What do dandelions have to do with tyres?

Posted by: Cal on 11/08/2014

Category: Tyre Information

While it may seem like the only link between dandelions and tyres is that these flowers can be run over when you head off the beaten track, one revolutionary company is developing tyres made from this plant.

If successful, Continental tyres may in future be crafted from dandelions - or more specifically, from the latex in these flowers.

The tyre manufacturer has teamed up with the German Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology to develop this method. They have spent around four years cultivating suitable plants and say the first car with these specially crafted tyres will be on the road in the next three or four years.

Why dandelions?

Currently, around 10 - 30 per cent of the rubber used to create new tyres comes from the rubber tree. Unfortunately, these trees grow in valuable rainforest that must be sacrificed to make tyres. This has led many manufacturers to consider more sustainable options - dandelions are one such choice. 

Dandelions have many advantages, according to Continental. Firstly, their growth is not weather-dependant, which means their supply is steady throughout the year.

Not only that but the impact on the environment is substantially less as these crops can thrive in areas that are currently uncultivated, according to Nikolai Setzer, who is responsible for the tyre division within Continental's Executive Board.

"By growing the crops much closer to our production sites, we can also significantly reduce the burden on the environment and our outlay for logistics," he said.

Growing these crops next to factories means transport routes will be shorter and land that is currently empty can be better employed.

Tyres could become cheaper as a result, as manufacturers do not need to take into account volatile prices caused by economic factors such as currency exchange rate fluctuations. Instead, they can grow their own materials. 

Will dandelion tyres be able to perform?

In an interview with Motoring.com.au on August 7, David O'Donnell, Head of Global Research and Development for Passenger Car and Light Truck Tyres at Continental said these tyres can be compared to normal ones made from rubber.

"The outcome is a dandelion-based rubber that is comparable in quality and functionality with the product of the rubber tree," he said. 

The main obstacles have already been overcome, Mr O'Donnell said, so make sure you keep an eye out for these car tyres in future.