Henry Ford, the legendary entrepreneur who started Ford Motor Company, was a major advocate for hemp, and he introduced a bioplastic car body in 1941 that was partly made out of hemp. (Yes, there’s video.) Ford believed that hemp could play a major role in the future of the automobile industry, and nearly a century later, his visionary intuition appears to be correct.
Bruce Dietzen, a retried Dell executive, is one of the entrepreneurs helping lead the way with the first hemp-based sports car.
Based in the Florida Keys, Renew Sports Cars (main) produces made-to-order cars with hemp-based exteriors. Different drive train options are available, and Renew creates a new body for the car out of woven hemp. How safe is it? The hemp-based shell is apparently 10 times stronger than steel and significantly lighter. The car even made an appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage in 2017. The Renew website says the price starts at $100,000, but reporting suggests more affordable options start as low as $40,000.
The Canadian company Motive Industries introduced the Kestrel prototype (image below) in 2010, and the body of this electric car is made almost entirely out of hemp-based biocomposite material. The “world’s most eco-friendly car” has yet to go into mass production, and it’s one of many hemp-related projects that are apparently in the works from Project Eve. We say “apparently” because the company has been quiet these past few years. Either way, the Kestrel clearly demonstrates the potential for a hemp-based hatchback.
Kestrel and Renew might be new names for most people, but what about BMW, Audi and Mercedes? These luxury brands are among the many who now utilize parts made from hemp. In fact, Mercedes Benz started using hemp-reinforced fiber for the interior door panels of its E class vehicles in 1994 as a way to reduce the car’s overall weight. Imperial College London published a study in 2017 on the role of hemp in the automotive industry, and it notes that “many textile experts, business owners and growers strongly agreed [that hemp has the] potential [to] improve the sustainable and economic performance of the automotive industry… due to the material fibre strength, ease of growth/cultivation and its potential to be carbon negative.”
Hemp provides an alternative upgrade to carbon fiber, fiberglass, polyester and other materials, but the uses of hemp don’t stop there. Hemp seed oil can be processed into oils and greases that help lubricate the moving parts and actually reduce carbon emissions. Processing the oil can also transform it into a biodiesel fuel, while the whole hemp plant can be used to produce ethanol.
When it comes to the automotive industry, hemp is the future, and it seems the future is now.