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BMW invest in hemp alternatives to plastic to help cut carbon emissions



BMW: A man and a woman examine different panels of material at a desk in a white office room

Car manufacturers The BMW Group are investing in alternative materials in a bid to cut carbon emissions including vegan leather, bamboo and hemp.

It’s not the first time BMW has used hemp in their cars. They added hemp lining to the door panels of the electric i3 a few years ago. The use of hemp helps to lighten the vehicle slightly as well as being extremely durable. The hemp panels are 30 percent lighter than the plastic versions while being CO2 negative since hemp absorbs carbon and releases oxygen during growing.

The company confirmed they are increasing their use of natural materials over petrochemical ones to help reduce their carbon emissions per vehicle by 2030. The group already use up to 100 percent recycled plastic in their thermoplastic components. They aim to use thermoplastics with an average of 40 percent recycled material.

Switching to materials such as hemp or synthetic leather can have a big effect on emissions. Synthetic leather with biobased raw material, recycled polyester textiles and cork particles can reduce emissions by 45 percent in comparison to PVC synthetic leathers.

Reducing emissions

The overall goal will be to reduce lifecycle CO2 emissions by more than 40 percent by 2030.

In a statement, the company said: “The BMW Group and its partners have systematically further developed the use of fibres such as hemp, kenaf and flax, providing them with natural fibre lattice structures. Thanks to these support structures, it is possible to maintain their mechanical properties and avoid additional weight by reducing the amount of material needed.”

Dr Stefan Floeck, head of development body, exterior, interior said: “We are setting new standards for sustainable premium quality – by rethinking materials and focusing more than ever on resource-efficient alternatives and renewable materials with strong dismantling capability. We are following a consistent path towards holistically sustainable product development, responsible use of resources and transformation into a circular economy.”

History of hemp cars

Hemp actually has a history with car manufacturing. Henry Ford debuted a car made from hemp in 1941. It also ran on hemp oil making it a thoroughly green alternative.

The final product had panels that were moulded under hydraulic pressure using 70 percent of cellulose fibres from wheat straw, hemp and sisal along with 30 percent resin binder. The only steel in the car was from the tubular welded frame making the car incredibly strong.

Sadly, the car never went into production. It is thought that the changing perception of cannabis may have had something to do with this. Henry Ford’s believed that someday he would “grow automobiles from the soil.

Read more: US to fund research into hemp insulation as carbon neutral alternative


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