Wheels, Tyres and Range

Zoe in World Distance Record Attempt (Photo: Renault)
Zoe in World Distance Record Attempt (Photo: Renault)

On a fossil fuel car the choice of wheels and tyres is mostly about aesthetics, except for sports cars where grip, handling and performance at speed become crucial. On an electric car, where battery power is typically very limited (at least for the foreseeable future), the choice of wheels and tyres is mostly about enhancing vehicle range, with aesthetics being a secondary consideration and performance at speed being largely irrelevant (the Zoe, for example, is limited to 84mph which is the low end of modern tyre performance).

In April 2012 Michelin announced the results of its work with Renault to develop energy efficient (i.e. low rolling resistance) tyres for the Zoe. This work is also described in a Michelin video:

There are many factors that affect the rolling resistance of wheels but these are the main ones for our purposes:

  • Wheel radius: The lower the radius the smaller the area exposed to wind drag, plus also the wheel weight is typically reduced.
  • Wheel width: As radius.
  • Tyre resistance: The design and materials used in the tyre affect how much rolling resistance it has – this can be reduced significantly but there is a compromise with low resistance resulting in low grip and therefore potentially reduced safety.

Electric cars are typically seen with small wheels and tyres because of the first two factors – however this does impact the look of them. In recent years there has been a move towards taller but narrow wheels (see, for example, GreenCarReports) presumably as a way to improve aesthetics while keeping wind drag down.

Three different wheel and tyre combinations are available when ordering a Zoe:

  • 15” (diameter 381mm, radius 191mm) with Michelin EV tyres (185/65 R15 88Q)
  • 16” (diameter 406mm, radius 203mm) with Michelin EV tyres (195/55 R16 91Q)
  • 17” (diameter 432mm, radius 216mm) with standard/non-EV tyres (205/45 R17 88H)

For full details see Buyer’s Guide:Wheels and Tyres. So which one is the best to choose to achieve maximum range?

Decoding the tyre codes leads to:

  • 15” (185/65 R15 88Q): width 185mm, sidewall radius 120mm, maximum loading 560kg at 100mph. Total radius 305mm.
  • 16” (195/55 R16 91Q): width 195mm, sidewall radius 107mm, maximum loading 615kg at 100mph. Total radius 310mm.
  • 17” (205/45 R17 88H): width 205mm, sidewall radius 92mm, maximum loading 560kg at 130mpg. Total radius 308mm.

It is interesting to note that despite the 1 inch (25mm) difference in wheel (hub) sizes between the options, the difference in overall wheel plus tyre size (total radius) is very small because with increasing wheel size goes lower profile tyre size.

Renault has published power consumption figures for the various combinations – these are 146 Wh/km for both the 15” and 16” wheels, and 163 Wh/km for the 17” wheels. These result in NEDC maximum ranges of 210km and 195km respectively.  Given that the overall wheel plus tyre sizes are very similar this likely indicates that the most significant factor in achieving high range is the use of EV tyres.

Does that mean, then, that there is no range benefit in selecting 15” rather than 16” wheels? Not necessarily, just that it is a small enough difference that Renault has not distinguished between them publicly. At the same time, it is of interest to note that when Renault set the Zoe’s range record the participating Zoes were fitted with 15” wheels.

For information on the wheel and tyre options available when buying the Zoe see Buyer’s Guide: Wheels and Tyres.

For information on the alloy wheel accessories available after purchase see Buyer’s Guide: Accessories: Sill, Wheels, Mats, Arm Rests and Seat Covers.

Home Forums Zoe Information Wheels, Tyres and Range

This topic contains 11 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Dexter1979 4 years, 10 months ago.

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    Trevor Larkum

    On a fossil fuel car the choice of wheels and tyres is mostly about aesthetics, except for sports cars where grip, handling and performance at speed b
    [See the full post at: Wheels, Tyres and Range]

    – this is a page on the Zoe Description menu.


    Trevor Larkum

    There’s an interesting discussion on this topic over on InsideEVs:

    Renault And Michelin Create (Maybe) The Perfect Electric Vehicle Tire



    I’m going for 17″on my new Zoe for aesthetics but also I read in a review:-

    “Things fall apart in the bends, however. While the supple suspension is up for some fun, the light and elastic steering definitely isn’t, and the eco-biased Michelin Energy E-V tyres can’t summon much cornering grip before wailing and sliding into understeer. Upgrading to optional 17-inch alloys will bring grippier Primacy 3 rubber but will cut the car’s already limited range by 10 per cent.”

    Full review if you wish to read:-http://recombu.com/cars/reviews/renault-zoe-review



    Upgrading to optional 17-inch alloys will bring grippier Primacy 3 rubber but will cut the car’s already limited range by 10 per cent.”

    Well today I did my usual 72 mile commute (mainly 60/70 mph roads) and had 29 miles left, and I have the 17″ tyres. I just can’t see them making that much difference to the range



    That’s really good to know Taminatortom! Thx



    One of the reasons that summer range is better than winter is that the rolling resistance behaviour of tyres in warmer weather drops. Because they all drop, the absolute differences look much smaller.

    Therefore, you can expect a much smaller difference between wide and narrower tyres in the summer, but that differential will grow in winter.



    We have the very smart Tech Run 17″ alloys fitted to our Zoe and regularly achieve 100 miles + per charge
    so I would say that the stated 10% reduction in range is not true 😉



    Buzzar – how much more firm do you feel the ride in a zoe is compared to 16″ tyre if you know?



    Sorry…same question to Taminatortom.



    my zoe is fitted with the 17″ alloys. honestly comparing it to the 16″ the ride is slightly more ‘bumpy’ & firm but not by much. range – well its hard to notice as i only drove the test zoe on 16″ alloys for 48 hours, but yes there is defo a difference of 5-10 miles max.

    the only thing i can say is that the 17″ tyres are more likely to burst. i’ve had 2 flats (during 11 months covering 15K) which is more than any of my previous ICE cars. one tyre was a complete write off due to a pothole which literally burst the side wall and it cost me £140 to replace. so just keep that in mind if upgrading to 17″ that in the long run replacements will cost more. but the 17″ do look much, MUCH better!

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