Why Do Teslas Require Special Tires? Here's The Explanation

Although electric vehicles only represented 5.8% of all car sales in the United States for 2022, that's an impressive 65% increase over the 3.2% of car sales that EVs logged for 2021. According to automakers, that number could explode to more than half the new vehicles sold by 2030.

Certain aspects of EV car ownership will be a new experience to a majority of drivers, such as range anxiety, the different types of charging stations, and what type of connector is compatible with your new vehicle. But did you know that some EVs also require special tires?

Tesla, which sells nearly two-thirds of all EVs domestically, specifically recommends Tesla-approved tires, which can be identified by an alphanumeric designation on the tire's sidewall, such as T0, T1, or T2. Tesla says that its approved tires are designed to provide a quiet ride, optimize efficiency, and deliver good handling characteristics. But those are fairly ambiguous goals that all car tires aspire to, so what in particular sets Tesla-approved tires apart? 

There's foam inside

The most distinguishable feature of Tesla tires versus standard passenger car tires is that the Tesla tires have a layer of acoustical foam inside the tire. Because Teslas don't have an internal combustion engine, the ride is incredibly quiet. So quiet that some Tesla owners have commented that commonplace chimes and alerts sound much louder inside the Tesla's cabin, leading to a reduced volume function known as Joe Mode.

A certain amount of tire noise in an ICE vehicle is concealed by engine noise, but in a Tesla, it's much more noticeable, hence the quieting foam. However, using tires with noise-canceling foam is not strictly necessary to operate the vehicle. If some degree of additional road noise is acceptable to you, a bit of financial savings are available by fitting a standard tire of the appropriate size, load, and speed rating. In fact, early Teslas didn't have noise-canceling foam inside their tires. Like so many Tesla updates, the idea was suggested to company CEO Elon Musk in a 2017 Tweet.

Teslas are heavy

Besides increased sensitivity to road noise, Electric Vehicles typically weigh more than their ICE-powered counterparts due to heavy battery packs. This challenge is compounded by the fact that electric motors are known for their copious amounts of torque, which is delivered instantaneously. While this face-ripping torque at low RPM can make for a fun driving experience, it increases tire wear.

To compensate for both extra weight and torque characteristics, Telsa-approved tires have stiffened sidewalls that won't lose their shape, which can compromise handling, not to mention rolling resistance, which kills range.

Besides more robust sidewalls, the tire's tread also requires complex design traits. It needs to be grippy enough, sometimes referred to as "sticky," to harness a Tesla's brutal torque during rapid acceleration, while at the same time providing a decent lifespan. Longevity can be increased with deeper tread, providing a thicker patch of rubber to wear down, as well as the composition of the rubber itself.

Still, replacing Tesla tires in the 20,000 to 30,000-mile range is not uncommon. That's about half of the lifespan for tires on an ICE vehicle. To assist in making these pricey tires last as long as possible, Tesla recommends rotation, which is swapping the positions of tires on a vehicle to promote even wear, every 6,250 miles.