Ford becomes a weed eater & may use dandelions for car parts
As we roll into summer there’s always one thing that gardeners and allergy suffers dread, the lowly dandelion. While it may wreak havoc on your lawn and sinuses, the pesky weed may end up in your next set of wheels. Ford and The Ohio State University (OSU) are looking to transform dandelions from a pollen-filled menace into a source for car parts.
The idea behind Ford and OSU’s use of the dandelions is to replace synthetic rubber, a material that’s obviously not sustainable. They hope that a Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), and a milky white substance found in the root system can be a replacement. Ford plans on using the plant-based material as a plastic booster or modifier in interior trim pieces, bumper covers, cup holders, and floor mats. Some of these items are composed of up to 50% rubber.
The dandelion-based technology hasn’t hit Ford’s lineup yet, but OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) is currently growing the nefarious weed for testing. Ford will need to take stock of the durability of the substance to make sure it’s ready for production or if your dandelion-based cup holder can handle your Big Gulp.
This isn’t the first time Ford has looked towards green technology to build their cars. Before it was hip, Henry Ford toyed with the idea of using soybeans to formulate plastic panels that reduced the weight of a car by 1,000 pounds. In 2011, each Ford Focus uses about two pairs of recycled jeans for carpet backing and sound absorption. Recycled yarn is also used on each seat cover and recycled resin is present on the underbody.
Ford’s willingness to embrace sustainable practices is admirable, but the company should be thinking beyond a dandelion field. Ford has improved the efficiency of models such as the popular F-150 truck with an EcoBoost engine that gets a combined 17 mpg, but they seem to have forgotten about their line of passenger vans. Commonly used by delivery services, airport shuttles, and church groups the E350 wagon and E350 van
have horrible gas mileage. The wagon gets about 11 mpg while the van clocked in at 12 mpg. In comparison, the 2008 Hummer H3 got a 14 mpg rating. Perhaps they should take off their gardening gloves for a minute and reassess these models.