Volkswagen started it more than 10 years ago with the flower vase in the New Beetle, but now Ford Motor Co. is looking at incorporating flowers into its vehicles’ interiors in a completely different way.

Dandelion Research

In collaboration with The Ohio State University, Ford is researching the potential of extracting a milky, white substance from dandelion roots to produce eco-friendly rubber. Ford says the rubber could be used as a plastics enhancer in interior components like cup holders, floor mats and other trim pieces.

Ford research engineer, Angela Harris, said the manufacturer was committed to finding new sustainable production methods and lowering its carbon footprint.

“Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimise its use in our vehicles when possible,” Ms Harris said.“Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products.”

The particular species under investigation is the Russian Dandelion. A test sample is currently being grown at the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre.

Before the weed-derived rubber can be used in production vehicles, Ford will assess the quality of the material and its durability, and look at how it performs in a range of different plastics.

Ford already incorporates a range of renewable and recycled materials into its vehicles, including soy products for seat cushions, post-industrial yarn for fabrics and old blue jeans for interior padding.

At the other end of the vehicle lifecycle, around 85 percent of the materials currently used on Ford vehicles are recyclable.