Right now, natural rubber has its grip on the tire industry, pun ever so delightfully intended. It's only grown in a single corner of the world, and as vehicle sales continue to rise, it's smart to invest in ways to reduce our reliance on this small-batch natural resource. Enter Continental Tire and, of all things, the dandelion.
There are certain properties in natural rubber that synthetics cannot match. But the latex that is used in rubber production can be found in more than just the rubber tree. For example, it can be found in a specific Russian species of dandelion, the roots of which contain a source for natural tire rubber.
The dandelion in question can be grown outside the "rubber belt," and it's less sensitive to weather. You don't need to displace food crops to grow it, either, and moving away from the rubber tree's natural habitat cuts down on shipping costs. And, as a cherry on top, it only takes a year to cultivate the dandelion, whereas rubber trees take about seven years before producing natural latex.
Continental Tire's goal is to get these tires on the road in 5 to 10 years, and its parent company is looking into using this new source of rubber in other vehicle components, further reducing reliability on a single tree in a single part of the world. Sorry, Hevea brasiliensis, but we're just not that keen on you anymore. You're just too picky.