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Want More Range, Better Handling in Your Electric Car? Look At Your Tires

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Leaf Tires

Leaf Tires

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What turns an electric car into a great electric car? 

Ask most people, and they will list features like a powerful electric motor, good range and comfortable seats.

But these things are set at the factory, long before you even step inside your car. 

What about things you can do improve how your car handles and feels after it rolls off the dealer lot? 

Tires, tires, tires

Often overlooked, the tires on your electric car not only help you achieve maximum range, but also help give your car its handling and performance characteristics. 

Like most new cars, electric cars tend to ship from the factory with general all-round or energy-saving tires from brand-name tire companies. 

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Wheel Cap

2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Wheel Cap

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Designed to offer moderate to good performance, with a slight positive bias towards energy efficiency, these tires will perform adequately in most situations. 

High performance

As CarAndDriver found out in July however, all-round energy-saving tires often trade grip and performance for energy efficiency, making them less than ideal for fast track-driving.

In an extensive test, the auto magazine took a stock 2012 Nissan Leaf to see what the effect of changing its stock eco-tires for more performance oriented ones would be. 

The goal? To make the all-electric Nissan grip the road as much as a Porsche 911. 

By replacing the stock Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 low-rolling-resistance tires with a set of barely-legal BFGoodRich G-Force R1 performance tires, CarAndDrive transformed the Leaf’s original 0.79g grip into a much sportier 0.96g.

As it noted however, those tires, while great for racing-line grip, would make driving in wet weather more than a little scary.

Grip, performance, or range

The better the tires grip, the more energy is used to move the car along. 

In an electric car, that can drastically lower range. 

Similarly, tires designed to be more energy efficient than your electric car’s stock tires may let you travel further on a charge, but at the sacrifice of grip and roadholding. 

That might be great in the summer, but in winter weather you could find yourself struggling to keep your electric car under control.

Multiple sets

If you regularly take your electric car to track days, or live somewhere with extremes of winter or summer weather, you may want to consider getting a second pair of tires.

By keeping a winter and summer set -- or by keeping a trackday and regular road set -- you’ll find you can get both good range for long-distance summer trips or general driving, great grip in the winter, or awesome track-day handling. 

Or shop around

If you only need -- or want -- one set of tires for your electric car, you may be able to find a set that gives better efficiency or grip than the stock set.

But be warned: there’s no such thing as a perfect tire, so ask around other electric car owners to find out which tires are best for local weather conditions and roads.

Your recommendations?

Have you replaced your stock electric car tires? Which tires did you buy, and why? 

Let us know in the Comments below.

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Comments (10)
  1. Actually a rather interesting lesson (for me anyway) about tires.

    However, what I really want to know is are there any more efficient tires available.
     
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  2. There is always a tradeoff between traction/grip and fuel efficiency. Another factor is "wear". Performance tires are sticker/softer than average tires, so they wear out quickly and uses more energy.

    @John Biggs, You can always go "skinnier" in tires and find ligher version. It will save your fuel, but it will ruin your handling, performance, braking, and potentially handle less weight as well.
     
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  3. Sorry that I spelled your name wrong. I can't go back and edit it or deleted it... We need that feature in the comment section.
     
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  4. Before changing to skinnier tires, you have to check if it is legal to do that in your jurisdiction. If you live where I live, there are strict rules on changing tire sizes and it is different in each state. I'm not sure what happens if your car's mods are legal in one state and you drive it to another state where it is not legal.
     
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  5. Tires make a big difference. Michelin is another brand that makes low rolling resistance tires. They are OEM on the Porsche Panamera Hybrid. I think Pirelli has the Cinturato P7 Summer as it's Eco tire and I think they have more.
    Continental have the ECOplus range of tyres and the Eco Contact 3.
     
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  6. The other thing that makes a difference are wheel bearings.
     
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  7. The Goodyear Assurance FuelMax tires on the Chevy Volt have very good traction, dry, wet, and in snow or ice, as well as low rolling resistance. I recommend them for increasing efficiency and range of any car.
     
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  8. well nice.
    but whats about tire pressure? increase it!
    whats about light rims? alloy rims are usually heavier than steel!
    steel rims and aero cover! Wheelspeed on top is twice than vehiclespeed!
     
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  9. Alloy Rims are lighter:
    http://www.ehow.com/about_5316116_steel-wheels-vs-alloy-wheels.html
     
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  10. Josef:

    Increasing your tire pressure can lead to unpredictable handling, as well as premature tire wear. It will give you better economy, but does have its downsides.
     
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