India’s electric vehicle frenzy has made tyre makers rush back to the drawing board for designing and developing new EV-specific tyres that can withstand the load of the batteries, last longer and be pocket-friendly, else it can become the second biggest cost factor for the owner, after the battery itself.
EV tyres need to be different from regular tyres in weight, tread pattern and the materials used for production as the torque experienced during acceleration and braking is different from that of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, said senior executives of India’s top tyre-producing companies.
Talking to BusinessLine V K Misra, Technical Director, JK Tyre & Industries, said, “With the engine, transmission and differential not there, we assumed the weight of the EV to be lower. But because of the massive weight of the battery, an EV is heavier than an ICE vehicle.”
So, an EV has a much higher torque level on the contact area of the tyre. This leads to faster wear and tear of the tyre. Therefore, to increase resistance, the tyre needs to have a different kind of structure, material and compounds which will be less resistant to sudden accelerating and braking.
“A normal car tyre in an EV will have a lower life. The tyre’s rolling resistance has to be lowest for which more silica is needed. While more silica means better traction, it leads to more wear and tear. We are also exploring using new materials so that the weight can be controlled. All this though, will make the tyres expensive,” Misra added.
Because of the absence of a combustion engine, an EV makes negligible noise compared to an ICE vehicle. The only noise from an EV is that of the tyre’s contact with the road surface.
“The noise level is very low in an EV. The tyre noise in such a situation becomes predominant. Therefore, a new tyre design is needed which will offer much less noise but be able to handle higher weight of the vehicle,” Misra added.
JK Tyre and Industries has invested approximately ₹50 crore so far on EV tyres including development, testing and tooling. The company has secured orders from JBM and Olectra for tyres meant for electric buses and its tyres are under consideration at Tata Motors (commercial vehicle), VE Commercial Vehicles and Ashok Leyland.
As per initial industry estimates, EV tyres can be anywhere between 15 per cent to 40 per cent more expensive than regular tyres. While there are several electric two-wheeler options available in the market, at present, India has a limited number of electric four-wheeler options.
Arnab Banerjee, Chief Operating Officer and Wholetime Director, CEAT, said, “Cost of EV tyre development is high. If the battery is in the undercarriage or in the rear, then torque requirement is high and the compounding and pattern needs to be different. The initial cost is very high.”
For EV solutions, the RPG Group-controlled CEAT is tapping into its German research centre which employs experts from other tyre brands. The company claims to have a market share of 60 per cent in the electric two and three-wheeler tyre market.
“We can supply to Tata Motors, MG Motor if we get their approval. We are supplying to Hero (Electric) and testing with Ola (Electric). Even if Tesla comes (to India), we will be able to make a pitch,” Banerjee added.