Originally published November 16 2009
Car parts made from hemp
by Paul Louis, staff writer
(Natural News) PSA, the French manufacturer for Peugeot and Citroen, has recently initiated its Green Materials Plan. This plan intends to increase car parts made from natural materials 600 percent by 2015. They are making a few parts now that are based on flax and hemp.
PSA's Green Materials Plan focuses on three areas: Biopolymers to replace plastics derived from oil; Natural fibers from flax and hemp mixed with other materials, such as wood chips; And recycled materials from shredded plastic bottles mixed with glass fibers.
The plastic interior door panels made by PSA are already 50 percent flax fibers pressed with wood chips. Other parts, including mirror and windshield wiper mountings, use hemp instead of glass fiber in their material mix.
Oil based plastics in cars make up to 20 percent of a car's weight on average. Of that 20 percent, only six percent is currently green or cellulose based. PSA's goal is to increase that six percent to 30 percent of the plastic used.
Hemp is legal in France, so further advances with hemp for car parts may unfold. Laurent Bechin, PSA's natural-fibers specialist, pointed out that the hemp used does not produce marijuana. "It would need about two tons of this material to produce one joint", he quipped.
Hemp and flax for building cars is not new. It was actually done in the USA by Henry Ford while hemp was legal in 1941. The experimental model's body was seventy percent made of fibers from field straw, cotton fibers, hemp, and flax. The other 30 percent consisted of soy meal and bio-resin fillers.
Ford's successful prototype was tagged as the vegetable or hemp car.
Ford's motivation was green-based for two reasons. He wanted to increase agricultural involvement for materials in the automotive industry to improve the farmers' economic plight. And he wanted to build lighter, stronger cars with better fuel efficiency.
The car weighed 2000 pounds compared to 3000 pounds for similar all-steel automobiles. In 1941, ethanol had a higher octane and was cheaper to produce than gasoline. Ford designed the car to run on partial or complete ethanol fuels.
But steel and oil magnates lobbied government to ensure Ford's vision would never manifest.
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