Hemp – cars and components

The automotive industries relationship with the hemp plant is as old as the industry itself.

From Popular Mechanics:

In 1941 Henry Ford invented a cellulose-plastic prototype car fuelled by hemp and vegetable seed oils

Ford demonstrating the strength of biocomposite technology

‘When Henry Ford recently unveiled his plastic car, the result of 12 years of research, he gave the world a glimpse of the automobile of tomorrow, its tough panels moulded under hydraulic pressure of 1,500 pounds per square inch (psi) from a recipe that calls for 70 percent of cellulose fibres from wheat straw, hemp, and sisal plus 30 percent resin binder. The only steel in the car is its tubular welded frame. The plastic car weighs a ton, 1,000 pounds lighter than a comparable steel car.’

Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, designed it to run on vegetable and seed oils like hemp.  Ford originally intended his vehicles to run off of vegetable oils, stating “there’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years.”

‘Why use up the forests which are centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in annual growth of the hemp fields?’ 

However, the gasoline industry lobbied hard to keep alcohol taxes high and drop the price of gasoline.  This even “coincided” with the prohibition of alcohol and hemp in the 1920’s.

Today the inspiration and the solution are rooted in the past and the soil…

Ministry of Hemp talks with Bruce Michael Dietzen, founder of RENEW sports cars – the startup that created the cannabis car.

BD: Henry Ford had discovered how to make cars from hemp that were four times greener than today’s electric vehicles, almost 75 years ago. That’s when I knew I had to follow in Henry Ford’s footsteps.

four times greener? most people assume that electric cars are the ultimate green solution. how is that possible?

BD: A Union of Concerned Scientists study recently concluded that the Lifetime Carbon Footprint (LCF) of today’s electric vehicles are about half that of gasoline cars. Unfortunately, they forgot to factor in that electric vehicles need a second set of lithium ion batteries in order to reach today’s average Vehicle Miles Traveled of 227,200 miles. Once, you factor a second set of batteries in, electric vehicles have an Lifetime Carbon Footprint that’s 66% of gas cars.

how does henry ford’s hemp car stack up against that?

BD: By making every component he possibly could from carbon negative plants like hemp, Ford offset the other carbon positive components. As a result, he effectively negated the CO2 generated during the manufacturing process which is usually about 23% of an internal combustion vehicle’s Life Carbon Footprint. He then fueled his car with cellulosic ethanol made from hemp remnants, which today is considered a second generation biofuel and 86% greener than gasoline. So the math was simple from there. Electric vehicles s have a footprint that’s 66% of gas cars, while Ford’s hemp car had a footprint that was 14% of gas cars. That’s a pretty big difference.

4.7 times greener. i get it. so what are the implications?

BD: Electric Vehicles aren’t going to save the planet but Ford’s vision could. The world’s fleet of cars and trucks is projected to increase by 2.5 times by 2050. Just to hold steady with the total CO2 they generate today, 100% of cars would have to be electric (of which only 50% are projected), and their footprint would have to drop from 66% of gas cars to 40%. That’s not going to be easy considering that the aluminum, lithium and petro-plastics used to make electric vehicles are intensely carbon positive, and the electricity used to charge electric vehicles will still be highly fossil fuel dependent for decades to come due to increased demand for more electricity.

By contrast, let’s envision today’s existing cars and trucks running on a biofuel that’s compatible with today’s liquid fuel infrastructure. Something like cellulosic Biobutanol. This is not only possible to do with minor modifications to existing engines, but the entire infrastructure required to produce these types of fuels right here in the States would cost less than the cost to build the F35 fighter jet. And the amount of CO2 which our vehicles add to the environment would be cut by 87% within a decade.

that’s quite a contrast. but you believe we could take a step beyond that right? your vehicles could actually help reverse climate change?

BD: Yes. Again, by using agricultural waste, apparently it’s now possible to create carbon negative fuels which are 100% compatible with the gas powered cars on the road today. This type of fuel is carbon negative because it yields a byproduct called biochar which gets plowed back into agricultural soils. So some of the CO2 which plants pull out of the environment gets recycled, and some of it gets buried or “sequestered.” Using these types of fuels, we can actually help reverse climate change with every mile we travel.

and the agricultural waste from hemp plants can be used to make carbon negative fuels?

BD: Yes, as well as any other type of agricultural waste or yard trimmings.

you were a national sales manager at dell, effectively retired, and had moved to florida. you could’ve just kicked back and enjoyed retirement. what motivated you to launch this startup?

BD: I didn’t want to look back at the end of my life on this little blue ball and think “Wow, I sold a lot of computers.” I saw an opportunity to help save the planet and I took it.

why use hemp in particular?

BD: For car production, nothing beats hemp. Body panels and chassis components made from hemp are lighter weight than steel or metal, and are are far more dent resistant than steel. Every bit of plastic, carpeting and upholstery in a car can be made of hemp. So as I mentioned earlier, all of these components, when made from carbon negative hemp instead of carbon positive materials can reduce the lifetime carbon footprint of cars by up to 23%.


What is hemp?