Winter time, winter tires: while we are definitely leaving the summer season behind us, the time change is the perfect benchmark for abandoning summer tires in favor of winter tires. We take stock of the technology and deliver our top picks for electric cars to you.
Summer, the sun, scorching temperatures and hot asphalt are now behind us. As the thermometer tumbles slowly and begins to drop below 10 ° C in different regions, the clock is making one of its last crossings in winter time. Set to disappear, this transition is not only synonymous with an extra hour of sleep, but also a benchmark for changing tires, as some manufacturers or auto centers like to remind you.
- What is a winter tire?
- The all-season tire, really useful?
- Winter or all-season tires?
- Winter tires: Michelin Alpin 6 and Pilot Alpin 5 in the lead
- All-season tires: Continental and Goodyear neck-to-neck
- A high-performance winter tire, a more affordable all-season tire
- Avoid excessive over-inflation and think about chains
What is a winter tire?
Commonly known as the snow tire, the winter tire is not only suitable for powder snow, as its popular name suggests: their recipe, structure and tread are designed to cope with cold winter roads. , as soon as the temperature drops below 7 ° C. Where the summer tires will harden to no longer be effective, the rubber tires on winter tires will retain their elasticity and flexibility to face the conditions of the season.
Thus, they will be more efficient in terms of road holding but also more efficient in terms of braking on wet, snowy or icy roads. With nearly six times more sipes than on a summer profile, these tires also have much better grip capacities which can, depending on the case, do without chains or other socks for the growing number of non-chainable vehicles.
The all-season tire, really useful?
While winter tires are the most suitable for winter conditions, changing them as well as their cost (although manufacturers and retailers highlight the economic advantage of this operation) are the main brakes. This is how the market quickly turned to the offer of all-season tires, which offer the best compromise: having essentially the same design as a winter tire with its many grooves to evacuate water or grip snow. , it adopts a less tender gum to be effective in dry weather or in summer.
Better and better studied, all-season tires quickly changed their marketing name to better highlight their field of expertise: this is how most of the references have become over time summer tires approved for winter, with the specific legal 3PMSF marking (not to be confused with the M + S Mud and Snow mark not certified by a laboratory).
The advantages of these tires are many, but they nevertheless have the shortcomings of their qualities, like all consumer products favoring ultra versatility. More effective than a summer tire on snow or a winter tire on warm ground, they cannot match the performance of a winter tire in the situations for which the latter was developed.
Winter or all-season tires?
All-season tires have the advantage of overcoming a pass through the center as winter approaches, which are often overloaded during snowfall. They also get rid of the thorny (and sometimes expensive) issue of storage, as the tires are mounted on the wheels of the car throughout the year. Barely more expensive than summer tires, they are more affordable than winter tires. Saving money on purchase, as well as on storage and dismantling operations, they offer an unbeatable price / performance ratio for driving in winter.
Traditional winter tires are much less advantageous in economic terms on all the points mentioned above: much more expensive to buy than an all-season tire, they necessarily require an additional extension during the first purchase for additional rims and, depending on cases, a budget for storage and for assembly / disassembly operations between the two seasons. But they also make it possible to drive throughout the year with tires of optimum efficiency and to extend the life of the two compounds, provided that the rotation periods are well respected (driving with a winter tire in summer will degrade the behavior of the vehicle and will melt the rubber… like snow in the sun).
Another significant advantage: with dedicated wheels for part of the year, it is possible to fit these tires on smaller rims and thus, while respecting legal equivalents, to increase the height of the sidewall. Due to the less complex technologies than low profile tires, these are more affordable. They also have the advantage of being much more resistant to impact, especially with curbs, potholes or other stones, hidden under blankets of snow.
Winter tires: Michelin Alpin 6 and Pilot Alpin 5 in the lead
Unlike the summer tire offer, the winter rubber catalog is much thinner. This logically reduces the available alternatives, in particular as regards the ranges of low consumption tires suitable for electric vehicles. Also, the vast majority of the tires available display the same specificities because of their design: their design and their soft rubber generate more noise and more rolling resistance. The drop in range is estimated to be between 10 km and 20 km depending on the models and the tires used. A drop to be added, let us remember, to the reduced capacities of the batteries in cold weather, where the range can drop by 18.5% on average according to the Norwegian Automobile Federation.
As usual, therefore, it will notably be a question of budget and usage to choose one of the market references. On the other hand, the very serious Swiss organization TCS has just delivered its 2020 ranking of the best winter tires. In 205/55 R16 dimensions, the Bridgestone Blizzak LM005 takes the lead, followed by the Michelin Alpin 6 and the Dunlop Winter Sport 5. A cut above in terms of size (235/55 R17) and with pretensions More sporty, Michelin takes the first position with the Pilot Alpin 5. The Goodyear UltraGrip Performance + and the Dunlop Winter Sport 5 are also alternatives to remember when buying.
Less known in France but particularly famous in Scandinavia, the Vredstein Wintrac Pro and Nokian WR A4 or Hakkapeliitta fared with honors in most of the comparative tests carried out by independent organizations or by our European colleagues (results compiled on the site Tire Vote). Note that the Finnish manufacturer offers a wide range of sizes to adapt to most electric cars, especially Tesla.
All-season tires: Continental and Goodyear neck-to-neck
As explained above, all-season tires have strong arguments. They are even perfectly sufficient in some parts of France and can be suitable for most motorists all year round. According to the results of the Swiss TCS and the German ADAC, the Continental AllSeasonContact is the winner of the 17-inch comparison. It is followed by the Goodyear Vector 4Season Gen-2 and the famous Michelin CrossClimate +. These three references are praised for their efficiency, but also for their performance on dry and wet surfaces. However, there is an advantage for the Contiental, which is most comfortable on ice and snow. Note that Goodyear takes first place in the 16-inch category with the 4Season Gen-3, while the Continental continues to stay on the podium (3rd place).
Remember that the Hankook brand is the first manufacturer to present an all-season tire suitable for electric vehicles with the Kinergy AS EV. But despite the promises, the tire has still not seen the light of day on the European market.
A high-performance winter tire, a more affordable all-season tire
Focused on performance in winter conditions, the snow or all-season references are not specifically suited to electric cars. In addition, the differences between the two in terms of rolling resistance or noise are very slight and do not allow them to be distinguished on these criteria. In the end, only the weather in your region of residence and the use you make of your electric vehicle will determine the choice. Outside mountain departments, the use of all-season tires may be possible to cope with cold and wet roads, or partially snow-covered. On heights or in regions with frequent snowfall, however, we recommend opting for a complete set of winter tires in order to enjoy the best performance on snow, ice or cold roads.
But the cost of such a choice will be much higher than the all-season option, whose market share has not finished exploding: the recent decree n ° 2020-1264 thus provides for the obligation to be equipped. winter tires (identified by the M + S or 3PMSF markings) from November 1 to March 31 of the following year, in 48 mountain departments, the list of the municipalities concerned for which will be communicated by the prefectures. Expected for a few years, this mountain law therefore has a legal framework and will come into force on November 1, 2021. We should also add that from November 1, 2024, tires bearing only the M + S marking will no longer be authorized.
Avoid excessive over-inflation and think about chains
In both cases, note that it is strongly recommended to equip all four wheels with the same type of tire: fit winter tires at the front while leaving the summer tires at the rear (or vice versa depending on the type of transmission ) will strongly (and dangerously) degrade the behavior of the car. Also, it is useless to over-inflate your tires to hope to split the snow by virtually reducing the tread. On the other hand, the tire pressure following the drop in outside temperatures, it is advisable to increase the pressure by 0.2 bars compared to the recommended pressure. Note also that it is possible to opt for references with a lower speed rating, due to the lower speeds recorded in winter.
If you plan to take a mountain trip for winter sports, consider putting snow chains or similar systems suitable for non-chainable vehicles in the trunk: as soon as the B26 sign is on the side of the road, chains will be compulsory to be able to ride. As for studded tires, although they are not banned in France, their use is strictly regulated by the decree of July 18, 1985.