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May 11, 2011

Ford Finds Sustainability in Shrubs for Car Parts



Every year when spring comes around, many hop on their lawn mowers to rid of the thousands of dandelions cropping up across their lawns. For car manufacturer Ford, it’s another story.

Turns out allergy-inducing lawn invaders may soon be invading your next Ford vehicle – in a positive way, of course. Together with Ohio State University, Ford is reportedly looking into using dandelion juice, the rubber-like milky-white substance that seeps from dandelion roots, to produce the interior trim of its future vehicles. 

“We're always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and can be grown locally,” said Angela Harris, a Ford research engineer. “Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimize its use in our vehicles when possible.”

In order to enhance the impact strength of plastic parts found in cars, Ford is researching the use of the sustainable material as a modifier in the typical car trimmings including floor mats, doors, interior trim and cupholders.

For the ultimate flower power and to further their research on this plant as a material for car parts, Ford and the Ohio State University Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center are growing a Russian dandelion, called Taraxacum kok-soghyz.

However, before this weedy plant is put to use, researchers will be performing an array of tests to make certain the final product lives up to durability standards. In addition, the Ford-Ohio team is also looking into using another type of shrub, guayule, as another form of car part material.

“It's strange to see weeds being grown in perfectly manicured rows in a greenhouse, but these dandelions could be the next sustainable material in our vehicles,” Harris added.

Ford is quite the leader in using natural, sustainable materials to power and outfit their cars. The car manufacturer already uses soy foam to make seat cushions, wheat straw-filled plastic to form interior trim, and recycled cotton from blue jeans to create sound-dampening material.




Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell


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