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Cannabis in the automotive industry - new opportunities for sustainable development

08.10.2019

One of the first cars in which biocomposites using hemp fibers are used is the automobile giant BMW . Along with the electric motor, an increasing number of BMW models include environmentally friendly production technologies for housing parts, seat fillers and other items . Following BMW’s groundbreaking move , other well-known brands in the automotive industry are increasingly promoting new cannabis cars on the market. Among them are Audi, Ford , Mercedes, PSA Peugeot Citroën , Chrysler and Volkswagen, which use natural hemp components for the manufacture of doors and seats.

Environmental issues today affect an increasing number of the world's population. No one can feel safe when climate change, deterioration in air quality and soil conditions occur. The best option to reduce the rate of negative environmental impact is to maximize the use of natural components in the production of an increasing number of products and products . Hemp can be an excellent alternative to raw materials for the production of various types of industrial , food and medical goods . The management of companies operating in the automotive industry understands this truth and with the help of modern innovations they introduce it into productionhemp-containing products .

Due to the wide range of properties of hemp and its versatility, derivatives of hemp plant processing can be used both for the manufacture of various body parts and as biofuel . Although the theme of the “ green car ” came to the fore only in recent years, the idea of ​​creating a car using natural hemp fibers was born back in 1941 with Henry Ford . The founder of the same car brand and the world's first automobile manufacturer, presented at that time not only a “ hemp car ”, but the first unique innovative project for the integrated use of hemp plants for the needs of the nascent automobile industry. According to his idea, the car consisted of a “hemp body”, where there was a tubular steel frame on which a bioplastic body made of hemp was fixed. Ford developed ethanol as fuel, a plant-based fuel that, in a particular case, was made from hemp grain .

The inventor took about 12 years to develop and assemble a single sample of “hemp car”. He was able to combine in one project agricultural products and cutting-edge engineering innovations at that time. In order to attract consumer demand to the project, Ford shot a commercial in which the advantages of a car made of hemp were clearly shown, when mechanical impacts on the body with a hammer did not leave noticeable scratches and dents.

However, the US policy of that period did not allow Ford to get support for his brainchild, and the only prototype of the “ hemp car ” was never scaled to industrial production. Until the end of the 20th century, the development of hemp breeding in the United States was unlikely, because drug laws, which also included technical hemp, did not allow the plant to be actively grown and its processed products used . 

The situation began to change from the beginning of the 2000s, when the attention of the whole world shifted to problems associated with global warming, and industry began to look for more effective ways to solve environmental problems. At the beginning of this century, cannabis was again raw materials, used in various industries , including the automotive . Moreover, compared with perennial trees, industrial hemp is an annually renewable source of biomass (120 days compared to 25 years of trees), it often does not require the use of pesticides and other chemicals during cultivation, and is able to partially tolerate periods of drought. 

Given the naturalness and versatility of hemp fibers , it is expected that in subsequent years the plant will be increasingly used in the production of composite materials for the manufacture of individual parts of cars and other vehicles, which will remove the negative effects of petroleum products used in existing technologies that are disproportionately expensive for modern civilization. 

One of the first cars in which biocomposites using hemp fibers are used is the automobile giant BMW . Along with the electric motor, an increasing number of BMW models include environmentally friendly production technologies for housing parts, seat fillers and other items . Following BMW’s groundbreaking move , other well-known brands in the automotive industry are increasingly promoting new hemp models on the market. Among them are Audi, Ford , Mercedes, PSA Peugeot Citroën , Chrysler and Volkswagen, which use natural hemp components for the manufacture of doors and seats. To repeat the experience of Henry Ford in creating a new “ hemp car ” today, only one company from Florida was awarded, which produced a Renew Sport Car running on ethanol or biodiesel. Three versions of the car have been developed, which has a speed of more than 300 km / h. 

A unique model of the car that adheres to the concept of environmental friendliness is the new model range from the manufacturer Porsche , which in January last year introduced the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, the first racing car with a body made of linen and hemp fiber , whose rigidity is not inferior to carbon in characteristics. The main advantages of hemp fiber biocomposite materials are their lower weight in comparison with fiberglass composites, the absence of danger of being injured in the event of an accident by the structural elements of the car and the ability to completely recycle after the end of their life. The car, developed by a group of enthusiasts together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Renewable Resources Agency (FNR), demonstrated its positive qualities during a 24-hour race on the Nurburgring track in Germany . 

Automotive industry experts say that today all conditions are created so that hemp can be more and more present in the production of cars that will be produced in the coming years, while not affecting the cost of cars for the end consumer. 

Commentary of the Ukrainian Technical Hemp Association

Issues related to the use of plants as the basis for the production of individual structural elements of promising Ukrainian cars made from hemp based biocomposite materials will be considered during the discussion at the round table “ Hemp raw materials - technologies for its use in construction, production of biocomposite materials and furniture ”, which will be Held on November 12 as part of the “ Hemp University ” on the basis of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine.

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