Dandelion rubber tires? Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?
How can one turn these sometimes pesky, admittedly-attractive little weeds into rubber? That’s an excellent question. One that Continental Tires, The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, Julius Kuehn-Institute, and EKUSA all teamed up and answered with the first ever road tire with a 100% dandelion rubber tread.
Dandelion: Natural Alternative to Rubber Tree
The typical car tire consists of 10% to 30% natural rubber, which must still be harvested in the traditional way: from rubber trees growing in Equatorial regions. Harvesting rubber is a slow, demanding process, with the growth cycle of each rubber tree before it can be harvested for latex at roughly 7 years. For that reason, companies (Continental included) have been searching for alternatives to natural rubber for a long time.
The best success they’ve had so far, apparently, is with dandelion. And not just any old dandelion, but a particular Russian species of dandelion, whose roots contain a natural latex compound that can actually be harvested and turned into rubber. (That means you can’t start making rubber out of those dandelions in your backyard. Sorry, kids).
Dandelion grows many times faster than the rubber tree; a dandelion is ready latex harvesting from the roots in as little as 6 months, as opposed to 7 years. And it grows in many, many regions all over the world – making it a great choice for long-term, sustainable harvesting. If production is kept local to the regions where the dandelion is grown, the expensive costs and energy of shipping and transport is also eliminated.
Taraxagum™: New Dandelion Bike Tires Coming Soon
The first run of these tires that Continental is producing is deemed Urban Taraxagum and will come in the classic all-rounder 700 x 35c configuration. They’ll be a very limited release but will out in time for the Tour De France later this summer. Continental aims to launch full production of Taraxagum rubber tires within 5 to 10 years.
Only time – and hands-on usage – will actually tell us how good this new dandelion rubber compound truly is when put to use on the road – whether on bikes or cars. But Continental is confident in the new material, and we’re excited to see how this new development in tire technology goes over the next few years.