A tyre revolution
A new generation of car tyres is being made with a list of intriguing ingredients. Peter Snel, group head of R&D at Dutch tyre specialist Apollo Tyres, detailed some of the differences: "We have a tyre here where we have some Guayule rubber in the tyre, instead of the normal natural rubber that we use as standard in our tyres. Here we have a tyre where we have dandelion latex in the tyre instead of the normal natural rubber."
Apollo Vredestein has made some prototype car tyres with rubber from a desert plant and a type of dandelion.
Initial feedback from drivers on the test track was good.
Peter Snel explained the advantages: “Especially on wet grip we saw even a better performance compared to the natural rubber that we use from the Hevea tree.
“On rolling resistance we see that there is still some work to be done in terms of compounding, but there is a huge potential to use that rubber in those tyres,” he added.
The tyres were developed in the lab during an EU research project to find alternatives plants to produce natural rubber.
Hans Mooibroek, the EU-PEARLS coordinator at the Wageningen UR Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Group, revealed the origins of some of the ingredients: “That’s Russian dandelion, and it’s native to the Kazakhstan mountains, near the Chinese border. Guayule is supposed to grow in semi-arid regions like southern Spain, or northern Africa.”
The researchers wanted plants that grew in Europe, and made good quality rubber.
Hans Mooibroek added: “This is the material that was extracted from a field trial in Germany with Russian Dandelion. “You can also extract the raw rubber, the high molecular weight rubber from Guayule, and then you see this has the very good elasticity and high molecular weight that you need for tyre making.”
The Apollo Vredestein factory is not going to switch to these new rubber sources anytime soon.
But when could dandelion tyres be ready for the market?
Peter Snel of Apollo Tyres believes it won’t be long: “From a technological point of view very soon, from an availability point of view in terms of availability of the rubber itself, farming and having it processed for the industry in the volume that is required, that will take some more time.”