Over three years ago, Continental technicians in Germany started to look at the potential of the Russian Dandelion as a substitute for natural rubber in tyre production.
Late last year the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, in conjunction with Continental engineers reported a breakthrough in dandelion rubber research, which would allow them to produce the material in much larger quantities in a new, specially developed facility. The project has already been recognised with green innovation awards.
This year, at Continental’s press conference at the start of the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Germany, Tyre division head Nikolai Setzer has introduced the brand under which the company will market its dandelion rubber products.
Taraxagum, taken from the botanical name for the dandelion (Taraxacum) has already been used to produce a new pilot range of winter tyres.
Winter tyres already contain a high proportion of natural rubber. The natural rubber in the treads of these tyres has been completely replaced with the new dandelion rubber, Taraxagum. The new pilot tyres are currently undergoing testing on the award winning ContiDrom test facility just outside Hannover, where Continental test all their products. Arvidsjaur in Lapland, Sweden has also been selected for testing in the most challenging of cold weather conditions.
In his speech, Setzer reiterated that Continental is working towards industrialising the production of dandelion rubber, with an aim to introducing it into serial production within the next five to ten years.
Outlining the benefits of Russian dandelion, Setzer commented: “As it can grow close to our factory sites we are becoming less dependent upon natural rubber, which is 80 per cent sourced out of Southeast Asian countries. And supplying from close to our manufacturing sites obviously also saves on logistics costs. The use of dandelion rubber will also help meet growth in rubber demand and take the pressure off natural rubber.”
“The development process of Taraxagum has been very promising so far and we are continuing the industrialisation together with our partners,” added Dr. Andreas Topp, head of Material and Process Development and Industrialization for Tires at Continental. “We are very confident that our current research results will be confirmed through the tyre tests and that they will meet the performance targets.”
As one of the largest tyre manufacturers in the world, Continental has always been at the very forefront of tyre technology and production. Although the new Taraxagum has so far only been used in car tyres, could this be the future of motorcycle tyres too? Only time will tell…