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Published on February 20th, 2016 | by Steve Hanley


Winter Tires For Electric Cars

February 20th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

Nokian is making the first winter tire optimized for electric cars such as the BMW i3. It combines extremely low rolling resistance, excellent grip, and exceptional driving comfort, the company says. It is the first winter tire with an A energy rating and can reduce rolling resistance as much as 30%.

Nokian low rolling resistance winter tire

In the good old days of motoring, if a car needed more performance, a manufacturer could just add more cubic inches or raise the compression ratio. Today, range is more important to drivers of electric vehicles than outright performance. It becomes even more of a concern in winter, when cold temperatures have a negative impact on battery power.

“Every mile counts, so when it comes to tires, low rolling resistance is a must,” says Graham Heeps, editor of Tire Technology International magazine, which named the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 the Tire Technology of the Year recently. “We are really thankful for this significant award. This is also an excellent opening shot for the 80th anniversary year of Hakkapeliittas,” says Juha Pirhonen, vice president of R&D for Nokian Tires.

“We are proud to be able to offer more winter grip, more peace of mind and, in particular, more range to the ever-increasing number of electric car owners with our top class Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tyre. Making transport safer and greener is a leading principle for our product development,” says Pirhonen. The R2 is currently available only in the 155/70R19 84Q size, which is perfectly matched to the needs of the BMW i3.

Nokian is based in Finland, where drivers know a thing or two about winter driving and every driver over the age of 14 is a master of the “Scandinavian Flick.” Its winter tires are born, bred, and tested at the company’s testing facility located in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta is one of the best known winter tire brands in the world. You can learn more about the rigors of the Nokian testing process in the video below.

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • neroden

    Nokian Hakkas (I forget which model) are one of the two commonly-recommended winter tires for the Model S. The other is the Michelin X-Ice 3.

  • Brooks Bridges

    I’m a little confused why this is an EV matter. Sounds like all the features would be welcome on any ICE.

    BTW: What the heck is the “Scandinavian Flick”?

    • Omega Centauri

      But maybe more so on the EV? Certainly lower rolling resistance is more appreciated by range anxious EV drivers than by ICE drivers. Probably quietness too, since there is no noisy ICE engine, and tire plus wind sounds are about it on an EV.

      • Brooks Bridges

        Even with my Prius, at speeds over 60 mph, the noise from wind and tires ( road surface a big factor) seems to be the loudest. It’s amazing to hit a really smooth road once in awhile – how quiet it gets. I would think it’s at lower speeds where EV quietness would be most noticeable.

        • Omega Centauri

          Even in a pickup. I can remember driving home from skiing years ago in a PU. Turned from one road onto another, and he tire noise like doubled. I thought something was wrong with the vehicle, but the sound is also strongly dependent on the road, not just the tires.

    • Ronald Brakels

      I can tell you what a Scandinavian flick is, but only if you’re over 18.

      • Brooks Bridges

        There was a US supreme court justice remembered for saying: “Oh to be 80 again.” I’m not quite that old.

        Which may mean I’m too old to profit from the knowledge of the Scandinavian flick 🙁

        • Ronald Brakels

          Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in and you can decide yourself whether or not to do anything with the knowledge. Everything you need to know is right behind this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_flick

          • Brooks Bridges

            I am getting old – usually search at the drop of a hat. Thanks. Had a Saab Monte Carlo for a few years.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Sometimes interesting conversations start from people asking a question rather than just looking it up.

  • JeffJL

    Winter tires. Yes ones that will take 10C.

    Perth, Western Australia.

    • Freddy D

      You need tires that drift nicely out there in Western Australia!

  • The Nokian Hakka R2’s are available for most cars – we have them on our ’15 Leaf S, and they do have extraordinarily low rolling resistance. They are also better than average as winter tires, and are quieter than most winter tires.

    Nokians are designed for Finnish winters, and these will help the efficiency of any vehicle; EV or otherwise.

  • JamesWimberley

    In ten years’ time, this discussion will have no meaning in the USA.

    • neroden

      Oh, we’ll still have some snow in Minnesota. Also, despite an unseasonably warm winter, it’s intermittently dropping to -20 F deep in the night during February up here in upstate NY; one of the side effects of global warming is that we lost our cloud cover, so we’re getting some severe cold snaps.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Driving slowly around a gentle curve with only a little bit of snow on the road.
    Not impressive.

    • There was about two inches of snow. Going up a hill, on an untreated private road that gives regular two wheel drive vehicles trouble is more impressive than you think.

  • Jeff Gross

    The article doesn’t mention that this R2 carries a European A rolling resistance rating. The other snow tire for the i3 is a C. I have this Hakka on my i3 this year. Traction is great and the high compliance soaks up bumps. But of course one avoids small, quick flicks of the steering wheel, as they have no immediate effect.

  • heinbloed

    In Gouda (community “Tempel”) a Renault Twizzy is used as snowplow:

    Day …


    and night:


    I’d say for first hand experience with winter tires contact Gouda:)

  • Gingerbaker

    Low rolling resistance AND great winter grip simultaneously, eh? They should call it the Nokia Harry Haakapo-Potter.

  • Freddy D

    I’d love to see some data on fuel economy vs. other existing winter tires, otherwise the article is a bit hollow. “As much as 30%” is a bit of a shameless, un-backed-up advertising statement. compared to which tire? How about comparing to blizzaks or other snow tires that have been out there for years and have fabulous reputations and nobody every complained about poor rolling resistance?

    • Dave R

      These tires have long been a favorite on the PriusChat forums for their efficiency and winter grip, so yeah, these tires really are good.

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    • Jens Stubbe

      True a very important aspect of tires is that you got to have the exact right pressure and for the longevity and pressure stability you have got to use nitrogen in your tires. The propulsion energy lost due to wrong tire pressure is tremendous. Follow this link where there is a calculator that will show how much you can save – and just as with the Nokian tires it does not matter whether you drive and EV or an ICE. http://www.getnitrogen.org

  • Adrian

    Zach is paying the bills again. I’ll play along.

    Uh.. I have the Hakka R2 on my Volt this winter, so they’re certainly available in other sizes than the i3 version. I found them to be an exceptionally quiet tire – not just “quiet for a winter tire.” Rolling resistance must be quite low – my miles per charge actually went up a little bit when I had them put on.

    Steering feel is a tiny bit vague due to the squish of the tread. Grip on thin slush and ice is naturally not as good as a studded tire, but certainly better than an all-season tire. They’re also somewhat expensive, but otherwise I’ve had no serious complaints.

    I used to put low-cost studded tires on my Prius (including the Generals mentioned by crevasse) – but I just couldn’t take the noise anymore!

    • rockyredneck

      Winter tires last a long time if not used in hot weather. Invest in an extra set of rims so that tires can be switched quickly and easily as soon as the threat of winter conditions is mostly past. A small investment in tools, and you can do the job yourself. I am over 70, still change my own, and have supervised teenage boys to do it for neighbours and relatives

      • neroden

        If you’re in a rural-ish area, it’s often quite cheap to have a tire shop change the tires for you if you have only one set of rims. (Mine does it for $25.) If you’re in an urban area, apparently it can be very expensive. Compare this with the cost of a second set of rims (which makes swapping the tires trivial).

  • crevasse

    General Altimax Arctic studded is how we roll. It’s also based on some euro tire. I’m not a huge believer in studless but understand some locales forbid studs. We experience next to no loss in mileage though winter fuel formulations also change mileage so of a toss up as to the culprit.

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