Electric Cars & Wheels: 12 Common Questions (Answered)

As an owner of an electric car, you might have noticed the wheels on them differ from the wheels on gas cars.

The shape, quality, size, and other features of electric cars come with such differing specifications from gas cars that may leave you with many questions.

To answer these questions concerning the wheels on electric cars, we have curated answers to 12 of these common questions. Hopefully, while you read along, most of your questions will get the clarity you seek through this article.

How Are Wheels on Electric Cars Different?

The requirements for wheels in cars are different in the specification for the car’s design and components. However, wheels play an important role in a car’s performance. Electric car wheels are different so they can match the characteristics of the car they carry, which differ from that of gas cars.

One of these characteristics is the weight of electric cars. Electric car wheels have to handle more weight compared to internal combustion engine cars. This weight is owing to the heavy batteries they have compared to gas cars’ petrol engines.

So far, the weight of the battery in electric cars is the cause for the 10% to 30% extra weight the wheels carry compared to regular cars.

According to Bryan Cooley, an electric car expert, a Tesla Model S long Range weighs 510 pounds more than a BMW 450i XDrive. Meanwhile, a Chevy Bolt weigh 829 pounds more than Nissan Kicks, among others.

To carry the weight, tire manufacturers built electric car tires with stronger construction and more robust compounds of tires. This extra effort makes it possible for the tires to match the weight of the car and perform to expectation.

Also, to reduce as much road noise as possible, the tires of electric cars have to differ.

This is the reason the wheels on your electric cars have specialized threads to cut down on noise. Some even have foam lining in their interior cavity to reduce the noise and maintain a quiet ride while on the road.

To enhance the durability of the tire, electric tire manufacturers include provisions for specific compound components that do not feature in regular tires.

These components are raw materials that include high-loading resin, among others. As a result, stronger tire compounds lead to durable tires, which enhance the performance of electric cars.

Electric cars also need more traction owing to their powerful performance from the start of the ride. Thus, tire manufacturers designed electric car tires with certain stiff and wide pattern features in the ribs. This helps withstand high instant torque and prevents slippage and hydroplaning.

Can You Use Normal Tires on Electric Cars?

You can use normal tires on electric cars. However, we don’t recommend this. This is because your electric car needs special tires specifically designed to work for its higher power output. 

While you can get a normal tire for your electric car, note that this may affect your driving experience negatively. The extra weight on electric cars alone places excess stress on the tire. Thus, electric tires have to be strong to maintain the pressure under the load they carry.

Regular car tires are not designed to support the weight of electric cars, and installing one on your electric car will negatively affect your driving experience.

Also, the extra driving pressure electric cars have can increase the rolling resistance of the tire, which can affect your driving experience negatively. Your electric car needs a tire that has low resistance to minimize your car energy usage, and normal tires cannot offer this.

Another important reason we don’t recommend a normal tire is an electric car’s ability to manage noise depending on the make of the tire. Manufacturers designed electric car tires with noise canceling technology you will not find in normal tires.

Also, note that the tread pattern and the rubber compound of your electric car tires play an important role in traction. As manufacturers didn’t design regular car tires as electric car tires, their ability to grip the road surface in electric cars will not be firm as electric car tires.

Why Do Electric Cars Have Ugly Wheels?

Wheels contribute to the aesthetic of a car, but this is not the case in electric car wheels because manufacturers prioritize the wheel’s overall performance over looks.

The styling of electric cars is basically about meeting expectations in performance, as most manufacturers cannot combine looks and performance in their tires. While going for looks, they will have to sacrifice either the safety, range, speed, or quality of the tires.

Thus, the need for ugly and well-performing wheels over good-looking and poor-performing wheels.

Manufacturers specifically engineered electric car tires to withstand the weight of the car, optimize the range by decreasing the air drag, optimize durability, and, in some tires, house the components for regenerative braking.

However, if you don’t like the wheels on your car, some options offer better looks to choose from. However, we advise electric car owners should prioritize excellent performance over good looks.

Why Do Electric Cars Often Have Bigger Wheels?

Electric cars often have bigger wheels because of the need for better handling. Car manufacturers perform extensive tests on the best wheel size for vehicles before keeping the bigger wheels on them.

Electric car wheels have to be the best at offering a firm grip and stability, especially when cornering. This is the reason they installed the bigger wheel in your car. However, electric cars with smaller wheels have more range than bigger wheels but at the expense of grip.

In an Engineering Explained video, while comparing the effects different wheel sizes have on range, the presenter explained how bigger tires have a much lesser range than smaller tires. Using tires with the sizes 205mm and 305mm, there were only 1.7 miles decrease in range over 200 miles of driving.

However, while comparing Tesla Model 3 wheels, the difference between 18-inch wheels and 20-inch wheels range was about 15% miles. The 18-inch wheels offer 40 miles more range on a drive of 75 miles per hour.

While bigger wheels may not offer a better driving range, they are efficient for having better contact and stability when driving. 

Why Do Electric Cars Have Steel Wheels?

Over the years, steel wheels have had the potential for durability and dependability over alloy wheels. Electric cars carry extra weight gas cars don’t, thus these cars need strong wheels to carry their weight.

The lightness of alloy wheels is why they are not suitable for electric cars. Instead of going for alloy steel, which is prone to dents and cracks, electric car manufacturers employ steel wheels for their weight-carrying capacity and durability. Which is good for maintaining proper tire pressure.

Also, electric cars have steel wheels because they offer better traction and are easy to control. This gives them the ability to help manage the extra weight that comes with cars when driving. Also, these steels are easily repairable compared to alloy wheels.

Do Electric Cars Have Motors on All Wheels?

Most electric cars don’t have motors on all wheels owing to many factors, one of which is weight.

Electric cars have enough weight to handle even when they do not have motors on all wheels. While this can help distribute weight better, still, including motors on all wheels increases the overall weight of the vehicle.

Also, while four motors on all wheels can provide more control, controlling four motors when driving is more complex than controlling just one or two motors.

However, depending on the type of wheel drive, most electric cars have only one or two motors that manufacturers install on either the rear, the front axle, or both.

The rear-wheel drive will have the motor in the rear and the front-wheel drive in the front. Only the all-wheel drive can have two motors, one on each axle.

What Makes the Wheels Turn in an Electric Car?

The motor turns the wheels in an electric car. Plugging your electric car into a power outlet to charge stores energy in a rechargeable large traction battery pack.

The battery pack then powers the motor, which turns the wheels in your electric car when driving.

When driving, putting the car in gear and pressing the accelerator pedal will move the car only when the electric motor functions and turn the wheels.

However, for the electric motor to function, it must get the power from the inverter which converts the DC (Direct Current) power it gets from the battery to AC (Alternating Current) power.

To control speed on the wheels when driving, pressing the accelerator pedal signals to the inverter, which adjusts the vehicle speed through the wheels by changing the frequency of the AC power from the inverter to the motor.

When drivers press the brake, the motor turns to an alternator and produces power which goes back to the battery.

Why Can’t the Wheels Charge Electric Cars?

There are claims that wheels in electric cars can charge the cars through wheel rotation. Others propose the wheels can charge electric cars when manufacturers add an alternator to them, while some proposed some kind of generator to be added to the wheels.

However, adding a generator to the wheels to charge electric cars can’t work.

Using the law of physics, Climate Feedback stated that wheels charging an electric car through a generator breaks the law of conservative energy, which states that we cannot create or destroy energy, instead, we can only convert it from one form to another.

Confirming this is the fact that the wheels on electric cars can only convert from electrical to mechanical form, but can’t produce energy just as the law stated.

Also, the wheels have to produce more energy than it receives to charge your car battery. However, electric car wheels can’t produce any energy let alone make enough to charge a car battery.

The proposition to add an alternator to the wheels to charge electric cars cannot work. This is because they don’t have engines as alternator gets their power from mechanical energy, which combustion of fuel creates.

However, charging the electric car through wheel rotation is possible through regenerative braking. But this only works when driving up higher slopes.

Related: 11 Reasons Electric Cars Look Different & Weird (Or Even Ugly)

Do Electric Cars Wear Out Tires Faster?

Electric cars wear out tires faster than the tires of regular cars. So far, there have been reports that electric cars wear out tires 20% faster than gas cars. This is owing to the weight and the instant torque acceleration of the cars.

Electric cars come with an extra load that affects the tire. The tires of these cars are not only carrying the load of the car but also the extra weight from the battery. This weight has a direct impact on the tires of EVs and can cause them to wear faster than the tires in gas cars.

Also, the driving pressure from the instant torque acceleration takes a toll on the tires. During instant acceleration, the force motors produce goes directly to the wheels of the car.

The force causes such high friction on the tires against the road surface that it affects the durability of the tires. Instant torque accelerations causes even gas car tires to wear out faster.

Do Electric Cars Have Spare Wheels?

Spare wheels are not common in electric cars to save weight and space. Most electric car manufacturers will rather offer roadside assistance and not spare wheels.

However, few electric cars still come with spare wheels. They include the Ford F-150 Lightning, the 2o21 Hyundai Kona, and others. While very few of these cars come with full-size tire spare wheels, others have smaller spare wheel sizes compared to the original wheels. 

Also, the spare wheels in electric cars can’t replace the original wheels for long miles. Most car manufacturers only installed spare wheels for drivers to use for a temporary period.

Related: Do Electric Cars Lose Battery While Parked? (Checked)

Can You Do Burnouts in an Electric Car?

You can do burnouts in some electric cars and not others. Just like in regular muscle cars, you can keep some electric cars stationary and spin their wheels until the tires rise in temperature and smoke. 

One of these vehicles is Tesla’s Model S. In a video of Road and Tracks, the Tesla Model S delivers a lot of power that made it burn in the 21 seconds clip.

Also, while the car tire was delivering a lot of smoke, it maintained an indistinct sound. The car has received comments about being the car that offers the quietest burnout ever.

Also, the Kia Niro EV can do a burnout.

So far, there are very limited electric cars that can do a burnout. However, some electric cars have the option to disable the traction control so drivers can do a burnout.

Related: Electric Cars Are Safer On The Road (6 Main Reasons)

Is It Possible to Drift in an Electric Car?

It is possible to drift in an electric car. Drifting is more dependent on the driver’s skills and not on the car’s ability. Any car can drift so far that it meets the physical requirements to do so, including your electric car.

However, for cars to drift, they mostly require rear-wheel drive. This is because the engine delivers its power to the rear wheels of your car. While the rear wheels push the car forward, drivers use the front wheel to steer the car.

Drifting is all about the sport and the excitement that comes with it. With instant torque acceleration, electric cars can drift without delay. Also, the weight of electric cars gives them more ground power that enables them to maintain steering control under intense driving conditions.

While drivers need to be careful while drifting, it is also essential to note that some electric cars can drift better than others. However, make certain the electric car you are drifting meets all requirements and is safe.

According to Car and Driver, so far, an electric car, Porsche Taycan, driven by Dennis Retera in Germany, has set the world record for the longest drift in electric cars in 2020.

The car drifted for 26.2 miles without fault. validating it is very possible to drift exceptionally in electric cars for miles just fine.

Sources

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