EVs are changing up the auto industry in numerous ways, but tires are still just tires, right? That's not necessarily the case, as highlighted by a recent Automotive News report. Tires designed for specific automotive genres (sedans, SUVs, etc) usually perform best in those areas, but tire manufacturers are essentially looking at EVs overall as a genre that requires special attention
That's because there are factors unique to electric vehicles that can affect tire performance and longevity. For example, the report highlights power delivery, and it's not just about having gobs of horsepower or torque. Rather, it's about electric motors sending that power to the tires instantly. Obviously, flooring the accelerator with such power underfoot sends the tires up in smoke regardless of electric or combustion power. But under normal driving conditions, how does that instant hit of torque affect tire performance and wear?
Weight is also a factor, as batteries and electric motors are making vehicles heavier. This isn't necessarily an EV-specific issue, but it still requires tire manufacturers to rethink the process. Tires for small ICE hatchbacks with certain load ratings may not be appropriate for small electric hatchbacks carrying more mass. Rolling resistance is also important, finding a level of grip that offers a good combination of efficiency and traction.
And then there's the question of tire inspections. Without the need for regular service intervals, tires on EVs will likely see fewer inspections by professionals over longer periods of time. The average driver may not know what to look for in terms of wear or possible damage.
As such, tire companies aren't just developing new types of tires. They also need new ways to collect data for both development purposes and advanced driver alerts. According to Automotive News, this goes far beyond monitoring tire pressure. The report states major brands like Continental, Goodyear, Michelin, and Bridgestone are working on advanced sensors that can also keep track of temperature, potential punctures, and provide alerts to drivers if there's an issue. Beyond that, Goodyear is developing a system that can estimate road friction, essentially recording tire grip and communicating that to the driver.
Similarly, the report also mentions a company called Tactile Mobility that is working on a virtual system to provide accurate real-time reporting of tire conditions. This includes everything from pressure to temperature, wear, balance, grip, and potential faults.
Whether or not that system comes into use soon remains to be seen. But there's no question that tire companies, like so many other manufacturers these days, are rethinking how best to move forward in an increasingly electric world.