DETROIT — The coming GMC Hummer EV weighs more than 9,000 pounds and can reach 60 mph in about 3 seconds.
The twin electric motors in the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT make more torque than a diesel-powered Ford F-150 and can propel the 4,500-pound vehicle to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.
Tesla's Model S Plaid can reach 200 mph and hit 60 mph in less than 2 seconds.
All three deliver torque numbers usually associated with high-output diesel-powered trucks, and they all are shod with tires created specifically for electric vehicles (EVs).
In the EV era, almost no part of the automobile will go unchanged — including tires. With more than 100 electric-driven models scheduled for launch in the next few years, tire companies are under pressure as they wrestle with conflicting demands for a new generation of tires.
In the EV era, tires must provide much more than traction and safe handling in all weather conditions, experts said. To help vehicles use energy efficiently and provide a refined ride, next-generation tires will have to be:
- Able to withstand instant, massive torque from electric motors;
- Lightweight to improve range between charges;
- Designed to deliver very low rolling resistance to save energy;
- Capable of running quietly because there's no traditional engine to mask noises;
- Capable of containing sensors to help self-driving vehicles react faster to changes in the road surface; and
- Affordable, durable and reliable.
According to those familiar with the subject, these new tires need to be stronger to handle increased vehicle weight and substantially greater torque created by electric motors, while at the same time have to be made as light as possible to help EVs drive further between charges.
They also will need to provide greater grip to keep the vehicle stable during hard acceleration, but the tread patterns will have to be quieter and generate less friction, or rolling resistance.
In addition to handling greater torque and higher loads from electric powertrains, tires on vehicles that will have some autonomous driving features are also going to be collecting and transmitting information.
"What you are starting to see is intelligence coming. So, think about a tire that is sensing something and telling it to the car or telling it to you on your app," Steve Rohweder, vice president of technology development at Goodyear, said.
"Maybe it is simple stuff, like it needs to be inflated, but maybe it is more detailed information, like the tire is worn out. Or maybe it is information about the road and the fact that the traction has gone away or something the car needs to know to operate in the safest condition," he said.
"We do a lot of work there with sensors and integration with the vehicle. As you start to move towards an autonomous vehicle, where there is not a human and a steering wheel, those systems have to handle what the human was doing before."
France's Group Michelin is looking beyond pneumatic tires and has developed the Tweel, an integrated airless tire-wheel hybrid that someday could replace the classic rubber tire.