Most people view dandelions as a nuisance. But here at Continental Tire, we embrace the flowering weed as a key component to the future of tires. That’s right, in conjunction with The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, Julius Kuehn-Institute, and EKUSA, Continental Tire has produced, and tested, the first tires where the tread is made 100 percent out of dandelion natural rubber as a polymer. Between 10 and 30 percent of a car tire includes natural rubber and this is where Continental is hoping to make a difference. Replacing the traditional rubber tree rubber with what has been coined, Taraxagum from dandelions. Here are a few fun facts about these weed-based tires:
- Not just any dandelion – Continental has tapped the Russian dandelion as the dandelion of choice. This plant is a larger, more robust variant and can be produced in mass quantities. The roots of the Russian dandelion are less sensitive to weather than the dandelions in your yard and the roots are roughly the size of a large carrot.
- Where in the world – Russian dandelions thrive in a large part of the world and can be cultivated on land not suitable for food production. Conversely, rubber trees require a hot, damp climate and grow only in a small part of the world known as, the “Rubber Belt,” an equatorial zone that stretches around the world.
- Growth cycle – The growth cycle of a rubber tree is seven years whereas the growth cycle of a Russian dandelion is one year.
- Testing complete - The first test tires were produced in summer 2014 from the WinterContact TS 850 P series and were tested in Sweden and at the Contidrom proving grounds in Germany with great success.
- When will we see them - Continental plans to manufacture consumer road tires made from dandelion-derived rubber within the next five to 10 years.