Back to news

What's the Most Important Thing to Remember When Selling EV Tires?

The key to selling replacement electric vehicle (EV) tires is first understanding the mentality of EV owners, says Ron Dolan, president of Sailun Tire Americas.

“The EV owner is a very different type of buyer than the regular car owner. These are people who might have bought their car online and didn’t go to a traditional (car) dealership. For the most part, they are first adopters of technology. They do a ton of research. They have figured out what’s important to them.”

And like owners of gas-powered cars, they’re looking for expert advice when it comes to replacement tire options. That’s why tire manufacturers say dealers need to have a thorough understanding of EV design dynamics, EV tire construction and how installation of the correct replacement tire can preserve - and even enhance - vehicle performance.

In this article, representatives from various tire manufacturers - including some that currently offer EV tires - weigh in with advice.

“Tire selection can change the personality of a car - giving it better handling, improved fuel economy or EV range, a quieter ride and greater comfort,” says Brad Robison, senior product manager, Bridgestone Americas Inc. “Choosing the right tire for the type of vehicle and the customer’s preference is important.”

Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president, automotive division, American Kenda Rubber Co. Ltd.: Although there are new aftermarket tires targeted specifically for the growing EV and plug-in hybrid vehicle segment, many of the tires currently fitted as original equipment (OE) on EVs are traditional grand touring, CUV or light truck tires that the original equipment manufacturer has sourced from (tire) manufacturers. The key issue that is most critical for EV vehicles is assuring that performance due to higher torque is accommodated. This will certainly affect the handling and expected wear on the majority of available vehicles currently offered by Tesla, Rivian, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Audi and Volkswagen, as examples. Although rolling resistance affects the expected distance driven for battery life, it is secondary to ensuring that the vehicle will perform properly and safely in the owner’s expected driving environment specific to that vehicle.

Robison (Bridgestone): EVs have a few very pronounced qualities that customers are likely to notice more than in a traditional car or truck - weight, torque, noise and range. EVs tend to be heavier, with greater and immediate torque, which can impact tire durability. In some cases, EVs can be considerably quieter on the road due to lack of engine noise - meaning that tire and wind noise become more pronounced to the passenger. And finally, as we continue to see strides in EV charging infrastructure across the United States, rolling resistance and a tire’s ability to maximize vehicle travel distance per charge can play a big role in a customer’s enjoyment of their EV. There are several ways to ensure that a customer drives away happily in their EV. And choosing the right tire for their driving style and vehicle type is a great way to make sure that each customer’s car is suited to their needs.

Michiel Kramer, general manager, consumer product marketing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: As with all vehicles, there are several parameters to keep in mind when considering tire replacement. Dealers should ensure the tire meets the vehicle’s size, load and speed requirements. It is also paramount to understand how the consumer uses their EV and their overall driving needs.

Chris Jenkins, programs and marketing manager, automotive division, Maxxis International-USA: There are several important points to keep in mind. First, be sure to match or exceed the OE tire load index recommendation. EVs are typically heavier than normal internal combustion engine vehicles. To avoid any issues of rapid wear or premature tire failure, you should recommend tires that can take the vehicle’s load and perform under heavier-stress conditions. For EVs, installing low rolling resistance tires is key to maintaining the vehicle’s range. Without the sounds made by an engine, road and tire pattern noise are more noticeable in the (vehicle’s) cabin, so tires for EVs should maintain low pattern noise throughout the life of the tire. EVs have instant torque as soon as you press the accelerator. This increases wear and tear on tires, which may be why EV owners have complained of OE tires wearing out faster than they expected. If your customer makes this complaint, recommend tires that maintain grip, but still have good tread life.

Aaron Neumann, product development manager, Nexen Tire America Inc.: The user should always be first. An EV still has to navigate the same roads and conditions as a regular vehicle and understanding what the user needs out of a tire is the most important thing - whether that be snow traction capability or mileage for someone who has a long commute. For the majority, EV owners prioritize range as the most important thing, so dealers should consider a tire with the lowest rolling resistance. However, you also have EV customers who own performance EVs like the Porsche Taycan and want to maintain high levels of steering and handling performance. This means they will need a very specific ultra-high performance tire. At the end of the day, the average EV driver wants the same things out of a tire as anyone else - safety, traction, good mileage and good value.

Steve Bourassa, director of products, Nokian Tyres Inc.: While there are many important factors to consider - such as noise level and the tire’s ability to handle the added torque generated by an EV - one factor impacts EV driving more than any other: a tire’s rolling resistance. EV drivers crave consistent, efficient range

for each charge, especially since the charging infrastructure is still spotty in many areas of the United States and Canada. Inefficient tires can lead to suboptimal or unpredictable range and even situations where drivers might find themselves stranded.

Ian Coke, chief technical officer, Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: In our view, the most important thing a tire dealer should consider is the consumer. OE tires and especially those on EVs have been specifically designed for that vehicle, considering a wide number of criteria focused on safety (load and speed) range (rolling resistance), handling and noise. However, consumers may weigh these attributes differently and while replacing with the OE fitment will replicate the (vehicle’s) performance, this may not always be in line with specific user requirements. This is mostly true when looking at trade-offs between range and wear. Another important thing a tire dealer should keep in mind when replacing EV tires is mileage. EVs consume tires faster than an internal combustion engine vehicle due to generally higher vehicle weights, larger amounts of instantaneous wheel torque and the increasing push toward lower rolling resistance. Noise also is very important. One of the biggest differences consumers notice when stepping into an EV is the immediate lack of engine noise, which amplifies the importance of tires. When the tire is the only major source of noise in a vehicle, it needs to have a properly tuned pattern and a well-damped cavity - often with foam - to maintain the quiet ride expected by the end consumer. 

Jared Lynch, director of PLT sales, Sailun Tire Americas: EVs come with a lot more torque power and are a lot heavier, so the construction of the (EV) tire is slightly different, but very critical for performance. Number one, it has to carry the load of the vehicle. That’s of the utmost importance. So many EVs, when they came out, were high-horsepower. So what we’ve seen tire manufacturers do is take max-performance summer tires and apply them to EVs. Fast forward and it’s not that simple. There are different types of EVs now. There’s not just one cookie-cutter Tesla. Plenty of people are buying (EVs) as daily drivers.

Anthony Lee, manager, technical services, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: The required load carrying capacity and OE manufacturer load inflation pressure requirements are important for EV fitments. This might sound like a fundamental issue, but batteries add weight and original equipment tires for EVs will require extra-load (XL) or reinforced tires and some could be equipped with high-load capacity-rated tires. XL or reinforced tires are designed to carry higher loads at higher inflation pressures and it’s important for retailers to properly recommend tires that are designed to handle the higher loads at the higher inflation pressures required for EVs.

Drew Dayton, senior product planning manager, consumer, Yokohama Tire Corp.: When replacing tires on any EV platform —-or non-EV platform - a tire dealer needs to understand the customer’s needs. Using the customer’s current tire experiences to set a baseline expectation can help a dealer pick the best replacement options. Questions (can include) has the OE tire met performance expectations? Did the OE tire last long enough? Is your current EV range a concern? Is the primary focus maximum performance, maximum range, maximum tread life or something in between? An EV tire customer has similar needs as non-EV customers. Some may prioritize range and rolling resistance above all else, while other customers will be interested in more balanced performance, with a tire that is fun to drive and lasts a long time.

Representatives from Hankook Tire North America and Michelin North America Inc. also provided advice. “The most important thing that dealers should remember is that the characteristics of EV and internal combustion engine vehicles are very different in regards to what they demand from their tires in terms of performance,” say Hankook officials. “Tires that are tailored to EVs have significant differences in how they are constructed and are expected to perform.

“There are several factors that are crucial to consider when developing these products, such as extra weight from the battery, increased torque and lower cabin noise, which are among the most notable factors to address. “Keeping these differences in mind, dealers will be able to provide guidance to customers that is far better-tailored to their needs and the needs of their vehicles.”

EVs “are heavier because of the weight of their batteries,” note Michelin officials. “To maximize battery life, EVs need low rolling resistance tires. “Lastly, EVs have higher and more sustained torque levels than combustion-powered vehicles.” 

Mike manges
Editor-Modern Tire Dealer