At tire manufacturer Continental, the topic of sustainability is currently high on the agenda. Experts from a wide variety of fields are working closely together in the research and development, testing, and production sectors to make the tire of the future even more energy efficient and eco-friendly during the manufacturing, use, and recycling stages of its life cycle. In the process, they call into question every tire component and replace it if necessary with more environmentally compatible materials. And the focus on greater sustainability also embraces production processes at Continental. For instance, an innovative process has been introduced to return waste rubber to the production cycle, enabling rubber from end-of-life truck tires to be reutilized during retreading.
The latest product to join the Continental line-up is a special tire for hybrid vehicles that features a 30 percent drop in rolling resistance compared to a standard tire. With this rubber fitted, hybrid models can reduce the distances covered with the help of their internal combustion engines and increase the stretches traveled in electric mode. The tire developers at Continental have not had to compromise on safety-relevant properties to achieve this improved rolling resistance, as evidenced by the A ratings that the tire has won on the EU Tire Label for both rolling resistance and braking distances in the wet.
One aspect of Continental’s sustainability activities that has been more in the public eye is the “dandelion tire”. Here the company is cooperating with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, IME. The objective is to use natural latex obtained from the roots of the dandelion as a commercially viable substitute for natural latex from rainforest plantations.
The dandelions can even be cultivated on land that is unsuitable for food crops, so that creating “plantations beside the tire plants” in Central Europe makes both economic and ecological sense. The short transportation distances mean a substantial drop in CO2 emissions; monocultures of rubber trees in rainforest regions can be reduced; and the tire manufacturer can gain a degree of immunity from the volatile prices on the global rubber market. Given that between ten and 30 percent of the rubber in a car tire comes from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), the benefits soon become very clear.