Leading international tyre manufacturer
Continental of Germany has reached an important milestone in its research
project for the industrialisation of dandelion rubber in tyre production.
Last year Continental had 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 tires onto the road,” said Nikolai Setzer, Member of the
Executive Board of Continental responsible for the Tire Division. He said, “To
get the most meaningful test results from the crop yield produced by our
research project to date, we decided to build car winter tires, as they contain
a particularly high proportion of natural rubber. We are continuing to pursue
the goal of developing tires 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 tires 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
industrialisation process together with our partners,” added Dr. Andreas Topp,
Head of Material and Process Development and Industrialization for Tires at
Continental, further noting that, “We are very confident that the results
achieved with the test tires 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 tire 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
industrialisation project being funded by Continental was honoured with the
2014 European GreenTec Award, an environmental and business prize, in the Automobility
category. Continental recently presented the case study “Tires for the future -
We develop sustainability” on current goals, trends and successes in tire
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