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From tyre designers to rubber compounders, from government regulators to automobile manufactures, they have a challenge in their hands: finding the ideal tyre to drive electric vehicles. Everyone agrees that there is a need to have dedicated set of tyres that would ensure the safety and comfort of EVs while delivering greater mileage at lower energy consumption. For tyre designers this is an issue that they grapple with while looking for new materials and formulations to make the tyre that delivers optimum performance at the most competitive cost. Manufacturers are seeking ways to make tyres that are suitable for different road terrains and weather

TA News Bureau

Tyre is the Achilles’ heel of electric vehicles (EV). It plays a critically important role in safety and comfort. It needs to be specifically-designed taking into consideration the many parameters – from weight to propulsion noise.
In the recent past, EV tyres have begun to roll into the market in large numbers as electric mobility is getting a boost. EV-designated tyres are designed to survive a lot more hostile situations compared with the internal combustion engine-driven vehicles.

As EVs carry heavy batteries – weight of such vehicles are 20-30 per cent heavier – the tyres have to withstand such extremities with the electric engine delivering instant torque that could cause undue pressure on tyre structures.
Such extreme EV behaviour will take a heavy toll on ordinary tyres that lack many specific requirements for electric propulsion. Inappropriate tyre inflation pressure and temperature variations can affect drive performance.

It is generally noted that tyres for EVs tend to result in tougher ride, undermine handling with the centre section tread and inside edge wearing off quickly.
As electric vehicles gain traction, it is Norway where all eyes are on for it is the country that is ahead of others in driving electric mobility. There are lessons to be learned from this country where for the past few years EVs are being widely used in urban traffic.

It is estimated that there are over 40 000 EVs in that country which has a population of just over 5.35 million. It has become a laboratory to improve electrification of mobility. There, 15 per cent of all new vehicles sold are EVs. There is a proactive government policy to encourage EV use such as no tax, free use of taxi/bus lanes, free parking and free charging of batteries.

There the most popular EVs are Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, VW eGolf, VW eUP!, BMW i3 and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. These vehicles are fitted with special tyres that increase the driving range because of their characteristic low rolling resistance (RR).

Tyre designers find that to achieve the exacting parameters for a typical EV tyre, they should work to narrow the width while increasing the tyre diameter. It also requires taking into consideration all aspects of EV use by optimising the tyre tread, etc. Besides non-emission, the other gains included greater reduction in tyre noise.
For engineers the greatest challenge is to produce low propulsion noise emission-optimised tyres that would traverse different road surfaces while offering energy reduction.

European Union, which has mandated tyre labelling to help consumers in making their product choice, is working with researchers and manufacturers to develop a system in EV noise impact and energy consumption through monitoring and low RR of EVs.
Most tyre designers take cue from the European project FOREVER (Future OpeRational impacts of Electric Vehicles on European Roads). The project that ran from 2013 to 2014 provided a mine of information on EV’s noise impacts to design noise prediction models.

This work would help formulate propulsion noise level assessment to develop tyre labelling to help government regulators assess energy efficiency, safety in wet braking conditions and exterior rolling noise. FOREVER project’s contribution in tyre development attempts is laudable in the context of growing population of EVs the world over

According to researchers the challenge that they face is to strike a balance between grip and rolling resistance. That demands getting down to discovering the secret of getting the right sizes of the individual block and groove.

China’s domination

At a time when global demand for EVs is growing because of greater awareness about green mobility and sustainability, the demand for specifically-designed tyres is set to go up. It is estimated that there are more than three million EVs on the road right now and sales are growing at close to 75% a year.

For tyre makers the switch to specifically-made tyres for EVs would be rewarding for the total cost of ownership of EVs will fall below that of a combustion-powered vehicle. It is forecast that global sales would touch 41 million—a 25 per cent of total market share by 2040.

According to McKinsey, the EV revolution would be led by China. Already its market has expanded by 72 per cent over 2017. It now has a larger EV market than Europe and the United States combined. With a sales share of around 94 per cent, domestic OEMs currently dominate the Chinese EV market.

The reasons cited for this sterling growth are the government’s initiatives in offering generous subsidies on the back of tightened pollution regulations. Moreover, like in Norway the government offers attractive subsidies. Vehicle buyers can now get green licence plates for their new energy vehicles (NEVs) and enjoy preferential treatment.

Countries like India are joining the growing EV bandwagon. New Delhi has announced plans to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2030. It is working on building charging infrastructures with offers of EV tax incentives. Although the EV-adoption rate is less than 1 per cent and domestic OEMs are just starting to launch EV models, McKinsey thinks India’s EV market is on the way to gather greater momentum.

In other words, the market for EVs is growing not only in China and Europe, but also in other fast growing countries such as India and Brazil. This will accelerate the market for specifically-designed EV tyres.

Leading in the race is a clutch of tyre makers, including Michelin, which has come out with Energy E-V promising a 20 per cent lower RR and 40 per cent less interior noise. Continental is offering Conti.eContact which claims to incorporate all the necessary characteristics such as minimal RR, low noise emission, and an aerodynamic sidewall.
Goodyear’s prototype named EfficientGrip Performance with Electric Drive Technology has many novelties. Joining the race are other top tyre makers such as Hankook and Bridgestone.

There is absolutely no going back on EVs as light-weighting, reduction in battery weight and price drops are rapidly happening. There is no doubt that EVs are getting traction since reaching the milestone of one million sales in 2017 .
With government pressing the pedal offering greater incentives to green mobility, both tyre and vehicle manufacturers are ramping up production. EV tyre makers are on a roll.

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