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Electric vehicle tires and what you need to know

Blue Jaguar I-Pace Compact Luxury Electric CUV Plugged Into Electric Charger
Last updated 10/14/2022 - Originally published 9/23/2020
Written by SimpleTire

The history and evolution of electric vehicles

It’s easy to think that the electric car is a relatively new advance, but that’s not correct. Electric vehicles actually date back well into the 19th century, long before internal combustion engines had been developed for cars. The earliest weren’t much more than a motorized wagon or stagecoach, but they were quiet, easy to drive, reliable (compared to earliest gasoline-powered vehicles, anyway) and didn’t emit smelly exhaust. Before long, Porsche had developed a hybrid gas/electric vehicle (in 1901!) and Edison put his efforts into improving battery technology; by the 1910s, electric vehicles accounted for a third of all the vehicles on the road.

By the ‘20s, however, electric vehicles were suddenly taking a backseat.

The Model T took the automotive world by storm as a cheap, rugged, reliable mass-produced vehicle. Oil was plentiful, gas was cheap and gas stations were everywhere, so most drivers didn’t even see the point of an electric vehicle.

Then, the early ‘70s oil embargo and spike in gas prices happened, and suddenly electric vehicles were making more sense to people again. General Motors launched an electric car project and a few boutique automakers introduced electric models as well, but these early electrics were slow, with a very limited range. They were perceived as not much more than a glorified golf cart; the electric’s time still hadn’t come.

By the ‘90s, GM introduced their EV1 experimental model and Toyota rolled out the first Prius model. Battery technology research kicked into high gear, and by 2006 Tesla hit the market with electric vehicles that were sophisticated, fast, comfortable and loaded with innovations. Fast-forward another decade and a half, and electric charging stations are a lot easier to find, battery technology is giving electrics far better range, environmental concerns are a lot more urgent and every major automaker has electric models either in development or in showrooms.

It may still be some time before internal combustion engines go the way of the dinosaur and the dodo, but it’s clear that’s where things are headed. Electrics may still be prohibitively expensive for many people, but think about how much a 55” TV cost in 2005 vs today. As with every new technology, the economy of scale kicks in, manufacturing processes improve and the price of that new tech tumbles.

Just like with any other vehicle, tires for EV’s are custom-designed with special considerations in mind:

  • Electric vehicles are heavier thanks to their battery packs, with different weight distribution; their tires need to be able to handle not only the added weight but the inertia and momentum that comes with braking and cornering with extra weight.

  • EVs can provide near-instantaneous torque, and rubber formulations and tread patterns need to take that into account.

  • Many EV tires include a foam inlay in the casing or other features that can help keep highway noise to a minimum.

  • Engineers and designers look for every way they can to squeeze a little more range out of an EV, including weight reduction and aerodynamics, and low-rolling-resistance tires can have a big impact on extending range.

Then, of course, the tires have to be designed around the performance expectations, preferences and driving style of each type of driver. And in the end, the tires have to still deliver the kind of ride quality, handling, road manners, speed rating, traction, braking performance and responsiveness that drivers have become used to over the decades. The sidewalls, belt package, tread design, rubber formulation and construction/manufacturing methods all receive a lot of scrutiny in this design process.

We’ve pulled together some great suggestions for tires for EV’s, with an eye on the type of tires drivers have become used to over the decades.

Electric vehicle passenger and touring tires

If your driving is mainly commuting, errands and the like (and you’re driving something like a Fiat 500e or Nissan Leaf), passenger or touring tires are likely to be a good fit for you. They can deliver the kind of ride quality, traction and low noise you need, with a good treadwear warranty and great handling. Some of our recommendations include:

Electric vehicle performance tires

If you keep up with such things, you no doubt know that EVs like the Jaguar iPace, Tesla Model X and Porsche Taycan deliver absolutely blistering performance, rivaling or beating their internal-combustion counterparts. The same considerations come into play as with any ultra-high-performance tire: high-speed stability, traction for cornering and braking, rubber compounds that resist overheating and an aggressive tread pattern that can keep you on track in wet or dry weather. A high-performance EV needs a set of tires that are up to the job, and some of our recommendations include:

Electric vehicle low rolling resistance tires

As we mentioned above, low rolling resistance tires can give you a little bump in range for your EV since less energy is expended to get it down the road. That’s not the only bonus of these tires, though; many use rubber compounds that incorporate citrus oil and other ingredients that are more environmentally-friendly. Since you’re already concerned enough about the environment to be driving an EV, this is another bonus point for low rolling resistance tires. If you’re looking for this class of tires, we’d recommend:

Electric vehicle winter tires

If you live in an area that sees a lot of snowfall and tough winter weather every year, winter tires are a must-have. Winter tires are designed with deeper tread, a more-aggressive tread pattern with more open space to clear out snow and slush from the tread and a network of sipes, tiny hair-thin slits that boost traction by adding hundreds of extra biting edges. In addition, the rubber formulation of a winter tire is designed to stay flexible at subfreezing temperatures to conform to the road surface (think of a rubber-soled shoe vs a hockey puck on snow or ice). Some of our favorite winter tire recommendations for an EV include:

Electric vehicles serviced by SimpleTire

At SimpleTire, you can currently find EV tires that are a perfect fit for the following vehicles, with more being added all the time:

There’s no question that electric vehicles are going to be the predominant wave in the auto industry in coming years. As we all make that shift over to electrics, SimpleTire will be there to help you out with the tires you need for your EV.

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