The “vast majority of battery-powered and hybrid cars” don’t have a spare tire, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Honda told one complaining customer that “if the vehicle is in an accident, the spare tire can cause damage to the electric battery which could cause a failure in the battery.” But according to the Times, “car design experts said that explanation was plausible but far-fetched.”
There’s a simpler explanation for the move away from spare tires: They’re too big and heavy, and people don’t really need them anymore… Car manufacturers have been ridding their sedans and smaller SUVs of full-sized spares for some time. In 2018, Consumer Reports said, 60% of the vehicles it had tested over the previous five years came with small-sized temporary tires (“doughnuts”), and only 10% came with full-sized spares… The best-selling models of electric sedans and SUVs — Teslas, the Chevy Bolt, the Volkswagen ID.4, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the BMW i4 and the Mercedes EQS — have no spare of any kind, even if they come with a premium price tag. Ditto for hybrids; the Toyota Prius, for example, hasn’t included a spare since 2016.
That’s not because people magically stopped having flat tires. U.S. drivers suffer 94 million flat tires a year, according to LookupAPlate.com, a site that collects reports about bad drivers… Finding space for a spare is particularly challenging for a car powered by something other than gasoline, designers say. “Pushing the range of EVs requires batteries, electrical systems control units or hydrogen tanks to encroach into the traditional places that spare tires are found: under the trunk floor,” said Geoff Wardle, executive director of transportation systems and design at the ArtCenter College of Design. The space crunch is worse for hybrids, which require room for both a battery system and an internal combustion engine, said Scott Grasman, dean of the College of Engineering at Kettering University in Flint, Mich.
The extra weight always made it a little harder to meet fuel efficiency requirements — but spare tires also increase manufacturing costs, the article notes. “And tires for an EV may be more expensive than those for a gas-powered vehicle of the same size. That’s because EVs tend to be heavier than their gas-fueled counterparts, so they require sturdier tires. And with comparatively quiet engines, they need tires that don’t generate as much road noise.”
But Gil Tal, director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis, also pointed out to the Times that today’s tires are just much better and more durable than they used to be:
And because federal regulations require new cars to have tire pressure indicators, he said, drivers are alerted as soon as their tires need air. “In most cases, flat tires … are the outcome of long low-pressure driving,” he said. “And if you drive a modern car, it will tell you [that] you have low pressure long before you get into the catastrophic failure” of a flat.
So what are car manufacturers doing now? According to the article…
- Some cars ship with puncture kits since, the article points out, many people don’t know how to change a tire anyways, and will probably just call a tow truck. “For these drivers, carmakers may safely assume that a can of Fix-a-Flat will be more useful…” (Others like Tesla and GM offer roadside assistance programs.)
Some car manufacturers are also using self-sealing or run-flat tires — but Wardle tells the Times these are “good if it is just a puncture from a nail but useless if you hit a pothole and split the rim and sidewall.”