Suppose you’re the proud owner of an electric vehicle (EV) or looking to buy one in the near future. In that case, you’ll no doubt know all about their many benefits when compared to traditional ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars. Electric vehicles are eco-friendly, inexpensive to maintain, cheaper to refuel, and often more powerful than similarly-placed ICE cars. But the added power and weight of an EV aren’t without their drawbacks, especially regarding the cost and lifespan of your vehicle’s tires.
The added weight of an EV’s battery and components means more pressure on your tires overall, while the high torque that EV motors provide can strain your wheels when accelerating from a complete stop. Still, it’s not all bad news. With the EV market expanding rapidly, tire manufacturers have been hard at work developing cheaper, stronger, increasingly sophisticated tires with low rolling resistance and carefully crafted tread grips. Even so, it’s essential to remember the difference between EV car tires and ICE car tires when kitting out your electric vehicle.
Do Electric Cars Need Special Tires?
To get the most out of your electric vehicle, you will need EV-specific tires. That’s because electric vehicles have some fundamental differences from traditional ICE cars, and their tires are designed very differently to accommodate this. For one thing, EV cars have heavy batteries, which can weigh up to three times as much as traditional gas engines. EV cars also require a very low rolling resistance to reduce energy consumption and maximize their battery range. Last but not least, the exceptionally high torque that EV motors can provide and the inevitable friction that follows make durability a top priority when it comes to extending the lifespan of EV tires. With all of these factors to balance between, EV tires are indeed very different from ICE tires, so it is necessary to buy a set of EV-specific tires when shopping for a set for your electric vehicle.
Why do Electric Cars need Special Tires?
One of the main reasons EV cars need special tires is their increased overall weight. Electric cars can weigh much more than their ICE counterparts, with electric motors clocking in at around 600 Kg, compared to the typical 250-500 Kg of a typical gas engine. This means a lot more pressure on each tire, along with a longer braking distance due to the effect of inertia. As such, an EV tire must have a high load index and robust construction to cope with the added stress it’ll be taking during daily driving. On top of this, the increased vehicle weight also means better grip is needed to slow down when braking and to prevent wheelspin when accelerating.
Another factor that plays into the construction of EV tires is torque. EV cars have more substantial torque than ICE cars, as their powerful motors can be cranked up to maximum output at a moment’s notice. As noted, this can cause wheelspin when moving from a stop, so extra grip is needed to prevent undue tire wear. Even then, some damage will inevitably occur due to the immense amount of friction placed on the tire, so EV tires have to be made of specialized rubber compounds to mitigate this problem.
Another crucial difference between ICE and EV cars comes in the form of horsepower. Horsepower refers to the maximum speed at which a car’s motor or engine can generate power and thus speed. Traditional ICE cars need to cycle through RPMs to reach their maximum horsepower, whereas electric vehicles can instantly go to maximum power at the push of the accelerator. The simpler, more efficient EV powertrain means less energy is lost to various components between the motor and the wheels, meaning you can reach high speeds faster than you would with an ICE vehicle. All in all, however, this means greater stress on your tires, meaning they need to be built to cope with high speeds and rapid acceleration.
Heavy EV batteries don’t just add to the weight of an electric vehicle; they also alter their handling significantly when compared to an ICE car. The battery is generally placed very low in an electric vehicle, giving it a low center of gravity spread across the whole base of the car. This makes for very tight turns but also a certain amount of tail-heaviness at high speeds. Both of these factors increase the stress that an EV’s tires will take when cornering, meaning they need to be able to deal not just with the effects of inertia and momentum but also with stressful lateral motion. This is another factor that requires careful consideration when it comes to an electric vehicle’s tires, especially in terms of the construction of a tire’s sidewall, which in this case, must balance between flexibility and strength in order to prevent blowouts when turning at speed.
Quiet EVs, Noisy Tires
One often underappreciated element of EV tire design is tire noise reduction. EVs famously run very quietly without a noisy internal combustion engine rattling around on their chassis. This is excellent news in most respects, but when driving down the highway, you might notice increased road noise without the usual engine noise to mask it. That’s why EV tires have been specially designed to incorporate foam inserts and reduce the effect of road vibration buzzing through each tire. They also have specialized tread patterns to further reduce unwanted noise; as such, with the right tires, an EV can run almost silently, even when driving at high speeds.
Other Factors to Consider When Shopping for EV Tires
There are a few other key elements to consider when you’re weighing up which EV tire to go for and what the differences are between EV and ICE car tires. We’ll take a look at these in detail below, along with some general maintenance and storage tips that’ll help you get the most out of your EV tires once you’ve chosen a set. After all, the longer your tires last, the more bang you get for your buck.
The Tire Triangle – Grip, Tread Wear, and Rolling Resistance
When choosing any tire for an electric vehicle, there are three significant factors to consider: grip, tread wear, and rolling resistance. These three things determine how long a tire will last on an EV car and how well the vehicle will perform. Essentially, having tires with a strong grip will reduce your braking distance, improve your handling, and help to prevent wheelspin. Sturdy treads, meanwhile, are needed to withstand high amounts of friction and powerful motor torque. Last but not least, these factors need to be balanced against rolling resistance. A good EV tire must have good grip capabilities and robust construction while still reducing unnecessary friction with the road surface. This is a tricky balance to strike and requires a lot of engineering – hence the high price tag and currently limited range of options when shopping for EV tires.
Balancing the tire triangle is a great way to make an EV car more cost-efficient, but it does come with one significant downside. EV car tires are less durable than ICE car tires, as they are made with soft rubber compounds in order to compromise between grip and low rolling resistance. This means they’ll wear out quicker than ICE car tires, with a 20,000 – 40,000 mile lifespan compared to a typical lifespan of 30,000 – 70,000 miles for a comparable ICE tire. Still, this is a necessary sacrifice to make, and overall the costs can balance out thanks to savings on gas and vehicle maintenance over time.
You might already know what a load index is, but it’s important to note that EV cars generally need tires with a much higher load index than similar ICE cars. The load index of a tire indicates the maximum weight it can bear without risking blowouts or unnecessary wear and tear. Tires for EV cars need a higher load index because the vehicle they support is heavier, and so they’re built to accommodate this, with a lab-modelled construction that allows for increased PSI (pressure per square inch) when compared to similar ICE car tires.
If you’re wondering what the load index of your own vehicle’s tires needs to be, you can usually find a tire code sticker printed in your vehicle’s driver’s manual, on your driver’s inside door, or sometimes on your gas hatch cap. The last three digits of the code are your load index and speed rating, with the former two numbers being the load index. Each load index refers to a specific vehicle weight, and you can translate this to Kg via a standard chart found in your driver’s manual or on the internet. Once you know the load index you need, the only thing left to do is to find a set of tires that match. Bear in mind that if you’re hauling regularly, you might want to shop for a set of tires with a slightly higher load index than your vehicle manufacturer recommends.
Tire Size and Range
As noted, tires for EV cars are specifically designed to reduce rolling resistance, and one way of doing this is by reducing the amount of tire tread in contact with the road surface at any one time. Because of this, EV tires are designed to be pretty narrow, with thick sidewalls that minimize the amount of tread that meets the ground. They’re also built to be small, and as light as possible, as the heavier the tire, the more power is required to move it. A faster power drain means a smaller overall driving range, so the lighter an EV’s tires, the further it can go on one single battery charge.
EV Car Tire Cost Vs. ICE Car Tire Cost
There’s no getting around the fact that some EV tires cost a fair amount more than comparable ICE car tires. As you’ll be able to tell by now, so much engineering goes into EV tires that they inevitably have higher production costs than ICE car tires. On top of this, because the EV market is currently smaller than the ICE car market, there’s a higher premium on components to make up for manufacturing costs. All in all, this leads to higher prices, with a Goodyear EV tire costing around $270 – that’s $100 more than a similar Goodyear ICE touring tire. Still, the market is generally balancing out, and some manufacturers like Continental have begun to merge their EV and ICE tires into one EV-ready range, with a standardized price tag to match. Plus, as time goes on and the EV market expands and manufacturing costs shrink, EV tire prices will inevitably drop even further.
EV Car Tire Maintenance and Storage
As is always the case, maintaining an EV car tire is the best way to extend its lifespan and achieve optimal driving performance for as long as possible. While there are many things you can do to look after your tires, this mainly comes down to maintaining air pressure, rotating front and back tires, avoiding damage, and keeping your tires appropriately stored.
Just like with an ICE car tire, air pressure is critical, as tires are designed to operate at a specific internal PSI (pressure per square inch). You should check your air pressure at least once a month and get a refill if you’re low, as this small cost will save you a lot of money in the long run. Remember that in the winter, tire PSI can drop dramatically as the air inside your tires contracts in colder weather. While you’re checking your PSI, it’s also an excellent time to check for general tread wear and damage, as driving on worn-out tires can not only reduce battery range and handling performance but also increase the potential for wheelspin, hydroplaning, and blowouts at high speeds.
Rotating your front and rear tires is also important, as the former generally wears down much faster. You should have your tires rotated roughly every 7000 kilometres or six months, whichever comes first, and while your car is in the shop, you might want to get your wheel alignment checked too. Wheel alignment is even more important for EV cars than ICE cars, as you can lose up to 10% of your battery range by driving on misaligned tires. Proper wheel alignment also means less wear and tear overall, extending the lifespan of expensive EV tires and reducing lifetime costs.
Aside from these adjustments, it’s as important as ever to avoid dangerous driving, unnecessary high-speed situations, and hazards like potholes and rough ground. If you live somewhere with snowy winters and temperate summers, it’s a good idea to swap out winter and summer tires seasonally in order to prolong the tread life of each set. If you are storing off-season tires, remember to keep them in a cool, dark place, indoors if possible, or elevated under a tarp if they’re outside temporarily.
EV Tires for Summer Driving
Now that you’re something of an expert on EV tires, you might be thinking it’s a good time to pick up a set for the summer ahead. We’ve got a wide range of both traditional ICE car tires and EV tires available via our website and here are just a few great picks for EV summer driving.
Specially designed for use with EV vehicles, the Hankook Ventus S1 EVO3 EV tire is a great example of everything we’ve been looking at so far in this article. This is an aramid-reinforced road tire with a thick sidewall and carefully designed treads that are built to maintain optimal contact with the road. The tire has a stiff shoulder and sidewalls that can take on heavy cornering, and the inner and outer treads are designed to accommodate both wet and dry driving, with a high number of serrated blocks on the inner tread and an optimized set of noise-cancelling blocks on the outer tread.
As mentioned, Continental now stocks a standardized range of EV-ready tires for use with both ICE cars and EV cars. Their ContiSportContact 5 tire is a great pick for an electric vehicle, with a design focused on balancing cornering and braking with low rolling resistance. This tire is built using Continental’s Black Chili tread compound, a high-performance carbon polymer that provides great grip under high friction while reducing rolling resistance during everyday driving. These properties yield increased mileage as well as a smooth driving experience in both dry and wet weather, making the ContiSportContact5 a great choice of tire for any EV car.
The ExtremeContact Sport is another strong choice of tire for EV cars from Continental’s EV-ready range. This is a high-performance tire built around racing sensibilities, with chamfered tread blocks designed to increase road contact to allow for rapid acceleration and braking without compromising tire durability. Large macro shoulder blocks are used to improve handling at high speeds, and tuned performance indicators are printed on the treads in order to indicate when your tires are performing optimally in both dry and wet conditions. All in all, the ExtremeContact Sport is the tire of choice for drivers who are looking to get the smoothest ride and best performance possible from their electric vehicle.
Electric Car Tires FAQ
Do EVs need Special Tires?
In order to achieve optimum tire lifespan, maximum battery range, and smooth handling, EV cars do indeed require EV-specific tires. ICE car tires are simply not designed to support the extra weight of EV cars, and they would struggle to put up with the increased torque and stress associated with EV motors for any significant length of time.
Are EV Tires more Expensive than ICE Car Tires?
EV tires are generally more expensive than their traditional tire cousins, owing to the increased production costs associated with their design and the relatively smaller size of the EV market. As the EV market continues to expand, the price of EV and ICE car tires are likely to level out, with some manufacturers like Continental already merging their EV and ICE tires into one EV-ready range.
How much do EV Tires Cost?
An EV tire can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 and beyond, with the best EV tires attracting the highest price tags. As ever, there’s a big difference in cost between basic road tires and high-performance racing or all-terrain tires. In general, however, EV tires are now fairly affordable, with the difference between EV and ICE tire costs likely to shrink even further as the industry transitions.
Do EV Tires Wear Out Faster than ICE Car Tires?
Owing to the increased torque that an electric motor generates and the need for a very low rolling resistance, EV tires inevitably wear out faster than similar ICE car tires. A good set of EV tires is likely to last between 20,000 and 40,000 miles, while a similar set of ICE car tires might last anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. Still, you can rest assured that any good EV tire is designed around balancing longevity with performance, so all in all, a shorter lifespan is a worthy trade-off to make if you want to get the best out of your vehicle.