May 19, 2024

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A tale of two tires proves that electric vehicles are not rubber-eaters

A tale of two tires proves that electric vehicles are not rubber-eaters

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One thing I keep seeing in the EV FUD machine online lately is how terrible EVs are on tires. Because they're heavy and produce a lot of torque, they say, EVs go through tires much faster than ICE vehicles. The lifespan of tires continues to shrink as the story spreads, with the last one I came across saying they only last 15,000 miles. This latest exaggeration has one potential electric car buyer wondering if getting an electric car is a good idea, so clearly this kind of thing affects sales.

In this article, I want to tell a few tales about my experience with EVs and tires, starting with my most recent set of tires.

A tale of two frames (so far)

When my Bolt EUV had about 4,000 miles on it, I was thinking about getting something better for off-roading. I love walking on forest roads, but that often means that under the gravel there is sometimes a sharp rock that could destroy a regular tire on the street. I'm not trying to do Baja laps or anything like that, but the Michelin eco tires fitted to the car were definitely not ready to handle that, even at low speeds taking it easy.

First, I decided to ask them if they could let me test some Tweel prototypes. After all, no air means no pop! While some journalists had the opportunity to test drive the Tweels, a Michelin rep said the company isn't ready to let anyone take home a set. So, instead, he offered me a set of truck tires to test: the Defender LTX M/S. I gladly accepted, but I still had to pay for the mounting, balancing and road hazard warranty, as well as a full-size spare wheel.

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Although not designed for electric vehicles, LTX tires are designed to handle the increased torque numbers introduced in pickup trucks and SUVs in recent years. Although the power doesn't flow as quickly as an electric car, a late-model truck's turbo engine can still deliver some serious punishment on the rubber. If you stand on it, there's often some lag as air pressure builds, followed by a sudden burst of power once the turbo kicks in. This can be as difficult as an electric car, even if the effect is delayed.

Fortunately, I recently did my first tire rotation, so now I have a very convenient experience to share!

Here's the thing: The rear tires (Bolt EUV is front-wheel drive) were clean. Even though it had driven about 12,000 miles in the last year and a half, it looked like new. The tread remained almost full, and the little rubber bristles in the grooves were still there! But the front tires lost about half their tread. I readily admit that I was a bit of a pioneer, which easily explains it. But, if weight were a real factor, you'd think those rear tires would have some noticeable wear on them.

At this rate, I'll probably rotate again for another 12,000 miles or so when the tread becomes even again. After that, I'll get about another 12,000 miles before the tread wears down. At that point, I could have done another cycle and worn all of these items down to the wear bars, for a total life of about 48,000 miles. This is much more than 15,000 or even 30,000!

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However, it is easy to drive an electric car

When you ride an electric car, there are many psychological factors that affect the life of your tires.

Firstly, sudden torque can be a lot of fun! The Bolt EUV and other cheaper electric cars I've owned don't have a lot of torque and horsepower compared to a Tesla, but just saying it has 266 pound-feet of torque doesn't really give you a good idea of ​​what that really means as driving. The Bolt looks a lot like the older V8 from 0-30 mph, then a lot like a 4-cylinder from 45 mph and up.

But, in the city, it goes pretty fast from 0 to 30 mph, so you get a lot of snappy torque, have a lot of fun, and then pay for it at the tire shop later.

Another thing that plays against your tires is that you don't feel the need to worry about your complex combustion engine and transmission breaking down. Without all the moving parts, the chances of causing premature wear and killing your car by 100,000 miles are much reduced. So, the hesitation to have some fun is much less.

Finally, there are fuel costs. With an electric car, you don't get penalized at the gas station for driving too hard. Around town, your energy bill might go up by $5 or something, so it's hard to even notice when the power company sends you an unsolicited envelope in the mail. So, again, the hesitation to stomp on the skinny pedal isn't there like it is with a gas-powered car.

The truth is, if everyone drove an EV the same way they drove an ICE car, most EVs wouldn't show unusual tire wear compared to cars you've owned before. Heavier weight and faster torque means more wear, but not the kind of wear most people inflict on themselves.

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Electric cars have more torque, but they only produce as much as the driver demands with the accelerator.

The situation will also improve

Another thing that is changing is tire technology. As the LTX tires I test show, tire compounds are getting better at withstanding the extra torque that most newer vehicles have, whether ICEV or EV. And that will continue. Also, as tire manufacturers further improve the type of torque that an electric car produces, things will get even better.

But, in the long term, it is very likely that we will see runflat tires become the norm. There is too much demand for Tweels for the market to ignore it. Since they don't need to be compressed and deformed millions of times like regular tires do, it won't be a big problem to renew the tread of those tires over and over again. It may also be possible to use a 3D printing process that adds bespoke tread, or gives you a custom tread pattern to suit changing needs.

So, those of us who need a little more speed may be fine in the long run.

Featured photo by Jennifer Sensiba.

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