Electric car tires aren’t usually a hot topic of conversation, but with the broader adoption of electric vehicle ownership, this emerging tech topic has gained traction…so to speak. There are light truck tires, high performance tires, mud tires and winter tires, so why wouldn’t tires just for electric cars exist? Let’s take a look at what makes an electric vehicle unique and what manufacturers are doing to tailor modern tire design to match their needs.
The easier your electric vehicle rolls, the more miles you will get between charges. It makes sense that you would want a tire with low rolling resistance on your EV. But you may have heard about early versions of low rolling resistance tires that tended to cause static shocks. Luckily, tire design technology and chemical composition have created tires that roll easily without the side effect of zapping the occupants when they get out.
Do Electric Cars Need Special Tires?
So, does your electric car need special tires? The answer is yes…and no. If you drive a BMW i3, which has a unique tire fitment (narrow with a large diameter), you already know you need special tires. But technically you can use any tire that fits on your electric vehicle within the tire size specification found in your owner’s manual. However, strapping on a set of standard tires may impact vehicle range, handling and even tire life.
Automobile manufacturers spend considerable time researching the best tires for electric cars. While you aren’t locked into the factory recommended tire, you may get your best driving range by following the recommended tire specifications. The bottom line is that you can technically use any tire that fits your electric vehicle, but you might experience reduced driving range or lousy handling.
What Are the Challenges in Making Tires for Electric Vehicles?
We reached out to Dale Harrigle, Chief Engineer of Consumer Replacement Tires at Bridgestone, to find out what tire manufactures are doing to make the best tires for electric cars. Simply put, electric vehicle tires are under a lot of stress to supply grip, efficient rolling resistance and low noise. Bridgestone recently developed its new Turanza EV tire aimed at Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla model drivers so they can get the most from their cars.
Do Electric Cars Wear Out Tires Faster?
So, do tires wear out faster on electric cars? Bridgestone research shows that electric vehicle tire wear is roughly 30% faster than conventional vehicles. Thanks to the amazing low-end torque that electric motors deliver, it is easy to enjoy the brisk acceleration of a Tesla Model S. But that rocket-like acceleration comes at the price of tread life.
In a similar manner, regenerative braking is great at returning power to the main drive battery, but it also puts stress on the tire contact patch. Between acceleration and regenerative braking, electric vehicle tires rarely have a chance to just coast—they are always working. This constant push-pull of the tire contact patch means faster tire wear.
Tires for electric vehicles are made pretty much the same way as any other tire. Steel belts, sidewalls and even the tire bead are all pretty much the same layout. The difference comes in the materials and how they are put together. Things like the chemical composition of the tire rubber and even the design of the tread blocks help set specialty tires apart. However, they can still use normal tire maintenance equipment.
Modern tire manufacturers have to consider several factors in order to strike a balance. “Advances in tire compounds and technology over the last 20 years can now deliver good grip in the wet, while having good rolling resistance,” says Harrigle. Leaps in tire tread pattern technology allow for the tire to change how it reacts using 3D sipes (the little slits in the tire tread) that actually lock and unlock. This allows for the tire to have a biting edge for grip, which can then interlock to make the tire stiffer for performance driving. To balance all these needs, tire manufacturers are developing better tire materials, which in Bridgestone’s case is their new PeakLife polymer.
What About Winter Electric Vehicle Tires?
For those who live up north where winter driving conditions are common, the idea of switching to winter tires is probably familiar. One can say the same for driving an EV in winter. “It’s best to use dedicated winter tires on an EV. For example, Bridgestone’s Blizzak winter tires have tread compound features that look like a sponge with small voids that captures the water layer off ice, giving better traction,” says Harrigle. “While there may be some range reduction and increased rolling resistance with a winter tire, the extra traction is worth it,” he adds. If you equip your electric vehicle with dedicated winter tires, doing things like preheating the cabin before leaving the charging station can help stretch winter battery driving range.
What Is in The Electric Vehicle Tire Future?
It’s hard to say what the future holds in the search for the best tires for electric vehicles. “Bridgestone is always looking forward to new demands in the market,” says Harrigle. With the growing electric truck segment, it isn’t hard to imagine the need for a rugged, all-terrain tire that can also deliver efficiency. The same holds true for extreme performance tires for high-speed vehicles like the Porsche Taycan Turbo S or Lucid Sapphire.
NAPA Auto Care Has You Covered for EV Tires
If you need new tires for your Tesla, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Nissan LEAF or any other electric vehicle, visit your local NAPA Auto Care. Our ASE-certified technicians understand the unique needs of your modern electric vehicle. They can help you find the best tires for electric vehicle use that will keep you rolling along.
With an automotive writing career spanning over two decades, Brian has a passion for sharing the automotive lifestyle. An avid DIYer he can usually be found working on one of his many project cars. His current collection includes a 1969 Olds Delta 88 convertible, BMW E46 sedan, and a slant-6 powered 1975 Plymouth Duster.