Are EV tires all marketing hype?

Are EV tires all marketing hype?

Tire manufacturers are taking different approaches to how they are marketing EV tires.

Tires wear faster on EVs as a result of the added weight of the vehicle and the near-instant torque provided by the all-electric drivetrain. Can tiremakers really combat this by tweaking the compounding or materials and putting an EV stamp on the sidewall of the tire?

The short answer: Yes! The long answer: Yes… but maybe we’re asking the wrong question.

Tires are complicated and offer endless varieties of combinations of cost, performance and longevity for all styles of vehicles and applications. On this episode of The Amped EV Podcast, Tire Review Editor Maddie Winer explains the attributes of a good EV tire, how much training tire shops need to handle EVs, and if the EV tire stamp is all marketing or if there’s more to it.

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Here’s a transcript of the show:

David Sickels: Hello and welcome back to the Amped EV Podcast. My name is David. I am the editor for The Buzz.

Maddie Winer: I’m Maddie Winer, editor of Tire Review.

David Sickels: Maddie, thank you for being on the show.

Maddie Winer: Hey David, I am amped to be here. I’m so excited.

David Sickels: I’m excited too, because tires are one of those components that is a major component that you have to keep in mind when you’re driving in the EV. You think, “Okay, there’s not any maintenance you have to do anymore. All that stuff’s out the window, oil changes, forget about them.” Tires though, a whole different story. And you, Maddie, are seeing that as you are traveling, you’re going all over the place, you’re going to dealer meetings, you’re going to the manufacturers, you’re seeing these tires being made specifically for EVs. So at this point, does every tire manufacturer have their own EV tire?

Maddie Winer: So, this is a really good question and the answer is no. It really depends on how the tire maker is dealing with this. A lot of tire makers I think right now are looking at their EV tire or looking at their tire lines or replacement tire lines and looking at the OE fitments that they do have and tire sizes and seeing, “Okay, how do we want to handle this?” You have companies like Hankook that have released their own EV tire and separate tire lines from their replacement tires. And then you have companies like Continental who are saying their tires, their replacement tires right now can be fitted on an EV, but it really just depends.

David Sickels: It depends on what they need, what they require. Whatever they’re looking for.

Maddie Winer: Yeah, what they choose as a priority, I guess I should say. So that could be range, that could be tread life, that could be durability, things like that. So yeah, there are different approaches that are being taken in the tire industry today.

David Sickels: So you’re seeing that Continental, for example, is saying, “We don’t need necessarily this EV designation for you to spec this tire on your EV. You can take any of our tires in any of our lines and put it on your EV and it’s going to work how you need it to, just based on the performance attributes that you’re looking for.”

Maddie Winer: Sort of. They are saying that, yes, you can take any of our tires and put it on an EV, but they’re saying that there are performance tradeoffs. So if you have a replacement tire, for example, Continental launched, I think it was two years ago, the DWS06 Plus, which is a UHP all-season tire, ultra-high performance. And that tire, for example, if you put it on a Tesla, I don’t know, whatever, they’re saying, yeah, that will perform. And that will perform with tread wear and durability, traction, all that stuff. But if you want more range out of your tires, they’re recommending dealers suggest that customers go with the OE tire and they do have OE tires that they work with all the OEMs, all the automakers, and have those sizes and those fitments for those vehicles.

David Sickels: Okay. So there are some manufacturers that have a specific EV designation stamped onto the side wall of the tire. So in Continental’s case, you don’t necessarily need to look for that, but having that will signify what to the customer?

Maddie Winer: So Pirelli has sort of an EV symbol, I guess on their side wall. Continental will have an EV check mark, and actually Continental told me that their executives that tires from now on that are being manufactured replacement tires will have that check mark. So signifying that these tires can be put on an EV.

David Sickels: Yeah. Kind of get rid of any confusion that, “Can I put these on my EV?”

Maddie Winer: Exactly. So Continental and Pirelli are doing that. That’s one way to signify to the dealer and to the customer that these tires can be put on an EV and they can withstand all the things that always EVs are different from ICE vehicles.

David Sickels: Interesting. Okay. So this is something that is a burning question.

Maddie Winer: Yeah, go for it.

David Sickels: Is the EV designation, is it really just marketing? Do you really need it? Can you really just spec any tire you want on your EV? I mean, what makes it important?

Maddie Winer: Yeah, that’s a really good question. A lot of dealers I talked to are like, “EV is this buzzword in the industry,” and some are nervous about it and some are like, “What’s going on? I want more info.” But EV tires are not a marketing tactic I would say from how I see the industry. There are advantages to knowing what tires can be fitted for an EV and dealers need to get educated on that. I’m sure you’ve talked about this on the podcast, EVs are heavier because they have heavier batteries, significantly heavier than ICE vehicles, which impacts the load-carrying capacity of a tire.

David Sickels: That makes sense.

Maddie Winer: Right. So dealers really need to pay attention to the tire’s low carrying capacity so that it matches the vehicle’s placard and all that information is determined by the carmaker. So low carrying capacity is the big one. Also, tread wear, EVs have pretty much instant torque. And so learning about the technology that goes into the tire, how tire makers are working with OEMs and really looking at tests and what the manufacturer’s message is around that certain tire line, I think is really going to be important for dealers down the line.

David Sickels: So if I am a customer and I choose to put a tire on my EV that maybe it doesn’t have the correct load capacity, that is a safety issue at that point.

Maddie Winer: 100%. Yeah. Safety issue. I mean that tire could blow out while you’re on the highway. Like geez, that’s crazy. And the dealer’s on the hook for that. It could also lead to just really increased tire wear. I know I was at a conference recently talking to a dealer and this dealer was telling me like, “Yeah, this guy is coming in, a customer to their store every three months to replace tires on his EV.”

David Sickels: Is that a typical story for EV owners?

Maddie Winer: It is, but it depends on the tires you’re using. I had this conversation with this dealer and said, “Well, there are EV tires. There are manufacturers that are labeling their tires for EV use or creating new tire lines for EVs and things like that.” And they didn’t know that. That’s why I think there just needs to be more education around the aftermarket for not only general repair shops, but tire dealers in particular that handle a lot of tire work.

David Sickels: Okay. So with these tire dealers, is this the proliferation of EVs, more EVs coming into their shop, is this a good thing for these tire dealers or is this something that tire dealers are worried about? Maybe they don’t know how to approach the topic and maybe they don’t have the knowledge they need to give the right information to the customer or the right equipment. Is it a good or a bad thing for your average, friendly neighborhood tire dealer?

Maddie Winer: Yeah, that’s a good question too. And that’s a tough answer because like I said, some tire dealers are really nervous about this of like, “Oh, EVs mean for me?” Other tire dealers are really digging into this technology and working with their manufacturer partners to see, “Okay, what technology do you have? What fitments do you have? Sizes? Load carrying capacities that can really handle the weight of these vehicles?” So is it good or bad? Hard to say. It kind of depends on who you are.

Something that I think I would stress is that, at least for tire dealers, EV tires are not something new that will change the way they sell a tire. For tire dealers, when you walk into a tire dealership as a customer, you want that dealer to ask questions about your driving style, your commute, and what performance attributes you find most important. So that type of consultation or conversation with the customer won’t change because you’re still going to have to know what the customer finds important, and that’s no exception with tires for EVs. So good or bad, I don’t know. Hard to say. But definitely, something that is just the next evolution for tire dealers.

David Sickels: And that makes sense. I mean it speaks to your point that you had made earlier where it’s more about what the customer is looking for, what sorts of attributes they are looking to get out of their tires. Not necessarily whether it needs to be that EV-stamped tire every time, but I mean if I’m a tire dealer and I’m having a customer come in every three months to buy a new set of tires, I think that sounds pretty sweet. I mean, I don’t know if that’s typical necessarily or not, but I mean that sounds like a pretty good money maker. I don’t know.

Maddie Winer: So yeah, it makes money, but you might not keep the customer and part of the job of the tire dealer is to recommend what’s best for the customer.

David Sickels: Yeah. If they have a good experience, they’re going to keep coming back just like anything else.

Maddie Winer: Yeah. The other thing I was going to say, too, about EVs impacting tire shops, and this isn’t just tire shops but general automotive repair shops as well, is for tire dealers, a lot of dealers in the industry split their business between 50% tires and 50% service. So a lot of them do service, whether it’s battery replacement or brakes, shocks and struts, things like that, a lot of under car work. And part of the service is servicing EVs, whether it’s looking at the battery or ADAS or something like that. So I think that for tire dealers, I think that is a big worry. I’ve talked to a shop in actually multi-location dealer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, McMahon’s Best-One, and they’re creating an automotive technology center that will dig into these types of topics and figure out, “How can our shop get the information from the car manufacturers and the vehicle itself to service these EVs that’ll eventually more and more be coming into the shop?”

David Sickels: Okay. McMahon’s I think is a great example of doing this kind of training right. As a tire dealer, do you need access to this sort of training facility, a massive training push to be able to service these EVs? Or are you kind of okay where you are, you can maybe watch some YouTube videos? What level do you need to be?

Maddie Winer: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of dealers are implementing formalized training. It doesn’t have to be in sort of a big scale like an automotive training center for a multi-location dealership, but you have people out there, organizations like the Tire Industry Association, ASE, Garage Gurus is a good one and a big one that if a tire dealer is interested or really a general automotive repair shop, if those owners are interested in training their staffs up on EV technology and how to service it, that training’s out there. Now, I will say some of the right to repair stuff comes into play here because data from the vehicle, depending on the manufacturer might not be available like the telematics data and stuff. But it also depends on how willing you are to seek that out and really find out what’s available. So yeah, I think training on the service side is going to be a huge part.

Obviously training on the tire side as well. But really McMahon’s told me, which I thought was interesting is training their technicians in EVs is a chance to upskill their workforce, so just add to the skills that they already have and maybe attract even different professions into the industry like engineers and things like that. So yeah, training’s going to be huge as this technology proliferates, as more people get EVs. Right now in rural areas, you’re not seeing a lot of EVs because of the range issue.

But there are a lot of different developments and infrastructures getting ramped up, which I know you’ve talked about probably on this podcast.

David Sickels: Yeah. A bit.

Maddie Winer: Yeah, exactly. So that could change, but training’s definitely important.

David Sickels: Excellent. Excellent. And that makes sense as far as being at… I mean, that could be a differentiator for you if you have an EV-trained staff and your competition doesn’t. As more and more EVs are hitting the roads, that’s going to be a difference-maker for a lot of people. They’re going to know, “Hey, you service EVs. These are the guys I talked to don’t and they’re going to be coming to you for the foreseeable future.”

Maddie Winer: Exactly. Yeah. And there are a lot of resources out there, and I would encourage tire dealers in embedded automotive repair shops, whomever’s interested to get in touch with vendors or tire manufacturers and really figure out what their stance is on EV repairs and tire recommendations and things like that.

David Sickels: Okay. So I have one last question for you. You had mentioned earlier about consumers maybe needing to buy new tires more often or really be keeping an eye on their tires when they’re driving an EV because of that added weight, that added torque, and things like that. Are tire dealers concerned that perhaps these consumers, these drivers might not be keeping up with these new tires or these not necessarily new tires, but the tires that they’re putting on their vehicles because they’re not used to it, they’re used to having that ICE vehicle where they get a certain amount of mileage from their tires, now they’re not getting that as often? Are they concerned that this might become a safety issue where whether you realize it or not, as the driver, you are choosing not to get new tires when maybe you need to?

Maddie Winer: Right. Yeah, it definitely is a safety issue. And I think right now, because sort of EV tires and this technology around them and the high load capacity, there are right now HL tires that are being introduced into the market that have higher lows that can handle the weight of the vehicle and also matching that load carrying capacity with the capacity on the vehicle. Those are the points that are really being communicated right now. And it is a safety issue. Dealers need to know that they got to pay attention to the load, they got to ask questions to their customers. So yeah, it is a safety issue. I think manufacturers are doing what they can right now to educate dealers and their staffs about it, but it really is the impetus on that shop to embrace it and figure out what message is each manufacturer that they’re working with telling them about their tire so that they can provide that safety and peace of mind to the customer that they have been for years.

David Sickels: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean safety, it just keeps coming up over and over again with EVs, whether you’re talking about the high voltage or tires and it’s interesting that if you don’t have the right training as either a tire dealer or a general repair shop, things could go south pretty quickly for you.

Maddie Winer: Yeah. Exactly.

David Sickels: So having that training in line, it just makes sense if you are going to… if it’s your goal to be ready for these EVs when they come into your shop, you’ve got to have the right training.

Maddie Winer: Exactly. 100%. Yeah, and that’s the main point. EV tires, what we call “EV tires”. As we said, there are so many different definitions of them, but they’re new to the market really. I mean, in the aftermarket, we’ve been seeing EVs for maybe the last five years, maybe a little bit longer. But yeah, this technology’s still really new, so awareness needs to be spread around what to do when one of these vehicles comes into your shop, both on the tire side and on the service side.

David Sickels: For sure. For sure. Maddie, thank you for coming in. I really, really appreciate it. This is super interesting.

Maddie Winer: Thanks. Yeah, I enjoyed it. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.

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