There is still a strong stigma around hemp and the plant from which it is produced. Hemp, however has been used for thousands of years for many different reasons. After going through a dip, hemp has made a comeback and is thriving. Its multi-purpose qualities have proven to be particularly useful, and necessary, in a period where environmental safety is at the forefront. Committed to the production of sustainable motorsport vehicles, Porsche has created a car that has replaced synthetic fibers with agricultural byproducts. These products have similar benefits of carbon fiber in terms of weight and stiffness but are better for the environment. This car is faster, and greener, than the last and is paving the way for future changes in the racing industry.
A mistake made by many, is confusing hemp with marijuana. Historically, hemp or the fiber from the cannabis plant, has been used as early as 8000 BC. From pendants, sails, rope and maps, to canvass, clothing, textiles and paper. Its uses were everywhere until a decline in the 19th century. Marijuana, a drug made from the cannabis plant, had entered the black market and police had awarded 60% of the City’s crime to the plant. Cue the confusion between hemp and marijuana. With rising oil prices and increased environmental awareness, hemp and its multi-purpose properties has made a come back in the 21st century. An increase in plant-based innovations, demand for regenerative agricultural practices and its extensive, and growing, nutritional profile – hemp has once again become a vital crop.
Priority objectives of Porsche and their ecological responsibility have allowed for increased inventions and decreased environmental harm. The constant strife for improvements in the performance of their products, is always paired with thoughts of the environmental impact they may have. Porsche has achieved this through their focus on the protection of natural resources, efficient use of energy and environmental safety and compatibility of both their products and their production processes. The direct fuel injection, the start-stop system and the gasoline-electric power train are examples of their product-related measures. While the certification of their production plants by the Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) of the European Union has led experts to regard them as a prime example of efficacy.
The 718 Cayman
The new 718 Cayman is faster, and greener, than the last. Replacing previously used synthetics with natural fibers, it is the first race car to use organic materials in its production. The doors and rear wing of this car have replaced carbon fiber with a plant fiber mixture from flax and hemp. Flax and hemp have been arranged to compose a similar pattern to components found in carbon fiber. Encompassing similar characteristics as these synthetic, plant-based composites are, environmentally, the better option. These biodegradable agricultural byproducts are cheaper to use, produce and cultivate. This will hopefully be the first of many sustainability changes to take place in the racing industry.
In 1941, Henry Ford had a similar idea and constructed a prototype of a vehicle body formed 100% out of plastic. He did this by using cellulose from hemp, wheat and soybeans but his precise formula was unfortunately lost in history. Despite not being the first automaker to have this idea, Porsche has produced the first car that contains natural fibers in its body. The use of renewable plant-based composites is a sustainable way of using raw materials and reducing carbon emissions. Throughout their production history, it is clear that they are committed to leaving as little impact on the environment as possible, and this car is just another step in the right direction.