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EV Tires: 3 things dealers need to know about the evolving market

One of the most dominant trends in the auto industry is the increasing availability and adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). What began as short-range, expensive alternatives for a select few have now become ubiquitous on almost every car dealer’s lot, with automakers now offering a multitude of EV options for drivers. 

And thanks to a combination of financial incentives, government regulations and a growing demand from buyers, the wave shows no sign of stopping. By 2035, many car manufacturers have announced that they plan to go all-electric for their light-duty vehicle lineups and California will phase out gas-powered cars, while countries such as the UK and France will ban gas and diesel vehicles within the next decade. Combined with increased investments in charging infrastructure, the availability and convenience of EVs will only grow in years to come.

The shift to EVs means significant changes to the tires on which these vehicles rely. As tire manufacturers boost development and production of EV tirescar buyers now have a growing range of tires to consider as part of their EV purchases. 

Here are three things that car dealers need to know about EV tires, and how they differ from their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. 

Tiremakers are investing in innovative and varied product line-ups 

EV tires, like their ICE counterparts, aren’t one-size-fits-all;: they’re needed for everything from compacts to SUVs, sports cars to sedans. And so as the market evolves, the tire industry is making major R&D investments to deliver products that maximize the performance of different EV models. For example, Hankook has delivered tailor-made EV versions of its Ventus S1 evo 3 ultra-high performance (UHP) tires for a number of premium vehicle manufacturers

And with no signs of the EV revolution slowing down, the tire industry is working hard to stay ahead of drivers’ needs. That means developing tires for the emerging autonomous vehicle sector, widely predicted to be the next frontier for EV innovation, as well as implementing sensors and digital services that track road conditions and wear in real-time.  

Range and road noise drive the EV experience  

As a result of these investments, the widening range of EVs is now being matched by a diverse offering of EV-specific tires. Car buyers, particularly those entering the EV market for the first time, need to know how these tires differ and how they will impact the performance and comfort of their new EV. 

The obvious and most talked about feature of tires for EVs is road noise: the absence of engine noise means that small sounds are amplified, making a tire’s ability to quiet road noise critical to improving the driving experience. Engineers are finding creative solutions and borrowing technology pioneered by other industries to help reduce noises generated from road abrasions, such as “tire droning” that is especially detectable at highway speeds. While this requires a fair amount of R&D around material selection and manufacturing approach, it makes for an exciting time for the tire industry. 

Range is also crucial. EV charging has improved by leaps and bounds, but a flat battery is still more of an inconvenience than an empty gas tank – especially if the nearest charger is miles away. Rolling resistance is a major factor in a vehicle’s range – the lower a tire’s rolling resistance, the more battery power can be saved. Tires that feature a more rigid tread pattern and more prominent center section to compensate for weight distribution and higher friction contact point with the road, offer a more efficient and streamlined design, translating to lower rolling resistance and ultimately increasing an EV’s battery range potential.   

Features like grip, load-bearing and anti-static safety enhance performance 

Electric engines deliver maximum torque from the moment a driver steps on the acceleration pedalproviding significantly more acceleration than a typical ICE-powered car. That means EV tires need to offer a high level of grip. An EV tire’s width, compound and tread pattern should ensure optimal traction, steering and braking performance to compensate for increase in torque

Additionally, the battery in an EV often adds between 10 to 20 percent more weight than the equivalent ICE vehicle. As a result, EVs require greater load-bearing from their tires to withstand this extra weight and provide greater durability. And, those batteries also generate static electricity, which needs to be offset by an anti-static feature in the tires to prevent electric shocks, outages, and damage to electrical components in the vehicle. 

Dealers can help their customers select the right EV tires by providing a complete overview of how different features appeal to their needs as a driver. Point out the features available, why they’re important, and help them evaluate their priorities: some customers may wish to sacrifice performance for range, for example, so picking the right tire can vastly improve their experience

Electric vehicles represent a potential sea change in the automotive industry, the likes of which have not been experienced for the better part of the last century. That brings wide-ranging impacts not only to automakers but to the dealers on the frontlinesBy getting up to speed on what those changes mean for the tires they offer, and how tiremakers are evolving to meet these new demands, car dealers can continue to be a trusted resource for years to come. 

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Eric Shirley
Eric Shirley
Eric Shirley is the Vice President of North American OE sales at Hankook Tire America Corp. Eric has over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, where he has served in multiple sales positions throughout his tenure before joining the Hankook team in 2013.

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