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The automotive industry has been researching how to introduce hemp and other fiber into their production process for close to eighty years. In 1941 Henry Ford built a prototype of a car made almost entirely of bio-plastic and was to be fueled by hemp ethanol. These bio-plastics were composites of different fibers from different plants. One of the plant fibers that were used to make the bio-plastic was hemp. This idea came about to save the fledgling agriculture industry that had seen a downturn as a result of the war. As the production of industrial hemp continues to gain in popularity worldwide – can hemp finally become a mainstream component in the automotive industry?

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After researching the bio-plastics of the time, it was generally accepted that bio-fiber composite plastic cars were the cars of the future. Henry Ford believed that this bio-plastic car would be safer, lighter, and much less expensive than the steel models of the time, adding, “It will be a car of darn sight better design in every form. And don’t forget the motor car business is just one of the industries that can find new uses for plastics, made from what’s grown in the land!”

Can Hemp Become a Mainstream Component in the Automotive Industry?

While Henry Ford’s prototype never went into production, and his prophecy never came to pass, there is new hope on the horizon for the industrial hemp industry. According to a recent interview by Hemp Industry Daily, recent breakthroughs in hemp fiber composites are encouraging for the future of hemp in the automotive industry.

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According to Nathan Armstrong, vehicle engineer for San Diego-based electric car manufacturer Aptera Motors, fiber composites with hemp always had several shortcomings when tested as fiberglass alternatives in cars. Still, recent research suggests a way to mitigate those shortcomings and provide the automotive industry with a more affordable, sustainable and durable alternative to fiberglass. But does this mean that hemp will become a mainstream component in the automotive industry?

What were the Previous Shortcomings of Hemp?

While hemp fiber is considered a good material from a performance standpoint, issues always arise when you factor in the time to manufacture the hemp fiber composite. According to Mr. Armstrong, there is a general rule of thumb in the automotive industry since the 1920s. If you can’t manufacture a particular part you wish to use in the car in a minute or less, it is not economically viable to use it.

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This is due to the high production volumes most manufacturers aim to produce. The time it takes to manufacture the hemp composites was never feasible for the automotive industry before now. So what has changed?

Can Hemp Become a Mainstream Component in the Automotive Industry?

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Over the past ten years, research into producing hemp composites faster has started to bear fruit. Especially since more composite manufacturers started looking into woven materials, as opposed to the non-woven materials that everyone was looking into before.

Woven materials are faster to weave with an industrial loon and do not have the high rate of resin absorption that was one of the main barriers in the non-woven hemp composites. Since the resin was the most expensive material in the non-woven composite, the high absorption of the resin by the hemp fiber made the non-woven hemp composite much more expensive than its fiberglass alternative. However, with the lack of absorption of the woven composite, the price of producing the hemp-based composite drops dramatically.

Can Hemp Become a Mainstream Component in the Automotive Industry?

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Europe is currently the leading producer of the woven material, and North American producers have to ship hemp to Europe and import the woven fiber back. However, Mr. Armstrong anticipates that North American composite manufacturers will have the capability to produce woven hemp composites in about five years, which will make them a feasible alternative for fiberglass. Hemp fiber composites are more durable and flexible than fiberglass. Once they are cheaper to produce, we will see hemp making its way into the automotive industry.

Can Hemp Become a Mainstream Component in the Automotive Industry? – Your Hemp Stocks Experts

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