EV tyres: everything you need to know

One of the biggest advantages of electric vehicles (EVs) is that they are low maintenance. They never need an oil change, and the electric motors and batteries are relatively maintenance free. However, the rubber that keeps it on the road is one of the most expensive maintenance items for an electric vehicle. Although owning an electric vehicle is generally less expensive than owning a gas-powered car over time, tires for electric vehicles are expensive. You may find that your electric vehicle’s tires need to be replaced more frequently than your experience with your old car or SUV.

Added to the pain is a tire shortage that affects the entire industry. EV tires can already be hard to find at an affordable price, but a low supply of rubber this year has made that even harder.

Here’s everything you need to know about EV tires.

Why do electric vehicles need special tires?

Electric vehicles are heavier than their gasoline counterparts. An extreme example is the mighty GMC Hummer EV pickup, which tips the scales at 9,063 pounds. That’s about twice the weight of a traditional gas-powered full-size pickup truck. Electric vehicles require special tires that can handle the extra weight.

Electric vehicles are heavier than gasoline cars

Why are electric vehicles so much heavier than gasoline cars? Well, an electric powertrain weighs more than a gasoline powertrain. For example, the Nissan Leaf weighs about 1,000 pounds more than the Nissan Versa, even though they are about the same size.

Gasoline engines aren’t exactly lightweight, but they are when compared to the heavy-duty electric motors and batteries that power electric vehicles. This weight adds up if an electric vehicle has multiple motors and a larger battery for extended range and optimal performance.

Tire size can affect range

If you look at range estimates for electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S, you’ll see that range and efficiency ratings can vary depending on the wheels. According to APE datathe Model S Plaid with 19-inch wheels has a range of 396 miles, but the same car with 21-inch wheels only has a range of 348 miles.

Narrower tires translate to better range because less rubber on the road means less energy is needed to move the car. A smaller wheel with a thicker sidewall is advantageous because it has lower rolling resistance, which results in better efficiency and better range compared to a larger wheel with a thinner sidewall.

Electric vehicles need durable tires

Electric vehicles need durable tires because they are very heavy. Tires designed for electric vehicles often have a high load index, which indicates how much weight the tires can support. Electric trucks like the Hummer EV and Rivian R1T need particularly high load ratings because they are among the heaviest vehicles on the market.

Noise

Electric car tires are often designed to reduce road noise. On a gasoline-powered car, the engine muffles some of the road noise generated by the tires. However, because electric powertrains are so quiet, tire noise is more pronounced. A foam inlay inside the tire usually remedies this to reduce noise.

Can electric vehicles use regular tires?

In theory, you could put standard tires on an EV, but we don’t recommend that. Regular tires on an electric vehicle have a negative impact on handling, wear out faster and may very well pose a safety concern. Any tire on an electric vehicle needs to be replaced more frequently than tires on a gas-powered car. Spending more on special EV tires that last longer is worth the extra cost at the tire store.

Some electric vehicles have special tires specially designed for this model. For example, the Volkswagen ID.3 is an electric vehicle available in international markets and uses specially designed Continental tires with low rolling resistance, an aerodynamic sidewall and low rolling noise. OEM tires for Tesla models have included Michelin Primacy MXM4 and Hankook Kinergy GT testing with similar considerations in mind.

Cost of EV Tires

Several factors contribute to electric car tires costing more than conventional car tires. They have design elements for high load indices, low rolling resistance and unique tread patterns. Engineers are developing features that help improve aerodynamics and reduce road noise.

Fundamental economics also has a role in cost. There is a smaller field for tires specifically designed for electric vehicles. This narrow market means less competition, less choice and higher prices.

However, it’s still worth paying more for tires designed for electric vehicles instead of trying to save a few bucks by putting regular tires on your electric car. In the long run, EV compatible tires will last longer and you will spend less than if you had cheaper tires and replaced them more frequently.

Remembering that tire replacement is one of the few EV maintenance costs can help soften any price shock.

How the Tire Shortage Affects Drivers

Ongoing global supply chain issues have impacted the rubber industry. This means that anyone shopping for tires may find themselves waiting a while for the tires they need to become available. This shortage affects all drivers in the tire market. However, that may mean even less variety in tire availability if you drive an electric vehicle.

What to Look for in EV Tires

Tire manufacturers are good at labeling their tires EV compatible, as well as online tire retailers, which makes it easy to find the right rubber. Enter the make and model of your electric vehicle on the website, and it will show you the correct tires for your car.

Unless you’re looking to change your tire size or get replacement wheels, it should be easy to shop around for your EV’s original tire size. Beyond that, the load index is one of the most important things to check. The higher this number, the more weight the tire can support. It’s also wise to look at the tire warranty, stating how long you can expect them to last. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for tire rotation and proper inflation.

Where to find EV tires

EVs have become sufficiently mainstream that you can find EV-compatible tires just about anywhere tires are sold. Major online tire retailers are your best bet for finding the right fit available locally. Small stores will probably be happy to order tires for your electric vehicle if you plan ahead.

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