Ford is working with Ohio State University to attempt to make car tyres out of dandelions from the land of Borat.
It’s not quite as crazy as it might seem. The work involves a specific species named Taraxacum kok-saghyz, better known as TKS or Russian Dandelion. (It’s native to the land that now makes up Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.)
The idea of using the dandelions in this way is nothing new. Since the 1930s its been known that the roots contain a milky white substance similar to the sap from a rubber tree. During the second world war, several countries used it as a replacement for rubber from Southeast Asia which, for obvious reasons, became less accessible.
Ford believes that not only could the dandelions be used for tyres, but that the substance could also act as a plastic modifier, making materials used in parts such as cupholders more sturdy.
The company is also looking into using guayle, a shrub grown in the Southwestern US, as a source of natural rubber. The company already uses a range of natural materials such as wheat-straw fillings for plastic parts and seat cushions made from soy foam.
Even if the dandelion strategy doesn’t pay off, Ford does at least deserve credit for a superb headline on its news release: Weed ‘Em And Reap.