Up until recently, car tires were designed with the performance characteristics of an internal combustion engine in mind. More specifically, they were engineered for powertrains where torque ramps up gradually once the tire is moving. The introduction of electric cars with insanely high and insanely instant torque figures is causing dramatically increased tire wear, and Goodyear figured that if it can make, then it can lick this problem.
Enter the EfficientGrip Performance with Electric Drive Technology concept tire, introduced at this week's Geneva Motor Show. This is the first car tire to be designed from the ground up (puns, right?) to be used on electric vehicles. To create the design parameters for this specialized bit of rubber, Goodyear listened to EV manufacturers to find out how best to optimize.
"The combination of increasing regulations to reduce emissions, the desire to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and rapid gains in battery technology is creating an ideal environment for electric vehicles," said Chris Delaney, president of Goodyear Europe, Middle East and Africa. "We are working with automakers to introduce our Electric Drive Technology next year designed to address the unique performance requirements of this growing vehicle segment."
The first part of the EfficientGrip Performance formula is increasing the tire's lifespan by changing the tread pattern. A standard tire can wear 30 percent quicker on an EV than on an internal-combustion vehicle, so putting more rubber on the road with a tighter tread pattern and using a harder-wearing rubber compound became the solution. Having a quiet tire was also very important, so minimizing the tread gaps where sound waves could bounce around was a side benefit.
Electric cars are heavy, typically much heavier for their size than a comparable gas- or diesel-powered car; this can also accelerate wear and hurt handling. Goodyear's solution to this was to change the shape of the tire cavity so that it was better able to support the additional battery weight without deforming and changing the contact patch.
Lastly, one of the biggest challenges that EV manufacturers face is the quest for more range without adding more batteries. One of the best ways to achieve this is by reducing a vehicle's drag coefficient and by lowering the rolling resistance of its tires. The EfficientGrip concept tire achieves both of these. Its tread pattern and compound were designed from the start with reduced rolling resistance in mind and Goodyear went a step further with an aerodynamically tuned sidewall that helps to smooth the often turbulent air inside of a vehicle's wheel well.
While the Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance tire concept is less futuristic than the Oxygene concept, it is also something that we can expect to see on vehicles in a year or two rather than in some distant, science-fiction future.