Cannabis is used for many things – as recreation, as medicine, as a calm for an overstimulated mind. It’s used to fill generation gaps too, as we find ourselves bonding with the young and old over a common goal. That’s right, rock and roll…a joint.
One thing cannabis isn’t used for is driving, or at least it shouldn’t be. As we’ve discussed in many articles, the risk of driving while under the influence of weed isn’t the same as driving while under the influence of alcohol (alcohol is much, much more dangerous), but it’s not recommended either. It begs the question, why drive under the influence of anything?
Jay Leno, the former host of the Tonight Show, is well known as a car enthusiast and now that extends to cannabis. According to CNBC, he recently purchased a 2017 Renew, a car designed by Bruce Dietzen to minimize environmental impact. All of this went down on a recent episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage.”
Renew lists many reasons for their decision to use hemp in their automobiles. In part, it’s because hemp is lighter that steel or fiberglass, which results in a more efficient vehicle. It’s also because hemp is more resistant to dents than other materials (particularly carbon fiber). And it’s biodegradable.
This last part suggests the real reason for Renew’s existence: hemp, as mentioned above, is carbon negative. Because plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and because hemp is a plant, its use impacts the environment in a positive manner. Its impact is fast too, specifically when compared to trees.
While this may not be the first car built with a little bit of help from wacky tobacky, it certainly is the most innovative. Former Dell executive Bruce Dietzen has been working on his own sports car, the 2017 Renew, with the environment in mind, and as we can see here, he’s been thinking way outside the box. With goals set on using eco-friendly materials, the man was able to build a car body that’s made up by 100 pounds of cannabis, all covered in an extremely hard resin.
Building the car was no pipe dream for Dietzen, who found inspiration after hearing about famed industrialist Henry Ford using the durable material in 1941 to build the world’s first soybean-hemp car. But acquiring the controversial material proved more difficult than he expected.
It cost the former Dell exec $200,000 to build the car, which runs on a bio fuel made from recycled agricultural waste that is expected to have a much lower carbon footprint than standard electric-powered cars.
Jay Leno drove the Renew on his show and debuted the car to the rest of the world. During the broadcast, Dietzen gave the audience some insight to what makes cannabis such a viable building material for the future of cars.
According to him, these tightly woven cannabis leaves make the car’s body ten times stronger than steel, an attribute which he soon tests out by banging on the hood over and over. Leno even gives it a go, all without damaging the Renew’s bodywork. Additionally, the manufacturing process used to construct the car is “carbon neutral”, meaning it doesn’t tax the atmosphere with any extra, harmful gasses.
While being constructed from hemp certainly helps the car’s publicity, it has also hurt its advancement in some ways. “It’s kind of a double edged sword” says Leno. “The marijuana connection garners the interest, but then people don’t take you seriously.”
Jay Leno’s Garage
Dietzen does note, however, that he isn’t the first to make a car made out of cannabis. The granddaddy of the project was Henry Ford, who produced the original weed-on-wheels in 1941. By taking from Ford’s findings, Dietzen was able to modernize the efforts and bring it up to speed for the auto industry in 2017.
While this may not be the cheapest way to build a car, it certainly is efficient. Dietzen claimed that he has approximately $200,000 invested into the project, meaning that it would be a pretty costly venture given its use of exotic materials and unique production methods.
Henry Ford and the Hemp Car
While Renew appears to be taking cannabis cars into the mainstream, Henry Ford may have had the idea long ago. Ford made a prototype car from hemp and other biological materials all the way back in 1941. Some people called this the “hemp car” while others referred to it as the “soybean car.”
A few of the interesting things about it according to Popular Mechanics include:
- The car was made with hemp-derived plastics, something that upped its safety level. In fact, it was safer than other cars on the market.
- It was intended to run on plant fuel. Even way back in the olden days, people were thinking of ways to avoid using nonrenewable resources.
- It only weighed about 2,000 pounds – not light, but lighter than cars made of steel. Those weigh around 3,000 pounds. This lightness allowed for increased fuel efficiency.
- It was made of lots of crops. Sure, it had hemp, but it also used corn, soy, cotton, and wheat, to name a few
World War II halted production. When Ford began making his hemp car, the war was already underway (though America wouldn’t become overtly involved until the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941). Once the US became the main player, production of any other hemp cars was put on hold.
The war ended in 1945, but America was focused on recovery efforts and the project faded into obscurity. Now, nearly eighty years later, it’s finding its way back into the limelight.