Electric cars: which winter or 4-season tires to choose for the 2023/2024 season?

Winter time, winter tires. While summer is upon us, we’re taking stock of the right socks to put in your electric or hybrid car.

If you want to better face the winter with your car, you should equip your car with winter tires or winter tires to use the general name. However, these rubbers are no longer the only alternative: we now find a large catalog of all-season tires that also comply with the mountain law valid in several departments until March 31. Which types of tires to choose according to use, which parameters to take into account, which references to remember? We are balancing this issue!

Winter tire: best performance

Unlike the summer tire, which is mounted on the car for the rest of the year, the winter tire was designed primarily for the cold season. Contrary to its common name, which can be misleading, it is not only developed for cutting powder. Because although it is true that its more lamellae (up to six times more than a summer tire) provide better grip, their composition is adapted to lower temperatures. This keeps the rubber elastic below 7°C, the point at which summer tires will be too hard to be truly effective and safe. Winter tires therefore perform better on cold, wet or even icy roads.

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Winter tires are easily recognizable by their very specific pattern. But they also bear the designation 3PMSF (mountain with three peaks and a snowflake) or the designation M+S, e.g. Mud and snow (mud and snow). Here we note that the former is subject to real laboratory certification, unlike the latter, which does not meet any rules. This is why only M+S marked tires will not be allowed by mountain law from next season (see paragraph below).

All-season tire: versatility before performance

Manufacturers, aware of the needs of certain drivers, have developed all-season tires or summer tires approved for winter to use the technical name. As their name suggests, they are designed to adapt to climatic conditions throughout the year. Generally speaking, they use a tread similar to winter tires but a rubber compound equivalent to summer tires.

More robust than a winter tire on hot surfaces and more efficient than a summer tire in the cold, they cannot match the performance of season-specific tires. Many references now have the 3PSMF designation, making them compliant with applicable legislation depending on the region.

Winter or all-season tires?

If you live in a very cold area with plenty and regular snow, there is no doubt that winter tires will be the preferred solution. This is also a choice you must make if the performance of your electrified vehicle requires the installation of top-of-the-line summer tires for the rest of the year. On the other hand, if you are only slightly affected by the snow, but live in or pass through the départements affected by the mountain law, all-season tires may be worth considering. The solution of choice for most multi-purpose vehicles, such as city cars or compact compact cars, among others.

However, you also need to consider the budget you want to allocate to the tires. Because the first solution can quickly increase the bill. In addition to the selling price, winter tires require a visit to overcrowded car centers twice a year for fitting and balancing (€60 for four tires). If you have a set of dedicated rims (which means a significant initial cost) you’ll also need to plan to remove/install the complete wheels (€40 for four wheels) if you don’t have the appropriate tools… And strong skills ! Finally, if you don’t have enough space at home, you will need to take out a safety contract at the car center, which can be renewed every six months (€60 for four tires for six months). In short, the annual budget can be substantial, but it’s the price you pay for optimal safety and extending the life of your tires.

Mountain law: what does it say?

From 2021, the mountain law requires the installation of winter equipment on vehicles in 48 departments in France. While some municipalities do not differentiate, others focus on selecting municipalities and roads where vehicles must match. The areas are now easily identifiable with signs B58 at the entrance and B59 at the exit.

Mountain law requires the installation of four 3PMSF and/or M+S winter or all-season tires on the vehicle. This will no longer be accepted from November 1, 2024. Remember that, with the exception of four-wheel drive models, it is not necessary to have the same tires on all four wheels: highway regulations require the same tires to be installed on both sides of the same chassis. However, for better efficiency, we recommend that you decide on a complete set of the same brand/model as soon as possible: there is no point in improving traction if the steering gear cannot perform its function. Conversely, having the front when the rear wheels are slipping has almost no advantage. The same conclusion with front-wheel drive vehicles: even if you benefit from the necessary traction and steering power, the rear axle can seize up and cause you to lose control of the car. In any case, the Mountain Act leaves no loophole on this topic.

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However, this regulation also allows the installation of removable anti-skid devices on at least two driving wheels, in other words chains (if the vehicle is compatible) or textile socks. However, they should only be fitted to your car if the conditions require it. The rest of the time you will need to have at least one pair in your suitcase until March 31st. Tip: Also bring gloves, a mat and a headlamp in case you have to do assembly in the cold and dark of winter.

For failure to comply with these rules, you are subject to a fine of 135 EUR and possibly immobilization of the vehicle, if the conditions require it. This year, however, there should be no fines again, the government prefers to play with education. However, the insurance may be canceled in the event of an accident.

Define your needs and look at the label

Only the use of your car, local climate conditions and your budget determine your choice. For peace of mind, putting on four winter tires is ideal. For small budgets, all-season tires are preferred. If possible, choose models from top manufacturers: tires will be more efficient and last longer.

Once you’ve determined your criteria, don’t forget to consider the European performance designation. If possible, choose the tire that has the best ratings for energy consumption, wet grip and rolling noise. On the other hand, do not be surprised by the poor performance of winter tires: with their specific pattern, these tires are much less sober and noisier.

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In terms of consumption, category B tires require 0.14 l more, category C 0.28 l more. There really isn’t a grid for electric cars at the moment. However, according to our exclusive measurements, we recorded a greater appetite of 0.9 kWh/100 km when driving from A to B and 2 kWh/100 km when driving from A to C. When it comes to braking on wet roads, an extended distance of 3 m must be expected (B), 7 m (C), or even 12 m in category E!

What are the best tires for this winter?

With the advent of electrified cars, manufacturers have developed lines designed for electric cars. In the winter tire section, we can find the new Hankook iOn i*Cept, which remains one of our references to this day.

For the most efficient vehicles, Pirelli also released the P Zero Elect in a winter configuration. Nokian, a recognized specialist in the field, also has a line dedicated to electric cars.

As for all-season tires, the Goodyear Vector 4Season Gen-3 Electric Drive satisfied us.

However, remember that cold and snow are dangerous for electric cars: air density and rolling resistance can reduce range by 40%. The efforts of specific tires to save a few kWh seem to be futile. Therefore, it would be quite wise to get rid of these restrictions and move to general references. To help you choose the best option in these ranges, we encourage you to rely on ultra-precise tests from TCS Switzerlandwhich he just published his annual ranking of the best winter tires.

Before you hit the road

Finally, we remind you that there is no point in overinflating your tires in the hope of cutting through the snow by practically lowering the tread. On the other hand, since tire pressure follows the drop in outside temperature, it is advisable to increase the pressure by 0.2 bar from the recommended pressure. Also note that it is possible to opt for references showing a lower speed index due to lower speeds recorded in winter.

If you are going to go for winter sports in the mountains, don’t forget to put a removable device in your trunk, even if you have winter tires on your car: as soon as you see the B26 sign on the side of the road, chains will be mandatory to drive. Also take an anti-galley kit with you to place in your trunk after loading your luggage so you don’t have to unload everything on the side of the road. As for studded tires, although not banned in France, their use is strictly regulated decree of July 18, 1985.

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