European Automotive Companies Use Hemp. Here’s Why American Companies Don’t.

Although hemp has been around for over 10,000 years, Americans make it out to be a new, novel, and revolutionary material. Manufacturers in America are just starting to become familiarized with hemp’s properties. But, in Europe, many manufacturers have been using hemp for decades. 

American consumers can see hemp embedded into all different types of European parts. But, when it comes to sourcing American goods made from hemp, consumers are only left with one solution: importing.

Industrial hemp has faced roadblock after roadblock here in America. The battle was agriculture vs industry. Unfortunately, agriculture faced challenges from multiple multi-billion dollar interests during the ‘war on drugs.’ This created two main pieces of legislation. 

  • 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.
  • Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

These are just a couple of the obstacles hemp had to climb through just to get to the starting line. 

But, now that the US government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is now 100% federally legal. 

This unlocks the floodgates of opportunity that manufacturers have been waiting for.

So, where is there an opportunity for hemp to create a paradigm shift in manufacturing?

I’m glad you asked.

We can look at global markets that utilize hemp in textiles, building materials, and plastics.

But, the use case where hemp has been proven to be an effective solution time and time again is the automotive industry.

How do we know this? Because European automakers have all adopted hemp in several parts of their vehicles. 

Here are 6 European auto manufacturers and some of the parts of their vehicles that have leveraged hemp-based additives over the years.

  • Volvo – Uses natural fibers to cut the use of glass fiber and reduce weight.
  • BMW – The i3 has utilized hemp biocomposites since 2013.
  • Porche – The 718 Cayman GT 4 Club Sport utilizes hemp.
  • Mercedes – C-class vehicles use two dozen parts on each vehicle that leverage hemp.
  • Audi and Volkswagen – One of the original hemp automotive leaders in the early 2000’s.
  • Peugeot – The Peugeot 308 saw 25% weight savings compared to traditional plastics.

It’s not just that more than 6 European auto manufacturers are utilizing hemp. It’s that these companies are finding dozens of different use cases for hemp as an additive to the materials that they’re already using.

  • Body Panels
  • Kick Pads
  • Cup Holders
  • Wheel Wells
  • Dashboard Panels
  • Interior Door Panels
  • Upholstery
  • Seatbacks
  • Door Cladding
  • Foam Seating
  • Floor Insulation
  • Panel Trim
  • Center Consoles

Here is a more comprehensive study from 2016 that dives into individual uses for hemp in automotive applications over the past few decades.

So, you’re probably wondering, why aren’t any of the American automakers using hemp?

The answer is simple.

There is no American industrial hemp supply chain.

With a hemp supply chain, American automakers can emulate the same benefits that European companies have been working toward for a decade or more. 

Luckily, American auto manufacturers have the benefit of shortened R&D timelines. All of their European counterparts have spent years and millions of dollars in testing to prove that hemp is a valuable material.   

In fact, European auto manufacturers have proven that hemp helps cars achieve:

  • Strength Increases – Hemp fibers have a stronger tensile strength than glass fibers, allowing manufacturers to use less product to accomplish the same results.
  • Weight Reduction – Hemp fibers have a lower molecular weight than glass fibers, which means when manufacturers use the same amount of fibers, they can reduce the weight of their end product by up to 44%.
  • Cost Reduction – Glass fibers come with a hefty price increase over a virgin plastic material with traditional fillers. Hemp fibers reduce the cost of goods sold (COGS) while maintaining superior attributes.
  • Carbon Negative – The growing and processing of hemp fibers remove 1.62 tons of carbon from the atmosphere for every 1 ton grown. Glass fibers have a net negative impact on the environment that has been overlooked because of petroleum interests driving its adoption. 

This value proposition can be easily attained by companies that manufacture automotive parts.

Now that Heartland is creating a reliable industrial hemp supply chain, manufacturers can attain a new value proposition through green materials that unlock new capabilities.

One of the capabilities that automotive companies are excited about is lightweighting

Lighter cars accelerate faster, go further, carry more weight, produce lower emissions, and get increased miles per gallon. 

What’s ironic is that hemp, as a material, is not new to the American automotive market. Henry Ford famously built a car out of hemp in 1941. At the time, this vehicle was the strongest and lightest automobile on the market. 

Unfortunately, Henry Ford quickly determined that building the Model T out of hemp was unsustainable because there was no supply chain.

Henry Ford faced the same problem in the 1930s and 1940s that we face today. Luckily, Heartland has set out to build this supply chain and help auto manufacturers build the vehicles of the future.

– Heartland Team

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