Tires never seems to get their due. Sure, they're seen as obviously essential, but they stay out-of-mind for most drivers unless there's an issue. That's fine and to be expected, but the world of tire technology is actually a pretty fascinating place, and especially so if you drive an electric vehicle. Our very own Kyle Conner spoke with Goodyear CTO Chris Helsel and got some deep insight into the rubber that keeps you on the road and put together a little video for us.
Tire engineering is like conducting a symphony of compromises: many different qualities all have to be balanced just right to achieve the ultimate performance. In the case of electric vehicles, that means getting the best range possible, while still maintaining a safe level of grip under various environmental conditions and having a reasonably long tread life.
Our video here (above) takes a look at the most important characteristics a good EV tire needs, along with some of the other features that help the electric driving experience. Sound deadening is a prime example of a feature that's perhaps more appreciated by EV owners than others.
Without the drone of an internal combustion engine to drown it out, tires can have a very noticeable "boominess" to their sound. To address this, some manufacturers have a layer of foam of the inside of the tread.
Other considerations include weight. Rotational mass is something you want to keep as low as possible to reduce energy use, so manufacturers like Goodyear use special compounds to reduce weight.
Another key balancing act is that between traction and low-as-possible rolling resistance. Electric vehicles have a lot of torque and, depending on how sophisticated their traction control systems are, tend to want to spin upon take off. EVs can also be a bit heavier than traditional vehicles, so lateral grip is also important.
Range is all-important when it comes to EVs. So, while it's great to be glued to the road, drivers would also like to be able to travel as far as possible on a charge. Good grip requires rubber softness and the ability of the tire to flex as it deals with minute imperfections in the road surface.
On the other hand, to achieve low energy usage and longevity, a tire needs a certain amount of stiffness. The balance between these two factors is something tire companies continue to wrestle with, looking for innovative ways to affect one without affecting the other too much.
Perhaps the least-known bit of tire technology comes near the end of the video. Ever wondered how autonomous vehicles (AV) will deal with tire wear and its effect on performance? Watch as Kyle talks about the emergence of tread life sensors. Good nerdy stuff.
It's all pretty interesting and even if you're not a tire nerd, you may find our video surprisingly engaging. If you haven't already, be sure to tap that play button and get rolling.