A tale of two tires proves that EVs are not rubber eaters

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One thing I keep seeing in the online EV FUD machine lately is how terrible EV tires are. Because they are heavier and they generate a lot more torque, he says, EVs go through tires much faster than ICE vehicles. As the story spreads the estimated lifespan of the tires goes down, recently I came across a quote saying they only last 15,000 miles. That last exaggeration left a potential EV buyer wondering if it was a good idea to get an EV, so clearly things like this affect sales.

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

A tale of two tires (so far)

When my Bolt EUV had covered about 4,000 miles, I was considering something better for light off-roading. I love going on forest roads, but that often means there is sometimes a sharp rock under the gravel that can take out a normal road tyre. I'm not trying to do a Baja run or anything, but the Michelin Eco tires on the vehicle were certainly not designed to handle this, even at low speeds I was taking it easy .

Initially, I decided to ask them if they could let me test some Tweel prototypes. After all, no air means no pop! While some journalists have had the opportunity to test the Twills, a Michelin representative said the company is not willing to let anyone take the set home. So, instead, they offered me a set of truck tires to test: Defender LTX M/S. I gladly accepted, but I still had to pay for a wheel with its own mounting, balancing, road risk warranty as well as a full-size spare.

Despite not being designed for EVs, LTX tires were designed to deal with the increasing torque numbers pickups and SUVs have seen in recent years. Although the power doesn't come on as fast as an EV, a late-model turbocharged truck engine can still take some serious punishment to the rubber. If you're standing on it, there will often be a brief lag as the air pressure builds, followed by a sudden burst of power as the turbo spools up. It can hit just as hard as an EV, albeit with a delayed effect.

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

The thing is: the rear tires (Bolt EUV is front wheel drive) were ancient. Despite traveling nearly 12,000 miles in the last year and a half, they looked new. Almost all the movement was left, and the little rubber whiskers in the groove were still there! But the front tires had lost half their speed. I readily admit that I'm a bit of a leader, which easily explains it. But, if weight were a real factor, you'd think there would be some noticeable wear on those rear tires.

At this rate, I'll probably move again in the next 12,000 miles or so when the tread becomes even again. Then, I'll go about 12,000 more miles before the walking wears off. At that point, I could take another round and wear them all down to the wear straps, for a total life of about 48,000 miles. That's a lot more than 15,000 or even 30,000!

However, it is easier to push an EV

When you get into an EV, there are a lot of psychological things at play against your tire life.

First of all, sudden torque can be a lot of fun! The Bolt EUV and other cheap EVs I've owned don't have much more torque and horsepower than the Tesla, but just saying it has 266 lb-ft of torque doesn't really tell you what it really is. . Like driving. The Bolt is a lot like the old V8 engine with 0-30 MPH, and then like the 4-cylinder at 45 MPH and above.

But, in the city, you do a lot of 0-30 MPH, so you get a lot of that sudden torque, have a lot of fun, and then have to pay for it at the tire shop later.

Another point against your tires is that you don't feel like you have to worry about a complex combustion engine and transmission breaking down. Without all the moving parts, your car is much less likely to wear out prematurely and last 100,000 miles. So, there's very little hesitation in having some fun.

Finally, there is the cost of fuel. With an EV, you won't be penalized at the gas station for driving hard. Across town, your electric bill may be $5 or so, so it's hard to even notice when the electric company sends you an unsolicited envelope in the mail. So, again, there's no hesitation to step on the thin pedal like there is in a gas-powered car.

The truth is, if everyone drove EVs the same way they drive ICE vehicles, most EVs wouldn't see abnormal tire wear compared to the cars you already own. Heavier weight and faster starting torque will mean more wear, but not the kind of wear most people are causing themselves.

EVs have more torque available, but they only produce as much torque as the driver demands from the accelerator.

The situation will also improve

Another thing that is changing is tire technology. As I've been testing these LTX tires, tire compounds are getting better at handling the extra torque in most new vehicles, ICEV or EV. That will continue. Furthermore, as tire manufacturers adapt even more to the faster torque produced by EVs, things will get even better.

But, in the long run, we'll likely see airless tires become the norm. The demand for twills is so high in the market that it cannot be ignored. Because they don't need to hold pressure and deform millions of times like normal tires do, those twills will have much less of a problem getting re-inflated every now and again. This may also be possible using a 3D-printing process that adds treads on demand, or gives you a custom tread pattern to meet changing needs.

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

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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