Industrial hemp and flashy sports cars might seem like two things that don’t go together.

Bruce Dietzen, founder and CEO of Renew Sports Cars, has already proven otherwise. In 2017, Dietzen’s first hemp-bodied sports car rolled off the line.

It’s actually a concept almost 80 years in the making.

Henry Ford developed a similar plant-based car in 1941, fueled on agricultural residues. A titan in the automotive industry, the hemp car was one idea that never caught on for mass production.

If plant-based cars had started rolling off the line then, “we would not have this climate crisis that we have today ... we would have a much safer world,” said Dietzen. Sustainability is exactly what this material can help achieve.

Dietzen’s designer cars all utilize carbon negative technology, which means that they reduce the amount of carbon dioxide used instead of add more. Plant-based materials such as hemp are a key countermeasure to fossil fuels and manmade components such as plastic.

Even using a lightweight material such as carbon fiber to manufacture cars, though it can save gas mileage, comes with a drawback. On average, producing a 25-pound carbon fiber car hood generates about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Since Dietzen’s cars are made from hemp fibers and held together with a soy-based epoxy, the plant materials actually take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere instead of creating even more.

Automobiles aren’t the only industry that could benefit from the practice. Hemp can also be used to build construction materials, called “hempcrete.”

The inner part of the hemp stalk is mixed with lime to create a replacement for concrete.

The hemp material is extremely durable and can be recycled multiple times, which Dietzen says is more crucial than pushing for everything to be biodegradable.

Biodegradable products can cause further environmental problems as they break down, like fish eating micro bits of plastic in the ocean. As such, making more biodegradable material isn’t necessarily a catch-all solution.

“...the best thing right now, I think, that we can do as a society in order to mitigate climate is to encourage corporations to make as much stuff as they can out of hemp and make it recyclable,” said Dietzen.

Besides designer cars, Dietzen’s business is working on other products sourced from hemp, including a wind turbine and an electric bike. And that’s not where he sees it stopping.

“The chair you’re sitting on, the car you drive, the building you live in ... in the future will be made of carbon negative plant material grown by farmers,” he said.

China and Romania supplied the hemp that Dietzen needed for his car, but with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, growing hemp here at home is possible.

“Farmers are literally going to save the earth.”

This article is based on an interview from the Lancaster Farming Podcast. To listen to the interview in its entirety, go to bit.ly/LFpodcast16