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The Best Tires for Your EV Have 4 Unique Challenges

Electric cars punish tires like almost no conventional vehicle ever has.

This story is part of Plugged In, CNET's hub for all things EV and the future of electrified mobility. From vehicle reviews to helpful hints and the latest industry news, we've got you covered.

Electric cars need different tires for four reasons:

  • EVs can weigh a thousand pounds more so their tires have to shoulder that while still delivering good tread wear and not folding up when cornering. 
  • EVs torque their tires. A Hummer EV accelerates as fast as a Ferrari Roma while weighing more than two of whatever you drive now. Even the Chevy Bolt has the same torque as a late model V6 Mustang.
  • EVs are shrouded in our range neuroses, so their tires have to take part in extending range by using low-rolling resistance designs. 
  • EVs are quiet. When you get rid of engine noise, you start noticing tires noise in a big way. It needs to be minimal and tuned to be pleasant.  

That adds up to a triangle under tension, balancing grip for performance, low rolling resistance for efficiency and good tread wear for value. You can balance those, or you can decide one is more important to you and stretch out the equilateral triangle that way.  

Tire triangle of attributes

Tires have three main attributes you have to balance: You typically can't maximize all three at once. 

Brian Cooley/CNET

Specific EV tires are at a relative trickle now but a torrent of them is coming to remake tires in the biggest change since radial tires became popular in the 1970s.

The most recent example is Hankook's ion EVO AS tire which claims 25% higher lateral stiffness, interlocking sipes or tread cuts that are designed to let the tread conform to the road but not get bent out of shape under load, and a tuned tread pattern to reduce droning. Like many new EV tires there's also a thick band of noise absorbing material bonded to the casing on the underside of the tread.

Hankook iON EVO AS tire

EV tires have a wealth small details, not all outwardly visible, that deal with the very different world of driving a heavy, powerful quiet electric car.

Hankook

Goodyear has some similar techniques in its ElectricDrive tires as does Michelin with its Pilot Sport EV rubber and Pirelli with its Elect tires. Continental, however, seems to make a strong emphasis on tires that are well-suited to EVs but not exclusively. 

Which brings me to a key point: You don't have to put special EV tires on your EV, just quality tires that are the correct size, speed rating and load rating. Tesla Model 3 owners commonly report that their cars came with non-EV tires. EV tires, however, are likely an upgrade in many ways when you replace the original rubber, especially when it comes to noise control.

Related to the rise of electric cars is a new High Load or HL tire load rating that dovetails with the increased weight of cars with big batteries. 

Tire load table
Brian Cooley/CNET

HL tires can carry a higher load than the previous XL heavy duty tires, and at the same or higher pressure which helps reduce rolling resistance and keep the tire's shape during dynamic driving. The Lucid Air, for example, specs HL-rated Pirelli P Zeros as its OEM tires.

Further in the future are exotic ideas for EV tires like Goodyear's reCharge concept, which imagines you regrowing worn parts of your car's tire by inserting a cartridge of liquid material that's selected based on your climate or trip style.

In the meantime, you can deal with EV tire wear today by getting serious about tire rotation. It's always been important on combustion cars but it's vital on EVs since their driven tires receive so much more abuse and because an EV's heavier weight accelerates uneven wear when it starts. Don't buy an EV to save money only to throw away much of it on premature tire replacement.