The future of sustainable tyres is the dandelion

The future of sustainable tyres is the dandelion

30 Jul

By Gwyn Fennell

Question: How many cars are there on the world’s roads right now? Calculating this number is problematicn and a fundamentally inexact science. The latest research – while only an estimate – indicate that, as of now, there are approximately 1.2 billion cars out there. That’s a staggering amount of cars. It makes you wonder how we can sustain such a massive number of vehicles. But consider this; the figure is anticipated to more than double in the next 30 years.

Some estimates tell us that by the year 2050, there may well be up to 2.5 billion cars on our planet. Without doubt, this presents a massive challenge to sustainability, particularly when it comes to the strain upon the rubber industry. This issue hasn’t gone unnoticed at leading premium tyre manufacturer, Continental. As a result, they’ve committed a huge amount of resources in to finding a solution to this problem, and the answer could lie within the roots of a plant many know as a garden pest: the dandelion.

Full of eastern promise

Taraxacum kok-saghyz – the Russian dandelion – is not quite the plant you find pestering your flowerbed, however. It’s a relative of the typical dandelion found growing in the gardens of Europe and North America, with this species a native to Kazakhstan, Kirghizia and Uzbekistan. It transpires that only in this specific variant of the weed can you find the potential to create natural rubber of a high enough quality to become a Continental tyre.

Being able to manufacture Continental tyres from this humble dandelion is a huge environmental success story. Why? Because traditional rubber trees only grow in a very small part of the world, on or close to the world’s Equator. In contrast, the Russian dandelion is capable of growing right across a large portion of the planet. Furthermore, it can do so on cheaper, more accessible non-agricultural land, including industrial sites. This paves the way for growing to potentially take place on the site of tyre manufacturing, reducing transport costs and environmental impact. In developing the methods to grow, harvest and develop natural rubber from the dandelion, rainforest could be preserved, with the world not requiring so much rubber from this precious ecological region.


Introducing Taraxagum tyres

After long years of research, testing and development, Continental's 'Taraxagum’ tyres for cars are very close to coming to market. They’re already available for bucycles and trucks. In the last few years, extensive testing has been undertaken at the Contidrom proving grounds in Germany, as well as at the harsh, sub-zero winter testing zone in Arvidsjaur, Sweden. It’s the same for all Continental tyres. They never compromise on safety, and following the completion of this rigorous testing programme, results show that Taraxagum tyres perform at the same high level as all other Continental tyres. This outcome has not only delighted the scientists and engineers involved in the project, but also the broader scientific and environmental community. It’s a huge step in the right direction, an achievement not to be underestimated.

As a result, Continental, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, IME have been recognised for this success. A panel made up of 60 experts from a variety of backgrounds confirmed the highly prestigious GreenTec Award to the project. This is one of the very highest accolades awarded to businesses that have developed environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes.

Continental continues to look for ecological, economic and socially viable solutions for the future of motoring, with constant research, development and investment in new technologies and processes, as a new age of motoring and personal transport evolves. Watch this space.

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