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Evolution of the EV

Autosphere » Tires » Evolution of the EV
Electrified commercial trucks hit our roads. Credit: Canva

Tire manufacturers are planning ahead as electrified commercial trucks hit our roads.

As an industry, we know that electric vehicles benefit from tires made specifically to handle their extra weight and torque, while delivering better rolling resistance and a quieter ride. The same can be said about electric commercial vehicles, and the more of these vehicles we see on our roads, the more tire manufacturers will have to cater to the needs of this new market.

Growth in key sectors

That said, we’re not expecting a mass exodus from gasoline and diesel into electric trucks. “We’re seeing a growing demand for EV-specific tires,” says David Du, VP of Engineering, Technical Support and Sales Support at Huayi Tire Canada, “but it is slow-growing. Today, it’s mainly in the regional, last-mile delivery sector.”

Johnny McIntosh, Senior Director of Commercial Services, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company agrees. “We are seeing more fleets explore and adopt commercial electric vehicles (EVs), especially in the last-mile delivery, light-duty and regional, medium-duty space,” he says. “Last-mile delivery and regional fleets are ideal for electric vehicles, in part due to the short routes and the return-to-base model at the end of each day.”

EV vs. “regular” tires

On the consumer side of the tire market, we know that although electric vehicles can drive on “regular” tires, EV-specific tires are more suitable, since they are designed with key attributes in mind.

So does this mean that electric commercial vehicles needs special tires too? Can they run on “regular” truck tires? “Yes, they can,” says Huayi Tire’s Du, “but a regular tire isn’t designed for the many demands that an EV vehicle creates. Eventually, users will require EV-specific tires.”

In other words, just as electric cars benefit from tires made especially for EVs, so do electric trucks. “EVs require tires that can handle more weight and higher torque that internal combustion engine (ICE) tires,” explains Goodyear’s McIntosh. “However, regardless of drivetrain, the tire technology and features and benefits should be designed to increase efficiency.”

With that thought in mind, Goodyear has already started engineering tires that meet these needs. “Last year, for example, we introduced the RangeMax RSD EV, our first electric vehicle-ready tire for regional fleets,” McIntosh adds. “RangeMax RSD EV is a specially designed regional drive tire engineered for ultra-low rolling resistance to promote energy efficiency, regardless of drivetrain.”

In short, the right tires can boost efficiencies and cut costs for fleets, whether they’re running gasoline, diesel or electric trucks. “Having tires with the flexibility to handle the extra torque and battery weight of EVs, and lower rolling resistance and fuel efficiency for ICE vehicles should be the aim of every fleet manager,” Mcintosh says. “It is important to build a tire program that features current technology and tire products that deliver higher energy efficiency than traditional tires for gas- or diesel-powered vehicles.”

EV tire availability

While we’ve seen many tire manufacturers offering EV-specific tires for passenger vehicles, the commercial tire space isn’t there just yet. Likely, that’s due to the fact that electric commercial vans and trucks haven’t been on North American roads as long as consumer EVs have. Nonetheless, as we look ahead to the next five years, we’re likely to see more electric trucks on our roads, which means we’re also likely going to see more commercial truck tires coming to market to cater to these needs.

Currently, companies like Huayi Tire offer EV tires for commercial vehicles, but only for inter-city bus fleets. Other brands, like Goodyear, are a bit more ambitious.

The Goodyear RangeMax RSD EV and the Endurance RSA ULT are both stamped with Goodyear’s “Electric Drive Ready” badge, certifying to fleets professionals that these tires have been engineered to handle the torque and higher load capacities that some fleets need when transitioning to electric vehicles. “Our growing mix of Electric Drive Ready tires are for long-haul, regional, super-regional and medium-duty fleets,” McIntosh adds.

The right tires can improve battery life due to lower rolling resistance, explains Al Eagleson, Segment Manager, Commercial Tires at Sailun Tire Americas. “Sailun has recently released tires in all of our commercial truck tire brands that use EcoPoint3 (EP3) compounds that are produced using liquid phase mixing,” he adds. “This mixing process allows materials, like silica—which helps reduce rolling resistance—to disperse better in the rubber compound producing improved rolling resistance in our tires.”

While some tire manufacturers have eagerly jumped into the EV commercial truck market, others seem to be dipping their toes to see how things go, while others still seem to be doing their due diligence to figure out their next steps.

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