Trends are always fun and interesting to observe and reflect on and the automotive industry’s no different.by Carter Hammett
True, some trends like the recent increases in car thefts, can be rather disturbing but often it’s inspiring to watch evolution in progress and marvel at the latest turns following where technology leads us.
Our first issue of 2023 is all about trends folks. From the latest apps to ELDs, from vehicle-to-grid to the latest technologies, it’s all here.
Alas, one trend that we haven’t yet covered (but rest assured, we will) is the impact of cannabis on the automotive industry.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Turns out cannabis is an extremely versatile plant that, aside from the obvious, can be used for a variety of means, including fuel, as an additive, and even material to build a motor vehicle’s parts and components. An example of this would be hemp-based composites being used to make car parts that are lighter and stronger.
By all accounts this isn’t new information. In 1941 Henry Ford built a car out of hemp plastic and it ran on hemp fuel. Later on Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the engine that bears his name, designed a vehicle to run on vegetable and seed oils, including hemp. Using hemp material to construct and run the car supposedly improved its fuel efficiency by up to 25 per cent. Unfortunately for both these men, hemp became illegal in the United States in 1937 so mass producing these cars became impossible.
Fast forward about seven decades or so, and everything old is new again. In this case, hemp’s finally being recognized for its potentially innumerable contributions to the motive world.
As an alternative to fossil fuel, hemp offers a variety of benefits. It’s a massively-available sustainable energy source that’s both economically and environmentally friendly. And it’s carbon-negative since it actually sequesters carbon.
In terms of its versatility, hemp assists in the reduction of carbon emission during production; it’s lighter than steel and fiberglass and can resist dents since it’s not nearly as brittle as carbon fiber.
And it hasn’t taken long for manufacturers to jump on board. Indeed, Porsche has already introduced the 718 Cayman FT4 Clubsport a couple of years ago, made entirely of hemp and organic material. Similarly, Mazda created a sports car from hemp that runs on biofuel and doesn’t contribute to carbon emission. Mercedes, Audi and BMW have chosen to bypass cannabis in favour of plant fibres like jute.
Closer to home, we have The Kestrel. This vehicle is Canada’s design created by Motive Industries of Calgary and claims to be the world’s most eco-friendly car. It’s a three-door hatchback made of hemp that can travel up to speeds of 90km an hour. Currently it needs to be recharged every 160 kilometers.
The car’s body is created using hemp stalks mixed with polymer resin. It’s fairly light, strong and impact-resistant. It also performs at a better rate of fuel efficiency as well.
The vehicle’s still a while away from production-readiness, but it’s attracting global attention. And since Canada’s progressive policies shine positively for hemp farming, the timing and environment are both ripe for producing vehicles like Kestrel.
Given the rising cost of fuel and global commitment to finding alternatives to fossil fuel, it appears the Kestrel’s timing is just about perfect.