Wheels of Change

Rolling on Dandelion Tires

Continental 2
The Russian dandelion plant could offer a viable alternative to rubber.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Russian dandelion could lessen dependence on the volatile natural-rubber market.

  • Facts


    • Continental, the world’s biggest car parts maker and fourth-largest tire producer, has developed a new tire made from the extract of the Russian dandelion plant.
    • Russian dandelion can be grown anywhere and harvested much more quickly than rubber trees.
    • The price of natural rubber has slumped to $1.30 per kilo from $5 since 2010.
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It looks like a tire, rolls like a tire and even smells like one. The only discernible difference is that it has the words Taraxa Gum printed after the description “Continental Winter Contact” and is decorated with the image of a yellow dandelion.

This tire isn’t made from natural rubber, or caoutchouc as it is also known, but from the extract of Taraxacum kok-saghyz, the Russian dandelion plant.

“There’s a lot going on especially in the field of materials,” said Nikolai Setzer, the head of Continental’s tire division, speaking at the Frankfurt Motor Show where the tire was presented earlier this week.

Tires remain the core division of the Hanover-based auto parts maker set up in 1871, but they tend not to attract as much attention as other tech innovations in automotive. Yet, manufacturers are continually working on improving tires to lower fuel consumption and road noise, and much progress has been made in the last 10 years on reducing resistance and improving grip and safety.

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