EV tire market evolves to meet driver demands

EV tire market evolves to meet driver demands

Dedicated EV replacement tires are optimized for range, tread life and reduced road noise.

As anyone working in the industry knows, tires can greatly impact a vehicle’s performance. This is true in one of the industry’s newest segments: tires for electric vehicles (EVs).

With more and more eco-conscious drivers making the switch to EVs, demand for dedicated EV tires is growing. As tiremakers work to meet market needs, they also must innovate to meet the demands of EV drivers, who seek longevity, responsiveness and a quiet ride — but most of all, increased range for their vehicles.

According to Jayden Lee, Pirelli Tire North America product manager, ensuring that EV owners achieve the factory-advertised range for their vehicle has remained the foremost concern for customers.

“As with any tire segment, whether for off-road or track performance, the desired application has an enormous influence over its engineering and development,” says Moonki Cho, product manager for Hankook Tire America. “For EV tires, the desire for increased range could be considered the impetus for development, along with supporting several other platform nuances around additional weight, power delivery, and ride quality due to the absence of an internal combustion engine.”

Brad Robison, senior product manager for Bridgestone Americas, says that the desire for increased range has prompted tire manufacturers to focus on lowering rolling resistance.

“Lower rolling resistance tires require less energy, which translates to improved vehicle efficiency and extended range,” he adds. “The trick is delivering that efficiency without compromising other critical elements of tire performance, such as grip in all weather conditions and wear resistance.”

Technology for extended range

The EV tire segment is no different than others when it comes to tiremakers having to balance elements of performance in order to successfully meet consumer needs. With range being a top demand, much focus is being placed on rolling resistance across many manufacturers.

“Using advanced materials with lower rolling resistance helps minimize energy loss and improve efficiency, thereby extending the vehicle’s range,” Lee says, adding that optimized tread patterns that reduce friction and drag can enhance efficiency without compromising traction and handling.”

EV tire weight reductions and specialized compounds also are being used to increase range.

“Developing lightweight tire constructions reduces rotational mass, which in turn enhances efficiency and contributes to increased range,” Lee says.

Regarding tread compounds that are able to meet targeted treadwear mileage, Cho touts Hankook’s iON product line, which features its EVolution Compound comprised of high-concentration silica and eco-friendly materials.

“These elements, along with Hankook’s optimized curing technology, are specifically tailored to increase an EV’s available battery range,” Cho says.

Similarly, Robison said Bridgestone’s dedicated EV replacement tire, the Turanza EV, features ENLITEN technology that incorporates new compounds and design features to help optimize all-season performance, provide longer wear life, and allow for the incorporation of renewable and recycled materials in the tire. One key feature is the PeakLife polymer, which focuses on improved wear resistance to extend tread life and deliver lower levels of rolling resistance for increased fuel efficiency.

The continuous application of high torque accelerates tire wear.

Meeting additional EV driver demands

In addition to increased range, tire features that are particularly desirable for EV drivers include a quiet ride, enhanced traction, extended tread life and smart tire technology.

Given the fact that EVS lack the inherent background noise of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, extra measures are needed in order to reduce road noise, according to Lee, who adds that Pirelli incorporates noise canceling technology inside the tire to diminish road noise being transmitted to the cabin.

“In the absence of engine sounds, tire noise is more prominent, accounting for upwards of 30% of cabin noise,” Robison says, adding that the Turanza EV offers little ribs between the tread blocks that break up the resonant frequencies of the tire for a quieter ride.”

Cho says Hankook’s iON line is equipped with knurling technology inside the tire grooves, which reduces tread pattern noise, while optimized multi-pitch sequencing and noise-absorbing material inside the tire cavity help to further reduce cabin noise.

“With a high instant torque, EVs provide ultimate power delivery,” Cho adds. “That means EV tires need improved traction, steering and braking performance to handle the vehicle’s output and high acceleration.”

The continuous application of high torque accelerates tire wear, according to Robison, who says, “Our research has shown that EVs go through a set of tires much more quickly than their ICE counterparts — as much as 30-40% quicker. With the Turanza EV, we sought to address this issue with advancements in materials science, applying the PeakLife polymer that dramatically extends the useful life of the tire while still delivering exceptional performance.”

Also contributing to faster tread wear is the fact that EVs have heavier lithium-ion battery packs, which can add 10-20% more weight and stress to load-bearing components across the chassis compared to their ICE-powered equivalent, according to Cho.

“To account for this additional weight, an EV tire must be built with new materials, such as a new tread compound or a reinforcement belt applied with Aramid fiber, as seen in our iON evo summer tire,” Cho says.

Finally, EV drivers seek a degree of smart tire technology, according to Lee, who says, “Integration of smart tire technologies that provide real-time monitoring of tire pressure, temperature and wear is increasingly sought after by EV drivers. These features enhance safety, optimize performance, and contribute to overall vehicle efficiency.”

Servicing EV customers

When it comes to being successful in the EV niche, tire dealers need to be knowledgeable about product offerings, as well as end-user priorities.

It’s important to keep in mind that although EV tires resemble traditional radial tires, there are significant differences in how they are constructed and expected to perform, much like the vehicles they are fitted to, according to Cho.

“With EVs increasing in popularity, dealers need to expand their understanding of consumer tire expectations to factor in these new priorities,” Cho says. “Above all, however, dealers should take every opportunity to provide a complete explanation of the different and unique features of EV tires and understand where their priorities lie. A performance EV owner, for example, could prize range and road noise as important features, but may not be willing to sacrifice as much grip and control. Conversely, drivers of entry- and mid-level EVs might rank these unique characteristics as highly as value and reliability.”

Robison says that at this early stage in the EV revolution, one of the biggest challenges facing dealers when speaking to customers is simply education.

“One of the first challenges is educating an EV customer on why they should even consider an EV-dedicated tire versus a standard touring tire,” he says. “Because EVs have unique performance characteristics, it’s important they understand how that impacts the way tires are designed, developed and manufactured. Not every EV buyer is going to necessarily seek out a dedicated EV tire, but to achieve optimal performance for these types of vehicles, we believe EV tires are the customer’s best option.”

After that, it becomes a matter of educating customers on the key differentiators among EV tires in the market today and why they might consider making a change from their OE fitment.

“We all know that the EV audience is extremely passionate about their vehicle choice, and the tire plays a critical role in its performance,” Robison says. “With that, it becomes even more important that dealers can speak to how today’s dedicated EV tire options address the issues that are most top-of-mind for this audience: wear life, mileage range and a quiet ride.”

Dealers should be prepared to discuss tire technology and design as they pertain to features for lower rolling resistance and increased vehicle range, as well as robust construction and high treadwear ratings to ensure durability and longevity, according to Lee.

“Ensuring that replacement tires are the correct size and are compatible with the customer’s EV model is essential. Dealers should have access to detailed vehicle specifications and tire fitment guides to provide accurate recommendations,” he says, adding that dealers also should educate customers on best practices for EV tire care.

“Providing information and guidance on tire maintenance, proper inflation and rotation schedules is essential for maximizing tire lifespan and overall vehicle performance,” Lee says.

At this early stage in the EV revolution, one of the biggest challenges facing dealers when speaking to customers is simply education.

EV tire market expectations

When considering investments in training and inventory of dedicated EV replacement tires, dealers can rest assured that the segment is poised for growth — so preparing now could result in a boost to their bottom line for years to come.

“According to IHS, new electric vehicle sales are projected to be 11% of vehicles in 2024, with that figure jumping to 28% in 2027,” Robison says. “A key objective for us is to help expand the appeal of EVs as an essential part of our effort to promote sustainable, low-carbon mobility. Our first dedicated EV tire, the Bridgestone Turanza EV, launched in the U.S. last spring and marked an important step in our journey promoting sustainable mobility.”

While recent years have brought both challenges and opportunities for growth in the segment, at the core of everything is consumer adoption, according to Cho.

“As the technology becomes more ubiquitous and supporting infrastructure matures, we look forward to seeing continued consumer adoption across the space,” Cho says. “In the past few years, there have been many promising market opportunities as additional vehicle segments (CUVs, SUVs, trucks and sports cars) are becoming increasingly electrified. This allows us to broaden our overall EV offering.”

As passenger car and CUV/SUV EVs continue to grow and expand market share in the U.S., popular pick-up trucks in EV variants are beginning to enter the market, according to Lee. Consumers of these new trucks will need tires that handle the unique demands of their vehicle and EV tires that can go off-roading while also maintaining range and treadwear.

“We see strong growth in the next five years for EV pickup trucks, which will surpass the passenger car EV segment in the long run,” Lee says. “The CUV/SUV market will continue to be the largest sellers in this segment, similar to their ICE counterparts. Also, the expectation in the upcoming years is to start seeing EV sports cars become more mainstream, so consumers will demand a UHP tire that is designed for performance and range.”

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