Do Electric Cars Need Special Tires/Tyres?

As we seen in my how electric cars work article, EVs work quite differently to conventional gasoline powered cars. Due to this, people often wonder whether special tires/tyres are needed for electric cars. This article intends to find out.

Key differences

Photograph of Tesla Model S wheel and tire
Photograph of Tesla Model S wheel and tire

There’s two main differences between EVs and gasoline cars which put extra strain on tires:

  • Extra weight: the battery pack is very heavier, much heavier than the internal combustion engine is. For example, the Nissan Leaf EV has a kerb weight of 1,580kg whilst the similar-sized Nissan Pulsar (gasoline-powered) has a kerb weight of 1,265 kg. In general EVs are 20-30% heavier than the equivalent gasoline version. This naturally places more demand on tires.
  • Instant torque: whilst gasoline cars have a delay between pressing the accelerator pedal and the wheels moving (via the torque applied through the drive shaft, which is rotated by the internal combustion engine), this is essentially instant in an electric car. Plus torque can be applied by the electric motor at much lower RPM than in a gas car. As a result, this instant torque demands more from tires and thus requires thicker rubber.

Due to this, traditional tires fitted on an EV can wear out up to 30% faster than if they were fitted on a conventional car.

Special EV tires – how’re they different?

Front view of Goodyear's upcoming EfficientGrip Performance with Electric Drive Technology tires
Front view of Goodyear’s upcoming EfficientGrip Performance with Electric Drive Technology tires

In addition to the above, electric cars are naturally much quieter than gasoline cars. So EV tires also aim to minimise noise as much as possible (otherwise the tranquil drive experience of an EV would be ruined). This means that there’s a few design decisions that are seen in tires made for EVs:

  • Thinner sipes: sipes are the small grooves/channels found in the central tread of a tire, which help to improve grip especially in wet conditions. These are thinner (but still present!) in EV tires, which helps to maximise the contact surface area between tire and the road. This helps to cope with higher levels of torque, whilst also continuing to offer good grip when it’s raining.
  • The tire cavity has been altered to deal with the extra weight from the batteries. Technical details aren’t too forthcoming on this point, but Goodyear’s EV tire sells it by saying “The tire cavity shape has been optimized to support the additional vehicle weight from batteries while maintaining an optimal tread footprint for high performance.”
  • The material composition of the tread compound has been altered to improve rolling resistance (how easy or hard it is for the tire to deform when driving along). This needs to be counterbalanced with driving comfort, but some specialist EV tires claim to offer up to 20% lower rolling resistance with no adverse effects.
  • The overall tread design is closely analysed and tested to ensure that interior cabin noise is minimised as much as possible. Tires with an aerodynamic sidewall also help to reduce noise.

List of specially designed electric car tires

the following is a list of all ‘EV specific’ tires we have found, but please contact us if you know of any others:

  • Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance with Electric Drive Technology (to be sold in 2019)
  • Michelin Energy E-V
  • Continental Conti.eContact Electric Tires

If you’re not able to buy EV specific tires just yet (for example because these specialist tires aren’t stocked in your local tire place), don’t worry too much. In this case we would just recommend that you buy high performance tires instead of cheaper, more budget tires.

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