Grass on Wheels

Grass on Wheels
Posted by FoM on June 04, 2001 at 06:47:24 PT
By Amanda Onion, ABC News
Source: ABC News
Researchers in Australia and England are working on developing materials from plants like hemp and elephant grass to replace plastic and metal-based car components. Scientists say the materials are biodegradable and can increase fuel efficiency since they weigh about 30 percent less than currently used materials."The lighter the car, the less fuel you need to propel it," explains Alan Crosky of the School of Material Science and Engineering in the University of New South Whales in Australia. 
Use, Then Bury:Crosky and his partners have been developing tough material from hemp, the reedy, less controversial cousin of the marijuana plant. "Hemp fibers have higher strength to weight ratios than steel and can also be considerably cheaper to manufacture," he says.The hemp used in car construction contains only traces of the narcotic tetrahydrocannabinol, which lends marijuana its psychedelic effect.Crosky explains building cars  even their outer shells  from plants like hemp could reduce the number of rusting car bodies and rotting car parts on old lots. The plant fibers are cleaned, heated, in some cases blended with small amounts of biodegradable plastics and molded into hardened paneling and filling.Each year in the United States, 10 million to 11 million vehicles putter out and reach the end of their useful lives. While a network of salvage and shredder facilities process about 96 percent of these old cars, about 25 percent of the vehicles by weight, including plastics, fibers, foams, glass and rubber, remains as waste. A car made mostly of heated, treated and molded hemp, says Crosky, could simply be buried at its life end and then consumed naturally by bacteria. Europe Leading the Way:The idea has already taken firm root in countries like Germany and Britain, where manufacturers are required to pay tax for the disposal of old vehicles. As environmental issues become more pertinent, researchers believe natural fibers are likely to become a major component of cars around the world."Manufacturers pay a lot of money here to landfill something," says Mark Johnson, an engineer at the University of Warwick Manufacturing Group in England. "If it's made from degradable parts, you don't have to pay."Johnson and his team have been creating parts from elephant grass, a bamboo-like plant that, he says, requires less processing than hemp to harden and mold into car components. German car companies including Mercedes (Daimler/Chrysler), BMW and Audi Volkswagen have been leading the way in incorporating plant fibers in their models. Since the introduction of jute-based door panels in the Mercedes E class five years ago, German car companies have more than tripled their use of natural fibers to about 15,500 tons in 1999. The next trend could be in building the shells of cars from plants. Crosky says he and his team are now looking at building exterior car panels from hemp.In the United States, automobile companies have approached the idea more gingerly. "We use natural fibers only when it makes sense technologically," says Phil Colley, a spokeman for the Ford Motor Co. Colley says Ford has used flax, recycled cotton and a 14-foot tall, fibrous crop called kenaf in some parts, including under front hoods to dampen the sound of slamming them shut. Deere & Co. has used soy-based fiberglass composites in the panels of some of its tractors. By 2010, the New Jersey consulting firm Kline & Company anticipates natural fibers to replace a fifth of the fiberglass in current U.S. car models.While researchers tout their benefits, Colley points are there are some drawbacks. Smell can become a problem, he says, particularly with hemp which can produce a musty odor when incorporated into a vehicle. "You have to take into account all the tradeoffs," Colley says. Inspirations in History:Although fiber car components may be a thing of the future, the idea of manufacturing material from fibrous plants dates back to even ancient times. Fragments of fabric woven from hemp have been found from 8,000 BC. Bamboo and sturdy grasses have been used in construction for centuries and plots in Japan still provide hemp to weave the emperor's religious robes. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Co., first toyed with the idea of plant-based car parts in 1940, when he took an ax and whacked the hood of a car trunk made from a soybean-based material to test its strength. The car hood reportedly withstood the blow and now, 70 years later, car companies, including Ford's own, have finally begun to put the concept to use."Increasing the use of biodegradable and recycled materials will lower the impact of vehicle disposal," says Jim Kliesch, a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit, Washington-based organization dedicated to improving the environmental impact of technologies. "And that can only be a good thing." Note: A car made from grass may not sound sturdy, but scientists say plant-based cars are the wave of the future.Source: ABCNews.comAuthor: Amanda Onion, ABC NewsPublished: June 1, 2001Copyright: 2001 ABC News Internet VenturesWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:The University of Warwick Links Ponder Biodegradable Cars Facts: Biodegradable Cars Hemp Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by rob on June 25, 2001 at 10:04:25 PT:
rambling on
it should be evident that prohibition (marajuana in particular but all drugs) does not work and governments would better use tax dollars on prevention and rehabilitation rather than fight a losing battle. the term "controlled substance" is rather amusing to me since the "law" has no control over such substances. In a so called free society one should have the right to chose not what the corporate puppets in power dictate. More important is the fact that carbon based fuels are changing the environment drasticly and i'm sure at some point in the near future will be catastrofic to life on the planet. it is time to repeal the anti-hemp anti-freedom laws and have the governments assist people to making the transition from a carbon based fuel economy to a biomass based fuel economy since it is apparent that the corporations that got us into this mess are unwilling to take corrective action for the greed based distructive mistakes of the past
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 11, 2001 at 09:33:26 PT
Hi Amy
Hi Amy,I have my hemp link page in the article if you'd like to check it out. I've tried to put the best information I could find on the page. I hope you find what you are looking for.Hemp Links
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Comment #4 posted by Amy wood on June 11, 2001 at 07:45:06 PT:
links or info please
couldn't your site have any info on what hemp is, and how it's grown? i would appreciate it if u would add some links or something, so people who are doing their research ccould get some help! THANK YOU.
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Comment #3 posted by SWAMPIE on June 04, 2001 at 18:04:12 PT
As a professional mechanic,I can agree that we need to do something,and do something fast! if only the majority of people knew the potential of this fiber-producing plant,we wouldn't have the opposition that we have now.It is almost criminal that our elected officials have chosen to ignore this enormous tragedy.The fibers are super-strong if woven into a cloth,and with the right natural polymers,could be a perfect replacement for fiberglass.Definitely cheaper!!!!!! If any of you out there are interested in;or have the abilities to get involved in some research,let me know,I'm game!I have "AKRON-U "nearby,and I'm sure that the Polymer Research Departtment would like to be on the cutting-edge!The lube qualities should be good too!Problem is,though,that any large corporation will balk at,or sue you for loss of "profits"because you took away their $2500.00 or more paychecks!DUBYA included!Does anyone think if pot was legalized that the economy would fall on its' face?I just wonder......         SWAMPIE
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Comment #2 posted by jAHn on June 04, 2001 at 08:41:39 PT
 I love this News!There's no News unless it's Hempy News!!! I would have LOVED to have seen or mentioned on ABCnews...but that's probably Dreaming for a little much, here in the States.  Now only if people weren't So afraid to wear their HempLeaf T-Shirts(which can have you assumed as a Pot-user faster than a just-born-seedling can make one smile[or frown in this kkkountry]) without fear of Being Assumed- a Junkie!  When?   W H E N???!!!!!!  
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on June 04, 2001 at 07:37:30 PT:
Amerika Left Behind with Old Technology
In 1937, hemp was predicted to be a billion dollar crop. Then it ran into Anslinger, and instead, we have Prohibition. Now Amerika will be left behind because the DEA equates hemp with drug cannabis, despite the fact that almost every other industrialized nation can tell the difference. This type of deliberate ignorance offered under the excuse of morality is itself disgusting.Right now, cannabis/hemp could provide the raw material for the car body, its fuel, food for the driver, and a variety of unique and useful medicines once (s)he arrives home. The War on Drugs is a horrible waste of commerce, and human potential. It must end.
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