Continental is unveiling its innovative Conti GreenConcept tyre concept at this year’s IAA MOBILITY. This conceptual study by the premium tyre manufacturer leverages both current and emerging technological approaches to the engineering of sustainable tyres for passenger cars, as yet another example of Continental’s wide-ranging activities in pursuit of sustainability.
The goal of Continental’s integrative and sustainable concept: minimising resource consumption throughout every stage of the tyre’s value chain. As such, the study addressed everything, from the sourcing and procurement of raw materials, on to the various stages of production and even on to ways of extending the tyre’s service life.
Continental’s development engineers and materials experts rose to the occasion and found innovative solutions for each of these three challenges. The result: a tyre that consists of a particularly high percentage of traceable, renewable, and recycled materials, has an innovative, lightweight design that conserves valuable resources, and an extended service life thanks to a renewable tread.
“Conti GreenConcept underscores our commitment to becoming the most progressive tyre company in terms of environmental and social responsibility by the year 2030, and this ambition applies to every single stage in the value chain,” commented David O’Donnell, responsible for Continental’s global tyre original equipment business.
He added: “The way we see it today, sustainably sourced raw materials, lightweight design and tread renewal are the key ingredients in making future generations of tyres more sustainable. Our concept study exemplifies Continental’s ongoing efforts to fully transition its global tyre production to sustainable materials.”
Over 50 percent sustainable raw materials used
Of all raw materials used in the making of Conti GreenConcept, more than half are either from renewable sources or recycled. For all of its tyre production plants, Continental is aiming to fully transition to sustainable raw materials by no later than 2050.
The premium tyre manufacturer defines “sustainable” as all materials that originate from closed-loop cycles, that have no harmful effects on people or the environment, and are responsibly sourced as well as climate-neutral across their entire supply chains.
Conti GreenConcept also consists of 35 percent renewables. Among the bio-materials used are natural rubber from dandelions, silicate from the ash of rice husks, vegetable oils and resins, all leading to a significant reduction in materials from crude oil.
In addition to natural rubber, Continental’s global tyre-production plants are already making widespread use of various other materials such as recycled rubber or vegetable oils. For Continental, it has long been a top priority not only to use sustainable materials in making its tyres, but also to further the cultivation and processing of such materials.
For example, together with partners at its site in Anklam, Germany, Continental is conducting intensive research into the use of Russian Dandelions. The goal is to be able to grow natural rubber in the immediate vicinity of the company’s tyre plants so as to both lower carbon emissions from long-distance transport and to conserve valuable resources.
Rollout of “ContiRe. Tex” technology: polyester from recycled PET bottles
Conti GreenConcept also consists of 17 percent recycled materials, namely reclaimed steel and recovered carbon black, plus – in an industry first – polyester from recycled plastic bottles for the tyre’s casing. Continental is planning the gradual rollout of its ContiRe. Tex technology by 2022, thus paving the way for the manufacture of tyres using polyester yarn from recycled PET bottles.
The recycling process does this without the usual intermediate chemical processing steps, and the resulting polyester yarn is then made functionally capable of handling the high mechanical forces to which tyres are subjected. As a part of the upcycling process, used PET bottles get a new life as polyester high-performance material.
Conventional passenger car tyres each consist of roughly 400 grams of polyester yarn. In manufacturing a set of four tyres, a total of over 60 recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles can be reused. The use of recycled polyester marks another major step by Continental on the road to circular manufacturing for all of its tyre products.
Another part of the Conti GreenConcept sustainability equation is the special mix of materials made possible by COKOON – a technology for the eco-friendly bonding of textile reinforcements with rubber compounds, as developed by Continental in partnership with Kordsa. In the spirit of open-source collaboration, the two partners have been making this technology available to all tyre industry players on a free-of-charge basis since 2019.
Smart vehicle concept based on a resource-saving, lightweight design
Besides its high percentage of renewable and recycled materials, Conti GreenConcept also raises the bar in terms of innovative lightweight technology. The tyre weighs just 7.5 kilogrammes, making it up to 40 percent lighter than conventional tyres.
This weight reduction was made possible by an optimised tread pattern, a special sidewall and a new casing design with a weight-optimised core. All in all, the design choices made, lead to significantly lower resource consumption and more sustainable driving.
Thanks to its lightweight design, Conti GreenConcept is particularly destined for use in next-gen smart vehicles, equipped with sensors and resource-saving drives. By predictively monitoring their surroundings, the sensors in such vehicles give drivers the input they need for anticipatory driving, which in turn makes it feasible to use increasingly lightweight and resource-friendly tyres.
Even lower rolling resistance thanks to materials optimisation
Conti GreenConcept’s specially designed tread offers a greater margin of safety than conventional tyres with the same tread depth. The materials used in the tread were also optimised, thus further reducing the tyre’s weight and, in turn, lowering rolling resistance. In-house measurements reveal that Conti GreenConcept’s rolling resistance is to about 25 percent lower than class “A” – i.e. the best possible rating – under the EU Tyre Label system. Low rolling resistance means lower energy consumption, thus leading to a measurable improvement in terms of environmental impact.
In the case of internal combustion vehicles, this means greater mileage and lower carbon emissions; for electrical vehicles, it results in extended range. Continental’s calculations – which have been validated by leading vehicle manufacturers – show that a 25 percent reduction in rolling resistance can lead to up to a six percent greater range for electric vehicles.
Special tread strip capable of multiple renewals
The natural rubber used for the Conti GreenConcept tread compound is 100 percent Taraxagum natural rubber. As a special capability, the tyre concept can be retreaded multiple times, with a minimal investment in terms of both time and materials. The green-coloured tread baseline marks the transition from tread to casing.
Undamaged casings can be reused several times. This means the valuable raw materials that are built into it can be reused. If a tread is renewed three times, for example, this halves the amount of material used for a casing, as seen in terms of its total mileage.
“Conti GreenConcept delivers maximum performance in terms of both flexibility and sustainability, enabling modern mobility to truly hit the streets,” commented O’Donnell.
Moreover, a latest-generation Continental sensor inside the tyre, makes predictive driving possible by means of continuous monitoring of temperature, pressure and tread depth. This gives drivers added input so they can make well-informed choices, thus promoting resource-friendly driving.
Continental are also supplying sustainable tyres for Volkswagen’s ID. LIFE concept car
In addition to the GreenConcept tyre, Continental is exhibiting at its booth at IAA MOBILITY 2021, the ID. LIFE by Volkswagen, which will feature yet another Continental concept. The eco-friendly tyre engineering technologies used in making the tyre for Volkswagen are ready to make their way into series production in the near future.
Engineered on the basis of Continental’s standard EcoContact 6 tyre, the concept tyre scores with very low rolling resistance (EU label “A”), leading to extend range for the ID. LIFE. Thanks to the targeted use of renewable and recycled materials comprising of 37 percent of its overall materials, the concept tyre makes a significant contribution to resource conservation across the entire value chain. The responsible sourcing of raw materials helps to minimise environmental impact and potential human rights infringements.
The sidewalls of EcoContact 6 tyres bear the slogan “Responsibly Sourced Rubber” as a way of emphasising Continental’s wide-ranging efforts to ensure the transparent and traceable sourcing of natural rubber. Among other renewable raw materials used are silica from rice grain husks, vegetable oil and vegetable resins. Recycled rubber and the eco-friendly COKOON bonding system for textile reinforcement, recently launched for Continental’s series production, are also part of the picture.
Conti GreenConcept and the concept tyre supplied to Volkswagen for its ID. LIFE concept car, serve to underscore Continental’s ambitious goal of becoming the most progressive tyre company with regards to ecological and social responsibility, by the year 2030. As an initial step in this direction, the company’s zero-emission mobility business is on track to becoming completely carbon-neutral by 2022.
This is an important milestone on the road to becoming fully carbon neutral, and will also help Continental’s customers to meet their own decarbonisation targets. By 2050 at the latest, Continental intends to be manufacturing its tyre products using 100 percent sustainably produced materials, and thus achieving full climate neutrality throughout all of its supply chains.
Continental develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Founded in 1871, the technology company offers safe, efficient, intelligent and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transportation.
In 2020, Continental generated sales of €37.7 billion and currently employs around 233,000 people in 58 countries and markets. In 2021, the company celebrates its 150th anniversary.