To reduce dependence on south-east Asian rubber trees, the tyre industry is looking for more sustainable alternatives. Synthetic rubber is one option, although natural sources have far better performance qualities in terms of grip and load-bearing ability.
One such source is the Russian dandelion, which is actually indigenous to the high plateau of south-east Kazakhstan, and the bordering areas of China and Kyrgyzstan. This usually pesky weed has a high content of natural latex, which tyre company Continental has converted into a material it calls Taraxagum. From this it made a batch of prototype tyres, which are currently undergoing tests. Early results are “promising”, says the company, and the dandelion tyres could enter production within the next five to ten years.