Rubber was traditionally made from rubber plant trees, and today it is made from oil. But if Ford is successful with their latest project, we could soon be seeing their fleets decked out in rubber made from the common dandelion. Dandelions boast a milky substance that has long been considered a strong candidate for bio-rubber, and now Ford believes that it could be a viable commercial product used in its cars. Partnering up with Ohio State University, Ford is now testing the durability of the organic material for application in their vehicles’ floor mats, interior trim and other accessories.

The plant in question is the Russian Dandelion Taraxacum Kok-saghyz – a plant hated by lawn owners across the US. The stem of the flower contains a milky substance that has turned out to be a viable plastic modifier, adding strength to rubber and reducing, or in some cases eliminating, the need for oil in the production of car parts.

Ford has an interesting history in researching plants for use it its vehicle production. In the 1930s Henry Ford did considerable research into how soybeans could be used for body parts and finishes, actually incorporating several soy-based products into manufacturing.

However, many questions still need to be answered—first and foremost, being how durable the material is. Secondly, Ford has not yet revealed if the material can be reprocessed or recycled in a technical cycle, or if it can be reintroduced back into the environment after it has reached the end of its useful life. The promise of  non-synthetic chemistry to produce durable products is a huge jump for the automaker, and ironically, a revival of a concept that was lost for 80 years.

Via New York Times