Does Your Electric Car Need New Tires?
Electric cars are gaining more and more acceptance in the marketplace. The advantages of going electric are clear: driving emissions-free significantly reduces your carbon footprint; electric cars offer superior performance and quiet to gasoline vehicles; and you could save thousands of dollars a year on fuel. So, it’s no surprise that more and more Americans make the switch every year.
Indeed, with electric vehicles having been on sale for over a decade, and more models hitting showroom floors over time, many electric car drivers have now accumulated a lot of mileage.
Electric cars promise almost no mechanical maintenance, as there are no oil changes to deal with, and electric cars have far fewer parts and things to go wrong. In time, you may need new wiper blades and a few minor things, but even brake pads might last 200,000 miles thanks to the advantages of regenerative braking.
One area, however, where electric cars do require attention – and often more attention than gasoline vehicles – is tires. If you drive an electric car, you may find yourself wearing out tires a lot faster than you were used to with a gasoline vehicle – and spending a bit more on each set of tires. Why is that?
More Regular Tire Replacements
The major reason that electric cars require more attention to tire is their combination of weight and performance. On the one hand, electric cars can be anywhere between modestly and significantly heavier than their gasoline equivalents, putting more pressure on those hand-sized patches of rubber that connect them to the road. The average electric sedan could weigh around 5,000 pounds – a thousand pounds more than an equivalent gasoline-powered one, and electric SUVs with all-wheel drive and off-road capability might weigh even more.
Second, EVs produce significantly more torque than gasoline-powered vehicles. When you press on the accelerator pedal in an electric car, the motor’s full torque is deployed instantly to the wheels and tires – which is what gives them that wonderful, responsive feel. But that instant response is also harder on tires. Performance electric cars – and there are many of them – will also have tread that is designed for acceleration and high-speed cornering, to let drivers take advantage of their incredible abilities. Which is great, but further reduces the life of the rubber.
You may, therefore, find yourself replacing your tires on your electric vehicle more frequently than you’re used to – but you’ll still be racking up savings in other maintenance costs.
Wait, Electric Car-Specific Tires?
When the time comes to replace the tires on your electric car, you shouldn’t just install the cheapest set of tires in the right size. Doing so might, at the least, impact your electric car's performance and its range, and in the worst case, can also impact your vehicle’s safety.
The most important thing to consider is that tires are designed, rated, and certified, to support a certain weight, so carefully research your options and find a tire that will support the weight of your vehicle. The original-equipment tires that came on your electric car will likely have an extra load (XL) rating to indicate they are designed to withstand additional weight, and the higher forces that an electric drivetrain will put through them. Tires with a higher weight rating will wear out a bit faster, but their improved support will keep you safe.
For an electric car, you also want to make sure you get the most energy efficient tires possible. The factory tires fitted to most electric vehicles are generally “low rolling resistance,” and feature materials and designs to improve their efficiency in every situation. A low rolling resistance tire may cost a bit more up-front, but will improve your electric car’s range, and keep it within the manufacturer’s advertised spec.
Also, because electric vehicles are so silent, many manufacturers fit tires with noise-reduction technology. For example, some Tesla models come with Michelin tires that advertise “acoustic tech” – a fancy name for a foam insert on the inside of the tire designed to soak up road noise. Tires with sound-deadening capability won’t improve range or performance, but you might want them because one of the best things about the electric car driving experience is the calm and silence.
Of course, splurging on a full set of tires with these features might cost you $1,000 – or a lot more depending on tire size and the performance of your vehicle. The easiest thing to do is to fit the exact same tires as the originals – your electric vehicle will therefore perform exactly as advertised.
But what if you own a less-expensive electric car, or are running a used electric car on a budget? If you have an older Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, or Hyundai Kona, you might not want to spend that much on replacement tires. There are very few aftermarket EV-specific tires available so far, so if you want to save, you may have to give up some range or performance.
Don’t Forget to Rotate
Once you’ve installed your tires, don’t forget to rotate them regularly if your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends it. Many electric cars are front- or rear-wheel drive with a single motor, and that motor’s torque will wear out the tires on the drive axle much faster. Even all-wheel drive models generally put more of their power through the front or rear wheels. Normally, a dealer would rotate your tires when you bring your car in for an oil change or other service – but you won’t be doing that with an electric car.
Of course, some vehicles, such as some Audi, Porsche, and Tesla models (amongst others) have different-sized tires on the front and rear, so you won’t be able to rotate them.
If you are not going to a dealer, many tire centers offer free lifetime rotation on tires that you install, so that may be worth looking out for. But you’ll still need to remember to check your tires and make a visit!
You’ll Still Save in Service and Fuel
Finding the right set of tires for your electric car at the right price might be a little more complicated than for a gasoline vehicle, but it’s worth the effort. You’re going to want to preserve all of the characteristics that make an electric car great – the instant acceleration, the smooth, silent ride, and the range that was advertised by the manufacturer.
Even if you find yourself shelling out a little bit more on tires, you will still pay much less for other regular maintenance than you would with a gasoline vehicle. And having the right set of tires on your electric car will also help you maximize range (and your savings compared to driving the same distance using gasoline).
The tire manufacturers making OEM tires for electric cars, like Pirelli, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin and others – are starting to work on creating more aftermarket replacement options specifically for electric cars. Like everything else in the electric car space, things are evolving rapidly, so keep following GreenCars for the latest news!