In 1941, in the midst of the second World War, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford unveiled an incredible marvel of engineering. It was a car, in the same general automotive style of the time, save one outlandish feature: it was made entirely of hemp. Not only that, it could run on hemp fuel and vegetable oil. Even in the early half of the 20th century, industry was aware of hemp’s potential.
It took twelve years to develop, but the end result was impressive. The only steel in the car lay in its tubular welded frame. It’s panels were formed under 1500 psi of hydraulic pressure, and were composed of a mixture of 70 percent hemp, soybeans, wheat, and flax cellulose fibres and 30 percent resin. Though completely made of hemp plastic, the body was ten times stronger than steel. Ford himself, in demonstrating the car’s capabilities, took an axe and swung it at the car’s side. The axe simply bounced off.
Ford was optimistic about the promise of ethanol fuels and hemp derivatives in the automotive industry. He saw these alternatives as the future, saying, “there’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for one hundred years”. Unfortunately, powerful gasoline industry giants lobbied intensely to keep alcohol taxes high and gasoline prices low, incentivizing automakers to continue utilizing primarily fossil fuels. Without the powers that be at the time stifling Ford’s creation, who knows what direction the automobile industry could’ve taken, especially with such a useful material as hemp in the spotlight.