Thursday, 15 June 2017

ford at the fair

There are a lot of interesting angles to pursue in this latest ploy for attention from Tedium but what really resonated with us was the mention of the partnership between industrialist Henry Ford and botanist and inventor George Washington Carver to create a “soybean” car—or rather an automobile with a hemp-based body.  Like the factors that led to the production of the plastic Trabant in East Germany, war time austerity and steel and fuel rationing prompted this collaborative effort in 1941.
Designed to also operate on hemp oil, there is some unsettled contentions about the success and abandonment of this bioplastics vehicle. Only one prototype was built and displayed to the public at the Dearborn assembly-line and later at the Michigan State Fair and was subsequently destroyed—along with the exact combination of crops used—and newspaper accounts vary as to the reception. Despite significant investment, safety demonstrations, patent-filings and acres and acres of soy and marijuana, the end of World War II and surplus steel seemed to mothball the idea for the more ecologically-friendly mode of transportation but the initial decision to walk back the first model the remains a bit of mystery.  Tales abound how the petroleum industry conspires to quash innovation that would not be in their self-interest, and perhaps the soy car was one of the earliest casualties and one wonders what trajectory things might have taken otherwise.