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What Happened To Porsche's Hemp Car: Let's Talk About Porsche's Forgotten 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport

Porsche's foray into using hemp in car manufacturing could revolutionize the automotive industry, offering a sustainable and high-performance alternative to carbon fiber.

Whatever happened to cutting-edge material science that was seemingly everywhere in the industry? Less than a decade ago we had industry veterans propose cars made of plastics, wood, wool, and a whole lot more, but that all seems to have faded in a distant chatter. But a lesser-known fact, especially amongst Porsche enthusiasts is that the German marque successfully incorporated hemp-based composites and showcased it in 2019 as a proof of concept with its 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport race car, replacing traditional carbon fiber. This was a bold step forward not just for Porsche, but for the industry at large as the need to incorporate more sustainable building practices is becoming ever more important, offering several environmental and performance advantages.

Porsche 718 Clubsport Hemp Car - Explained

Hemp, a fast-growing, renewable resource, requires significantly less energy to produce than carbon fiber, making it a more sustainable option. Unlike carbon fiber, hemp is biodegradable, reducing its long-term environmental impact. Moreover, all parts of the hemp plant can be utilized, resulting in zero waste during production.

Porsche's experiment with hemp in the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport was met with positive feedback from the Porsche community. Enthusiasts appreciate the company's commitment to sustainability and innovation. While some raise concerns about hemp's potential drawbacks, such as water absorption, Porsche's engineers are confident that these challenges can be overcome through advanced manufacturing processes.

The Benefits of Hemp in Car Manufacturing

Porsche's decision to use hemp in the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is not just a marketing gimmick, it's a tangible step towards a more sustainable automotive industry. Hemp, a fast-growing, renewable resource, offers numerous benefits that could revolutionize car manufacturing, similar to how carbon fiber evolved from a niche material to a mainstream component, hemp also holds the potential to become a viable mainstream material, once production is streamlined.

Similar to fiberglass, hemp fibers, when combined with resin, create a composite material that is surprisingly strong and lightweight. This makes it an ideal substitute for carbon fiber, which, despite its widespread use and reduced costs over the years, still carries a hefty environmental price tag due to its energy-intensive production process.

Porsche 718 Clubsport Hemp Car - Explained

Incorporating hemp into car manufacturing can lead to significant weight reduction which results in a better power-to-weight ratio, thus improving fuel efficiency and overall performance. The hemp-based doors in the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport are a testament to this, proving to be lighter than their carbon fiber counterparts. This weight saving translates to a better power-to-weight ratio, enhanced agility, and ultimately, improved handling on the racetrack.

Hemp's natural insulating properties also present an opportunity to improve the thermal and acoustic comfort of vehicles. A quieter, more comfortable ride for passengers is achievable while potentially reducing the reliance on buzzing fans and energy-consuming heating and cooling systems.

Porsche 718 Clubsport Hemp Car - Explained

While Porsche's current use of hemp is limited to the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, they are not the only brand exploring this innovative material. BMW has been using hemp biocomposites in small quantities in their i3 model since 2013, and other European automakers like Peugeot and Volvo have also incorporated hemp into their production vehicles.

The challenge for wider adoption lies in scaling up production and developing a robust supply chain. However, with its expertise in material science and meticulous attention to detail, Porsche is our best bet for making hemp a viable alternative to carbon fiber, as they initially imagined nearly five years ago with the 718 Clubsport.

The potential benefits of hemp extend beyond weight reduction and insulation. Its biodegradability and renewability make it an attractive option for automakers aiming to reduce their environmental impact. As research and development continue, we can expect to see hemp playing an increasingly prominent role in the automotive industry shortly, but unfortunately, large scale production of any such material is also accompanied by a whole host of production-based challenges and limitations.

Challenges and Future Outlook

While the use of hemp in car manufacturing presents exciting possibilities, it's not without its challenges. One of the main concerns is hemp's susceptibility to moisture absorption, which could affect its structural integrity over time. However, Porsche's engineers are actively working on solutions to address this issue, such as developing new resin formulations and coatings that protect the hemp fibers from moisture.

Another challenge is the cost of hemp-based composites, which can be higher than traditional materials like steel or aluminum. However, as the technology matures and production scales up, the cost is expected to decrease, making hemp a more viable option for mass-market vehicles.

Porsche 718 Clubsport Hemp Car - Explained

Despite these challenges, the future of hemp in the automotive industry looks bright. As automakers face increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint, they are exploring alternative materials like hemp that offer both sustainability and performance benefits. With continued research and development, hemp could play a significant role in the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles.

Porsche's bold move to incorporate hemp into its race cars is a testament to the company's commitment to innovation and sustainability and a hope that in due time, when production constraints are dealt with and mass production is made feasible, we'll be able to see hemp-based panels, at least in smaller quantities in mass market cars. By pushing the boundaries of materials science and embracing renewable resources, Porsche is setting the template for what could easily become an industry standard and even has the potential to replace carbon fiber in certain applications, so here's to hoping that more cars are available to us with this wonder material in the near future.

Image Source: Porsche Newsroom

Author Bio

Bhavik Sreenath is an automotive expert, writer, and founder of Motolog Studio. With a Master's in Automotive Journalism and experience in publications like Bodyshop Magazine, he delivers compelling stories about the cars we love. From designing magazine layouts to reporting on eco-conscious practices, he brings a multifaceted perspective to automotive writing. His experience in Automotive Journalism makes him a vocal voice for car enthusiasts and industry insiders. Follow Bhavik on XLinkedInInstagram, and Facebook, to stay in touch and up-to-date with the latest EV and battery development news.