Alternative Energy Ford predicted cars would be made from hemp and powered by ethanol.

Published on September 9th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance

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74 Years Ago, Henry Ford Predicted Hemp Cars Powered by Biofuels

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The modern day car owes much of its history to Henry Ford, who dreamed of “producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient…”  Many of Ford’s dreams have not come to fruition since Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903.  It is debatable how affordable and reliable today’s autos are, and the average car’s fuel efficiency leaves much to be desired.  Today’s auto industry is not what Ford envisioned, especially considering he predicted cars would be constructed of hemp and run on biofuels.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rgDyEO_8cI

In fact, in 1941 Ford constructed a vehicle made from biodegradable cellulose fibers derived from hemp, sisal, and wheat straw.  The car was even fueled by hemp ethanol.  In 1925, Ford told the New York Times:

The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust — almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.

Photo by dok1Ford predicted cars would be made from hemp and powered by ethanol.

Ford predicted cars would be made from hemp and powered by ethanol.

Why has it taken us so long to return to Ford’s dreams? There are many factors involved, especially politics, as Bill Kovarik, Ph.D. writes in “Henry Ford, Charles Kettering and the ‘Fuel of the Future’“:

In this case, fuel technology developed in a direction that was a matter of policy choice and not predetermined by any clear advantage of one technology over another. For different reasons, Henry Ford and Charles Kettering both saw the fuel of the future as a blend of ethyl alcohol and gasoline leading to pure alcohol from cellulose. A dedicated agrarian, Ford thought new markets for fuel feedstocks would help create a rural renaissance. On the other hand, Kettering, as a scientist, was worried about the long term problem of the automotive industry’s need for oil, a resource with rapidly declining domestic reserves. Clearly, the shortage of domestic oil that was feared in the 1920s has occurred in the late 20th century, although it has hardly been noticed because of the abundance of foreign oil. Whether the oil substitute envisioned by the scientists and agrarians of the first half of the century would be appropriate in the latter half remains an open question.

Although the merits of ethanol are debatable, its share of the fuel market has grown from one to seven percent in recent years.  In addition, Ford’s biomaterials team have invented seats made from hemp and soy.  Almost 75 years later, Ford Motor Company may actually be moving in the direction its founding father predicted.





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About the Author

Jennifer lives on 160 acres off-the-grid in a home built with her own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) from forest fire salvaged timber. Her home is powered by a micro-hydro turbine, and she has been a vegetarian for 21 years. Jennifer graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in art education and has been teaching art to children for over 16 years. She also spent five years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse before becoming the mother of two beautiful children. Jennifer has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently teaching preschool, as well as k-8 art. She enjoys writing, gardening, hiking, practicing yoga, and raising four akitas. Jennifer is the founder and editor of Eco Child's Play (http://ecochildsplay.com) "I’ve always been concerned about the earth and our impact upon it. Now that I have children, I feel compelled to raise them with green values. From organic gardening to alternative energy, my family tries to leave a small carbon footprint." Please visit my other blog: http://reallynatural.com



19 Responses to 74 Years Ago, Henry Ford Predicted Hemp Cars Powered by Biofuels

  1. Stephan says:

    I do not agree that Henry Ford his dreams have not come true. Compared to the beginning of the automobile industry, cars have become a lot more efficient, affordable for more people and a lot more reliable.

    It is indeed true that cars are not as efficient yet as they should be and definitely not as environmentally friendly either. However, innovation is going a long way to achieve these goals and it is a matter of time. There are many companies working on the creation of a more sustainable, environmentally climate in all different kinds of industries. The automotive industry definitely is one of them.

    For a look at many of these companies, check this Green Publication.

  2. Mark says:

    Here’s a really cool video of Ford’s Model T and how the driver adjusted the car to run or alcohol (ethanol) or gasoline.

    Ford’s first flex-fuel vehicle: the Model T (5:34)
    http://alcoholcanbeagas.com/node/1331

    The first 4 minutes of this video will explain how Americans were forced into using gasoline.

    Interview with Peak Moment TV
    http://alcoholcanbeagas.com/node/529

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  7. jeff G says:

    GreenNH3 is 50 cents a liter and zero emissions. Invented close to me in Ontario. They use it daily with good success.

  8. Laura says:

    I didn’t see any sources that said Henry Ford built a car of hemp. Sure, he built a car made of about 10% hemp (http://theangryhistorian.blogspot.com/2010/10/hemp-car-myth-busted.html), but where is the source for the ethanol?

  9. timothy hawkins says:

    Somehow, Ford the inventer, tinkerer was tapped into the ether..nol. people in his time were dependant on their own resourcefulness to survive. I have always subscribed to the theory humans have that ability in the face of adversity to overcome incredible obstacles, it is what delegates us from other forms of life…but that same ability also is our undoing. Waiting to use up the fossil fuels before converting to green tech may be a mistake..those reserves may be necessary for the future. GO GREEN NOW…please!

  10. Q-Man says:

    “It is debatable how…reliable today’s autos are, and the average car’s fuel efficiency leaves much to be desired.”
    Source: Green Living Ideas (http://s.tt/12Gqm)

    I don’t understand how this is debatable. Today’s vehicles on average get better fuel economy, more horsepower, fewer emissions, and travel more miles than any car of the past. Kia just came out with a turbocharged vehicle with 274 HP and gets 34 MPG (http://www.kia.com/#/optima/specifications/). In the next 10 years automakers will be laughing at those numbers.

  11. Josh says:

    Jennifer, I was an environmentally conscious person to an extent and I took a job as a water truck driver in the Bakken Oil fields. I had a CDL for years and needed som money so i thought that it couldn’t be “that” bad. Let me tell you…it was much worse. I came back after 2 months and because of that experience have become much more of an environmentalist. The damage being done is also being ignored. Fossil fuels are poisonous to the plannet in many more ways than just their emissions. Oil is dirty, rotten, dead energy that we thought would be a good idea to pull suck out of the ground and BURN! We really do need to look at the true cost of oil and compare that to alternatives. We need hemp and other alternatives to replace oil as fast as possible and stop ignoring the monster and see it for what it is. I got to see stare it in the face. There is a better way.

  12. Josh says:

    And super article BTY! Thank you for sharing.

  13. click here says:

    These are genuinely wonderful ideas in about blogging.
    You have touched some nice factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

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