The leading international tyre manufacturer has reached an important milestone in its research project for the industrialization of dandelion rubber in tyre production. In the fall of last year, Continental presented the first test tyres in a limited series made from the innovative material that the company is calling Taraxagum™, derived from the botanical name for dandelion (taraxacum). Manufacture of the first WinterContact TS 850 P with tread made entirely of natural rubber from dandelion roots has taken Continental an important step closer to reaching its long-term goal of making tyre production more sustainable and less dependent on traditional raw materials.
“After several years of intensive development work together with the Fraunhofer Institute, we are excited to be taking the first dandelion tyres onto the road,” said Nikolai Setzer, Member of the Executive Board of Continental responsible for the Tyre Division. “To get the most meaningful test results from the crop yield produced by our research project to date, we decided to build car winter tyres, as they contain a particularly high proportion of natural rubber. We are continuing to pursue the goal of developing tyres based on dandelion rubber to readiness for series production within the next five to ten years.” Continental has the Contidrom proving grounds north of Hanover at its disposal for extensive tests under summer conditions. However, the first winter car tyres with dandelion rubber tread will be tested at Continental’s test site in Arvidsjaur, Sweden, where the company traditionally tests the performance of its future products under winter conditions from December to April.
“The development process of Taraxagum™ has been very promising so far and we are currently continuing the industrialization process together with our partners,” added Dr. Andreas Topp, Head of Material and Process Development and Industrialization for Tyres at Continental. “We are very confident that the results achieved with the test tyres to date will be confirmed, and that we will meet our performance targets.” As a result of extensive research conducted together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), the Julius Kühn Institute, and the plant breeding company Aeskulap, in the past few years good progress toward cultivating a very high-yield and robust kind of Russian dandelion has already been made.
The long-term goal of the research project is to find an ecologically, economically and socially viable response to the increasing demand for natural rubber. This would ease the pressure on the traditional rubber tree plantations in the tropics. Additionally, the aim is to reduce dependency on natural rubber which can be subject to severe price fluctuations on the commodities exchanges. Moreover, cultivating dandelions on previously unused land in temperate regions of Europe – closer to Continental’s European tyre plants – would sustainably reduce logistics costs and the transport-related burden on the environment.
The dandelion-based rubber called Taraxagum™ obtained from the root of the Russian dandelion is being developed by Continental and its partners as an alternative to the traditional cultivation of natural rubber. The project cluster being lead-managed by Continental also includes projects funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, Nutrition and Agriculture. In May 2014, the RUBIN industrialization project being funded by Continental was honored with the 2014 European GreenTec Award, an environmental and business prize, in the Automobility category. Continental recently presented the case study “Tyres for the future - We develop sustainability” on current goals, trends and successes in tyre development. Like all the information on the topic of dandelion rubber published so far, this study can also be found at www.taraxagum.de.