Do Electric Vehicles Need Special Tires?

CR’s expert weighs in on what you need to know about EV tires

Ford Mach E Mustang TIre Photo: Ford

When transitioning from a gas-powered car to an electric, there are some differences in how they are maintained, including tires. One of the questions that is commonly asked when it comes time to replace tires on an EV is whether electric vehicles need different tires than gas-powered cars. 

“EVs are heavier vehicles, and the tire industry is starting to adjust to these weight increases,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports’ tire program leader. “There’s a new load range of tires called HL, which stands for high-load capacity tires. These tires can carry a heavier load at the same tire pressure as traditional tires.”

The on-demand torque in an EV also requires better traction because the tires are grabbing the road surface and causing a lot of friction during that initial acceleration. EV specific tires are optimized to maximize grip and reduce wear.

“Developing a tire specifically for electric vehicles requires a number of considerations you do not encounter when working with internal combustion engines,” said Ian Coke, chief technical officer at Pirelli North America. “Electric vehicles are heavier, have more powerful and faster acceleration off the line, and require lower rolling resistance.”

Rolling resistance refers to the friction when a tire rotates, and it directly impacts the range the vehicle can travel. The powertrain in an electric vehicle is very efficient compared with a traditional engine. It’s just an electric motor spinning a wheel, and because of that, the rolling resistance becomes even more important in these cars. That resistance accounts for about 16 percent of the total energy used. 

Another factor is road noise. EVs are known for being very quiet vehicles, and EV-specific tires are designed to minimize road noise. Using a standard tire on an EV might result in a louder in-cabin experience than if you used the same tire on a gas-powered car, where tire noise would be masked by engine and wind noise.

Tire maintenance is going to be about the same with an EV as with a gas-powered car. You should check your tires each month to ensure that they are properly inflated. Also inspect for cuts, cracking, and any other type of damage. One area to pay particular attention to is tread depth, because EVs tend to wear tires quicker due to the cars being heavier.