack.
Hemp Car Properties
This was the vehicle of the future, the technological peak of that time. It was a ton lighter compared to steel chassis vehicles. It was made of reusable materials and meant to develop and elevate the farming industry. It could be produced in any color the customers would like.
The vehicle was made from 70% hemp and wheat fiber and 30% from binding plant resin (the exact formula is not known; however, these are the best estimates). The only steel in the entire vehicle was the welded chassis. Henry Ford and his team successfully developed extremely strong bioplastic. Some engineers claim, this kind of plastic is up to 10 times stronger than steel. The vehicle was not 100% produced from hemp (a large part was), however it was 100% plant based.
Henry Ford created a bioplastic (hemp included) car which also ran on hemp fuel almost a 100 years ago. Why are we not driving it today?
WHAT STOPPED THE PRODUCTION?
There are multiple theories to why the vehicle was never mass produced or developed. According to Cannabis Museum in Los Angeles, one of the theories explain that very influential people connected with politicians and stopped the almost guaranteed success of cannabis products including vehicles made of bioplastic, which was on the rise.
They claim innovative approaches such as this one was quickly suppressed by the industry leaders, as they had different views on the topic and saw hemp as a threat (Cannabis Museum Audio Introduction). They did everything in their power to predict where hemp could be successfully implemented, and they stopped it.
HEMP OIL AS BIOFUEL
Even if we have a hemp car, it still requires fuel to operate. Fuel can be sustainable as well. 97% of hemp oil can be converted into biodiesel.
Unfortunately, this concept was ahead of its time and people did not show much interest. Nowadays, we are on an accelerated search for sustainable options in every part of our lives. Maybe this is a concept worth revisiting.
Ford’s plastic vehicle is said to be powered by hemp fuel. Is this even possible? The answer is an absolute YES.
Multiple studies have shown it is possible to make an efficient and most importantly sustainable source of energy from hemp. Study from University of Connecticut even concluded that in lower temperatures, hemp fuel is even more efficient compared to other forms of biodiesel. Additionally, hemp biodiesel also proved a great conversion efficiency – 97% of hemp oil was converted into biodiesel and passed all the laboratory tests.
NEW AGE INNOVATION
In 2017, there was a red convertible included in the “Jay Lenos Garage” TV show. It was made of almost 50 kg of hemp. The owner, Bruce Dietzen is very proud of his strong, durable hemp car. Dietzen and his company Renew Sports Cars are developing sustainable motor vehicle concepts. It looks like they started where Ford left off – in the next 10 years they aim to start a zero emission, zero steel and zero oil-based plastic production line. Below you can view a short video from the show:
THE RETURN OF HEMP CAR – OR AT LEAST HEMP FUEL?
Bruce Dietzen invested 200,000 USD for a prototype of hemp car. He is very pleased with the result and is accepting orders to build more. Imagine if a part of the world switched to a sustainably made and driven vehicles. We would have a large reduction of emissions in our ecosystem. To compare, production of one car releases 10 tons of CO2. This is only to produce the vehicle. Additionally, we have to add an average of 6 tons of CO2 annually, released while driving the vehicle.
If we used biofuel, vehicles would be 3 times cleaner compared to today’s electric vehicles. Even slight changes such as bringing your own bag to the supermarket, using reusable bottles, omission of plastic straws etc. make a difference.
Henry Ford believed that plant-based oils are the future of motor fuels as well. He even publicly stated this in his famous quote:
“On a 1-acre potato field there is enough alcohol in 1 year, to operate field cultivation machinery for 100 years”.
HENRY FORD’S PLANS POSTPONED FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY
Ethanol was known as a fuel for decades. When Ford designed the T model it was expected that ethanol made of reusable biologic materials would be the main fuel source for the vehicle. However, later on oil emerged and became the dominant fuel of the 20th century transportation, mostly due to simplistic operation of petrol engines (made of materials available at that time), increase in cheap oil reserves (discovery of new oil sites), and intensive lobbying of oil companies among federal authorities to retain high alcohol taxes.
Many proposals for the National Energy Program, which used large American farm resources (for fuel production) were destroyed by the oil lobby interests. One of the statements from an oil company was that the USA government is trying to “rob the taxpayers, to make the farmers rich”.
Oil has many disadvantages as a vehicle energy source. This “new” fuel compared to ethanol had less octanes, was more toxic (especially when mixed with tetra-ethyl lead and other octane increasing compounds), generally more dangerous and contained toxic air polluting compounds.
Oil had a higher probability to explode or accidentally catch fire. Physically and chemically, it was more diverse than ethanol which called for complex refinery procedures to ensure the production of the oil product.
Despite environmental disadvantages, oil-based fuels took over transportation. The reasons can be as follows:
Cost per km was the only selection criteria,
Large oil and automobile company investments in the form of capital, knowledge and technology set the entry barrier very high.
Until recently environmental concerns due to oil were mostly ignored. However, change is on the way as consumers demand fuels such as ethanol which are far more environment and health friendly. Henry Ford’s attempt for hemp car and fuel of the future failed. The famous inventor was most probably ahead of his time. Maybe the new technological approaches and environmental pressures can soon change this for the better. We often must look into our past, to build a better future.
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