Innovations in the Automotive Industry are Speeding Our Way
The Auto Industry, a Good Predictor of Things to Come
A good way to predict the future is to look at what the innovative industries, which are generally on the leading edge of technology and advancement, are working on. One of our favorites is of course the innovations in the automotive industry. The advancements we see here are vast and furious (see what we did there)!
In one sector of industry, we can see the future of alternative fuels, energy storage, safety, autonomous navigation, logistics, AI, and sustainable manufacturing. While all are interesting and worthy of an article on their own, the materials and sustainable manufacturing are of particular interest to us at Heartland.
The Focus on Materials
We see materials crossing over to many areas of the auto industry breakthroughs such as better energy storage technology, safer components, lighter-weight parts, and more sustainable methods and technologies to make them.
The auto industry will create highly efficient and more sustainable vehicles by incorporating natural materials like industrial hemp. In the past few years, we’ve seen industrial hemp gain more attention as it’s a very versatile material with nearly unlimited potential including:
- Lighter weight while increasing strength – Industrial hemp fibers are known for their strength-to-weight ratio, which makes them suitable for reinforcing materials. By incorporating hemp fibers into composite materials, automakers can create lightweight components without compromising strength and safety.
- Environmental sustainability: Hemp is a highly sustainable crop that requires minimal water, pesticides, and fertilizers to grow. Its cultivation also helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, contributing to carbon reduction efforts. Using hemp-based materials in vehicles can reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing processes and promote a more sustainable automotive industry.
- Noise and vibration reduction: Hemp fibers possess excellent noise and vibration-damping properties. Automakers can enhance acoustic comfort and reduce noise levels by integrating hemp-based materials in vehicle interiors and panels, resulting in a quieter, safer, and more comfortable vehicle.
- Thermal insulation: Hemp fibers have natural insulating properties, which can be advantageous for automotive applications. Incorporating hemp-based materials in vehicle insulation can help regulate temperature and reduce the need for excessive heating or cooling, thus enhancing energy efficiency.
Regarding auto industry advancements, every company on earth is researching new materials that can reduce weight while maintaining performance characteristics. The problem they have faced up until now is that hitting all these targets while reducing prices has been impossible.
Hemp – The Natural Solution
This is the paradox that every engineering, R&D, and procurement division across the industry has attempted to solve. These are the questions at the forefront of everyone’s mind in the automotive sector. Finding a material that fits all these needs has been difficult in the modern era. But, that wasn’t always the case.
As far back as the 1930s, Henry Ford faced the same material problems that we face today. His initial solution was to use hemp as his base material to create dozens of different parts for his automobile. Unfortunately, because hemp became illegal in 1937, he was forced to transition to steel, the heavy material we rely on (heavily) today. Without a reliable supply chain, hemp could never be a realistic solution for commercially viable vehicles.
Hemp had been the core component of Henry Ford’s biocomposites. The other bio-based materials alone did not have the strength or supply chains required to build hundreds of thousands of vehicles. When hemp became illegal almost 100 years ago, it destroyed the possibility that any bio-based materials would make it into his vehicles, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Today, we know that industrial hemp is 100% federally legal with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. We have the opportunity to go back to our roots and begin building a world out of these natural fiber materials. The big advantage we have today (vs the 1930s) is the technology we have to process and mill the hemp plant.
The composite equipment that we have at our disposal today allows us to create highly engineered plastics that incorporate natural materials. For bio-based materials like hemp to be utilized on an industrial scale, we must provide bio continuity (the ability to produce predictably consistent, repeatable, and scalable bio-based raw materials) that has never been seen before. We must also create a pipeline for raw materials, meaning more farmers incorporating hemp into rotation.
As this article is being written, we are drastically increasing our hemp production for 2023 in Michigan – on pace to quadruple what was processed in 2022, and a similar (if not larger) increase is on the horizon for 2024! We are creating a supply chain that is scalable, sustainable, and provides a consistent output that large manufacturing companies, such as auto manufacturers can rely upon.
Join us in creating a carbon negative future!