Tyre selection – allied to driving style – will be even more critical to maximise performance and longevity, and minimise fleet costs, when fitted to the new breed of electric vehicles, according to Kwik Fit.
The number of plug-in cars on the UK’s roads is increasing month-on-month – and the changes to company car benefit-in-kind tax being introduced in April are expected to see this growth accelerate even more rapidly.
The corporate sector will play a major role in this increased momentum as the benefit-in-kind tax on 100% electric company cars tumbles from 16% of the P11D value for the current tax year (2019/20) to just 0%, 1% and 2% respectively for each of the coming three financial years.
In addition to purely electric vehicles, the fact that plug-in hybrid electric cars with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 50g/km or below are attracting significantly lower benefit-in-kind tax charges than either petrol or diesel equivalent underlines the Government’s strategy to drive fleets and employees firmly along the electric road in pursuit of its clean air objectives.
Now Kwik Fit, the UK’s largest automotive maintenance and repair company and the leading fast-fit supplier of tyres in the country carrying stocks of more than 600,000 products from leading manufacturers, says tyre replacement decisions and driving style will be key to limiting tyre consumption during an electric model’s fleet life.
Primarily this is because the weight of electric batteries means that these vehicles are up to 30% heavier than equivalent internal combustion engine models, putting more strain on the tyres and taking longer to stop.
Andy Fern, fleet sales director, Kwik Fit, said: “Tyres will become an even more important feature of a plug-in vehicle than they are in respect to petrol and diesel models.
“Electric vehicle demand is at embryonic levels, but it is clear that company car benefit-in-kind tax changes will fuel a huge surge in fleet take-up. The infancy of the sector means that it is too early to determine exactly how real world tyre wear will compare to internal combustion engine models, but it is business-critical that fleet operators monitor how tyre life is impacted by the unique characteristics of plug-in vehicles.”
To maximise electric vehicle performance, premium brand tyre manufacturers are developing dedicated tyres and that choice will increase as the market develops. First generation electric vehicles have been invariably equipped with ‘narrow tyres’, to reduce rolling resistance and help increase range between charges. On the downside, a reduced contact patch with the road increases the demand on tyres and can potentially increase wear rates.
Tyre labelling introduced in November 2012 classifies performance in respect of fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), wet grip and noise levels and tyre manufacturers are focused on ensuring the right balance between these factors.
Mr Fern said: “Rolling resistance is of critical importance for an electric vehicle to achieve a stated range. Therefore, premium branded tyres are likely to be even more essential than on petrol and diesel models.
“Similarly, without the noise from an internal combustion engine, the road noise created by tyres will become more significant, and as a result many drivers and fleet managers will want tyres with low noise characteristics for their full-electric vehicles.”
Harsh acceleration and cornering in an electric vehicle, coupled with its additional weight, will have a major impact on tyre wear and tear, so smooth driving will improve tyre life and maintain performance.
Mr Fern concluded: “Drivers of plug-in vehicles typically adopt a smoother driving style with an increased focus on efficiency to preserve battery range. Battery technology is continually improving in terms of providing drivers with additional mileage between charging, but range remains a critical factor in the shift to electric.
“Tyre longevity is influenced by numerous factors – tyre selection, in-life maintenance and driver behaviour – and those characteristics have a greater dominance in respect of electric vehicles, predominantly due to their added weight.
“As always, premium brand tyres will deliver maximum longevity when compared with cheaper tyres, while rolling resistance assumes a greater importance if zero-emission range is to be maximised.”