Hail cannons are designed to break up hailstones by firing rounds of compressed gas to generate shockwaves. Photo by Augustin Mallet via Wikimedia Commons
CUAUTLANCINGO, Puebla, Mexico — Volkswagen has agreed to end the use of automatic hail cannon fire at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. The German carmaker will instead deploy anti-hail netting to protect newly assembled Beetles, Golfs, Jettas, and Tiguans parked in outdoor lots. The announcement followed a $3.7 million lawsuit brought by area farmers, who said the cannons were contributing to a lack of rain that put 5,000 acres of crops at risk.
A statement issued by Volkswagen de México included a list of agreements struck in ongoing discussions with officials representing the state of Puebla. The factory committed to using the cannons only in “manual mode” and creating a “permanent dialogue” with community members.
“With these actions, Volkswagen de México expresses its commitment to maintain sustainable relationships with its stakeholders: environment, neighboring communities, and authorities,” the statement read, in part.
Hail cannons are designed to fire rounds of compressed gas at gathering clouds, producing shockwaves to disrupt the formation of hailstones. An Italian professor of mineralogy introduced the concept of weather-controlling cannons in the mid-19th century. The practice would later be adopted by French winemakers and catch on with farmers around the world. Modern machines can cost up to $50,000 and claim an effective radius of one-third of a mile.
There is scant scientific evidence to support the use of anti-hail technology. Physicists and meteorologists have pointed out that thunder produces exponentially larger shockwaves and does not appear to prevent hail, and that the unpredictability of weather makes conclusive testing difficult.