Does EV regenerative braking increase tire wear?

The back left OEM Michelin ENERGY SAVER A/S SELFSEAL type tire on my 2017 Chevy Bolt after about 13,000 miles of driving. These Michelin tires have a treadwear rating of 480. Allegedly, this should translate into up to 60,000+ miles of driving. Mine lasted 25,000 miles. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

A few years ago, I wrote one of the most read entries on SolarChargedDriving.Com, “Premature tire wear appears to be the biggest maintenance issue for EVs”.

Premature tire wear continues to be an issue for me almost three years later and after driving three different electric vehicles — a 2014 Nissan LEAF, a 2017 Chevy Bolt, and, currently, a 2020 Chevy Bolt across the past seven years.

Many respondents to my original blog entry blamed me and ONLY me: They said, “Don’t accelerate so quickly, you speed demon!”

Well, I continue to have fun driving my EVs — that’s one of the big pluses of driving electric. So, yes, SOME of my premature tire wear has to do with rapid acceleration — although I hardly gun it at every intersection.

However, I do NOT think my premature tire wear, where OEM tires on my Nissan LEAF and Bolts have been essentially toast at around 20,000 to 25,000 miles, can be solely blamed on occasional quick acceleration on my part. This compares to 40,000 to 50,000 miles for tire life on my 1992 Acura Integra, which I was known to use to accelerate quickly, but which, of course, did not have the immediate 100% torque that my three EVs have (had).

I am inclined to believe that speculation by a number of different people who I have chatted with online about EVs and tire wear surrounding the possible impact of regenerative braking on tire wear has some merit to it.

My cajun red 2017 Chevy Bolt LT parked next to the kinetic blue 2020 LT that I traded it in for at the 30-month mark of my 39-month lease in January 2020. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]
I drive 100% in regenerative braking mode, or what is also called “one-pedal” mode. I do so because it is much more efficient and I recapture energy lost to braking when I do this. It’s also just much more fun to use. I hate having to brake.

In terms of the effect of regenerative braking on tire wear, “Rich” responded to my original post about premature tire wear for EVs with the following ==>

“It is the one-pedal driving that is killing the tires. Every time, you apply an unnecessary deceleration, that needs to be made up by additional acceleration, your tires are unnecessarily punished twice. The lack of ‘ability to coast’ of the one-pedal driving is the culprit. Under varying speed, grade and traffic condition, humans cannot perfectly balance the e-pedal, so the tires are in neutral position when not wanting to slow down or speed up. The result is the tires are constantly sheared in either a forward or backward direction. So, blame the e-pedal.”

This makes sense to me, although many “know-it-alls” on various EV forums, including a Tesla Motors forum, claim otherwise — and often do so in arrogant, patronizing fashion. 🙄

For example, in this exchange on a Tesla Motors Club forum, 3silverSgold writes ==>

“After driving the Model 3 AWD for 13 months and having to replace the original set of tires (18″ Michelin MXM4) at 17,000, I have come to a conclusion that the main culprit is the standard regenerative braking system.Thus, I am going to switch to the low regen mode and see a difference in tire wear. Replacing the brake pads are a lot cheaper endeavor than replacing the tires…The majority of the mileage came from commuting with short burst of acceleration for traffic maneuvers and normal driving habits. What do you think?”

Citing no hard evidence, no studies, etc. “Eye.Surgeon” snarkily responds ==>

“The laws of physics would disagree with your theory.”

Indeed, as far as I can tell, there are no empirical studies comparing, long-term, the tire wear on EVs run 100% in regenerative braking mode to long-term tire wear on EVs where drivers do not use regen at all and just let the tires roll the way they will with “regular” braking.

It sure would be interesting to see what those studies might show.

I admit that I, and others, who suspect that EV regenerative braking might contribute to premature tire wear for EVs COULD be wrong. But I don’t think it’s quite so clear cut as some of those more arrogant, snarky folks out there seem to think it is when they imply that those who think regenerative braking MIGHT reduce tire wear are apparently just some sort of special kind of “idiot”.

Do the empirical studies, snarky, arrogant EV tire tread know it alls — and get back to me/us! Thank you very much.

Another thing that NONE of the snarky, arrogant “know-it-all” types acknowledge in the regenerative vs. standard braking issue on tire wear is that regenerative braking: a) varies considerably among car makers; b) in some cases, has different settings (Tesla, etc.); c) creates a very different braking experience and therefore VERY likely very different braking approach than an individual driver might take when driving a standard braking automobile.

I DEFINITELY notice, for instance, how quickly my Bolt “grabs” the road when I step off the gas in regen mode. I would NOT jam on my breaks in that manner if I was in standard braking mode. Yes, I can compensate some by letting off the gas earlier, etc. — which I do, in fact, do. But it’s very difficult to determine how much this does (not) make up for how different my own braking style with standard brakes might be. The same is true for ANY individual driver and their braking variability/idiosyncracies, etc.

In short, there are MANY variables. One of the biggest ones clearly is how different a regenerative braking system is from how a given individual driver might be braking in a standard braking automobile and their braking style in that automobile. In some cases, there could be HUGE variation between what the regenerative braking system is doing and what a given individual driver might do in terms of their braking approach. In other cases, they might be essentially the same. This is TOTALLY ignored by the arrogant  “it’s all the same” regen or standard braking and their impact on tire wear crowd on many EV forums that I have been scanning on this topic — check out this Tesla Motors Club forum for LOTS of examples of this arrogance.

ANNOYING — and simplistic!

Tires tend to wear (much) more quickly for many (most?) EV drivers than for ICE drivers.

In order to extend the life of my Bolt tires, I have also been running my Bolt Michelin OEM tires at higher PSI than the 38 PSI recommend by GM, keeping them at 44 PSI, upon recommendation of several EV owners who said that higher PSI will extend tread wear life. So far, I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of reduced wear, though. However, another added benefit of higher PSI is better efficiency, supposedly. I’ll definitely take that, and that might be occurring. I haven’t done a comparative study of my own.

In the meantime, I continue to be very disappointed with how short the tread life is on all tires on all of my EVs so far, where the tread wear rating indicates the tires should last 60,000 miles or more and I end up getting 25,000 miles.

By the way, this Chevy Bolt forum has a bunch of posts by people who seem to think that 25,000 miles is what the Bolt OEM tires should be getting. But that is not what 480 treadwear means if you look it up in other places.

In the end, it does seem to me that tire manufacturers still have  A LOT of work to do in terms of optimizing tires for EVs so that they can handle EV torque, regenerative braking, and maintain at least something approaching reasonable tread wear that most of us have come to expect to get out of tires on our old ICEs.

Of course, after driving seven years of electric only, I have to confess that I have kind of forgotten what it is like to drive a gas car at all at this point. 😉