When winter conditions complicate the driving experience, making sure drivers have the right tires on their EVs is essential for everyone’s road safety
It’s the time of year when colder temperatures and snowy and slippery roads mean drivers across Canada have visions of winter tires dancing in their heads.
The less-than-ideal driving conditions that occur across most of Canada for several months of the year make it a critical safety concern to put the proper tires on vehicles.
But if you drive an electric vehicle, the winter tire shopping experience is a little different than the tires for a combustion vehicle.
The short story is that EVs, just like those fuelled by gas, perform better during frosty months with tires made for winter conditions. But the catch is, EVs (ideally) shouldn’t be outfitted with any regular type of winter rubber.
EVs are heavier than combustion vehicles due to the weight of the battery. So, they require tires with more specific features — such as additional frictional grip — to maintain control when accelerating, steering or braking on icy roads.
The current market for winter tires purpose-built for EVs is limited, but there are some early market leaders manufacturing dedicated winter product lines.
As part of Electric Autonomy Canada’s EV tire guide, here’s a list of winter tires available in Canada designed for EVs.
Hankook, a South Korean tire manufacturer is hoping to do its part in advancing the mobility transition towards zero-emission vehicles in the tire segment. The company debuted its first winter tire, iON winter, in September as part of a new product line created especially for electric vehicles.
“Changing seasonal tires in good time avoids premature wear. With our iON winter, we are able to offer the right product to ensure drivers can switch to tires that are specifically designed for EV vehicles, even during the winter months,” says Sanghoon Lee, president of Hankook Tire Europe, in a press note.
The iON winter tires are designed to counter the added vehicle mass of EVs with a higher load-bearing capacity. The tire’s new thread compound features natural oils and high silica content to ensure durability and reduced rolling and wear resistance in low temperatures.
According to Hankook, the combination of these design elements will help boost range and provide EV drivers with a better driving experience compared to conventional tires.
The iON winter tires by Hankook have the company’s Sound Absorber technology and a unique tire pattern design to reduce the noise inside an EV. The tire pattern is also designed to reduce air resistance by minimizing air turbulence. This will, the manufacturer says, increase efficiency and range.
The iON winter comes in sizes from 18 to 22 inches but won’t be available in Canada until Q2 2023, confirms a spokesperson for Hankook in an email to Electric Autonomy.
If you live in Quebec and British Columbia, having winter tires is mandatory by law from around October to April, while throughout the rest of the country, they are recommended.
In light of these requirements, Pirelli created a few winter tire options in its existing EV lineup. Under its own line of Elect tires — made specifically for premium EVs — the Italian-based tire manufacturer offers Elect iterations of its Winter Sottozero 3, Scorpion Winter and P Zero Winter tires.
Each of these tires, which are all available in Canada, comes with a softer compound to allow it to deliver the necessary roadholding, traction and secure braking needed during below-zero temperatures when surfaces tend to have low grip, says the company.
The Porsche Taycan was the first vehicle to be outfitted in the factory with Elect-branded Pirelli tires. The P Zero Winter tires are available for the Porsche Taycan in 19-inch and 20-inch sizes and between 18-inch to 22-inch for all other car brands.
Nokian Tires, a Finnish tire manufacturer, is one of the industry’s leaders in developing snow tires. The company undertakes rigorous tests and authentication of its tires at its own winter tire testing facility in the Arctic Lapland region of Finland.
In 2021, Nokian introduced its flagship range of studded winter EV tires under the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 line. Within this product family, Nokian introduced the Hakkapeliitta 10 EV, a dedicated version for electric vehicles and hybrids.
When designing the Hakkapeliitta 10 EV, Nokian says it paid close attention to sound wave insulation. The company developed the SilentDrive Technology for the Hakkapeliitta 10 EV in order to achieve a low sound level by adding a layer of acoustic foam to the inner liner of the tire.
The Hakkapeliitta 10 EV is made with a stronger structure than conventional vehicle tires, giving the car greater stability, whereas the tread of the tire is built to endure heavy wheel loads and high torque.
In 2022, Nokian added the Hakkapeliitta R5 EV — built exclusively for electric vehicles — to its non-studded winter Hakkapeliitta R5 product line.
The Hakkapeliitta R5 EV tires come with several innovations, including double block grip, arctic grip crystals and SilentDrive technology to facilitate safe and comfortable driving during winter.
“The new tread pattern, along with amazing new innovations such as Arctic Grip Crystals and Double Block Grip design, have enabled us to dramatically increase winter safety and comfort — the most valued features of a non-studded winter tire,” says Samu Lepistö, Nokian Tires’ development manager, in a press statement.
“For the driver, this means balanced and predictable driving feel and less energy costs, as the rolling resistance has been lowered to provide even more sustainable driving.”
Both the Hakkapeliitta 10 EV and the Hakkapeliitta R5 EV tires are available for purchase in Canada.