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Since I did all this research on Winter Tires for my new car, I thought it might be helpful to others.

The latest thing in Tires for fuel economy is Low Rolling Resistance (LRR), which can make a 5%-10% difference in range.

The tires that come with the Chevy Volt are LRR, but All-Season or really Three-Season. A lot of people feel you don't need Winter Tires due to the extra battery weight, low in the center of the car. This definitely helps, but I feel that choosing a Winter tire is never a mistake, and depending where you live the law (Quebec). Check if your car insurance offers a discount.

Low Rolling Resistance (LRR) seems counter intuitive for a Winter Tire, but a couple of manufactures have started to engineer their top models with that in mind. A few models are

Michelin X-Ice Xi3
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7

The other factor is Wheels/Rims, traditionally you want a Steel Winter Rim. They're not as pretty as alloy but will take the abuse of winter and salt much better, where the salt can react with the alloy rim and over several seasons effect the seal.

The problem with Steel Rims on a Chevy Volt or any Green Car, is the extra weight is going to effect the range. You can either cheeper alloy rims for winter use only, or stay with the rims you have.

These options have there pros and cons, and neither is really a mistake. Some things to consider are:

Buying Winter Rims Steel or Alloy will cost extra money and you want to also a 2nd set of Tire Pressure Monitor Sensors (TMPS). +2 points for keeping the Rims that came with the VOLT.
Steel Rims will effect the range and don't look as nice, -1 point
Inexpensive Alloy Rims will not effect the range as much, and swapping will be easier/cheaper. +1 point.

Tire Size. traditionally you want a narrower winter tire to add more weight per surface area of tire. The Volt is compatible with skinner smaller rim and tires, such as P215/65 R16, and another advantage is these tires should be cheaper (be cautious though as there can be clearance issues with the smaller rims). But unless you are buying Winter Rims this is not an option, also I am not as concerned here with the Chevy Volt as it has weight to spare.

Conclusion: This winter I am buying the Nokian R2's, and staying with the stock rims on the car. By staying with the stock rims, I'm saying anywhere from $100 - $200 per wheel (includes the rim and TPMS) x 4 wheels ($400 to $800). The disadvantage it will cost me an extra $20-50 per change over ($40-100 a season) to swap the tires, some inconvenience, and risk damage to the rim and TPMS. So I estimate that after 4-5 years I even on the costs.

As for the costs of the winter tires themselves, here in Canada I found pmc-tire.com, Nokians size P215/55 R17 are $215 each, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 are $180 (sale, reg. $190). Expensive but me worth the peace of mind, plus I will be extending my summer tires longer.
 

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Winter Tire Wheel Package

michael,

Thanks for the research!

I question your statement about steel rims. The weight difference would be minimal and not affect EV range.
The difference in rolling resistance from the tires would.
Plus if we could find a 16" steel rim , it would be lighter than a 17".
There is a the -1 thinking on winter tires, which is reducing the width one size and increasing the aspect ratio so the diameter of the tire remains the same as stock or very close. They claim better snow and ice traction.

I went the easy route by going to Tirerack.com. They list a 16" -1 Winter tire package, Winter Dunlops on alloys, but no steel wheels available.
$670 before tax and shipping, after rebate, mounted and balanced and NO TPMS:
http://www.tirerack.com/cart/HoldingArea.jsp?confirmMounted=&referralCode=null&shopTires=true&tiresMounted=yes

I'm on the fence with this. I would be trusting tirerack that these 16" alloys clear the brake calipers.
I would probably go for the new LRR Winter Tires listed above.

On the subject of not using TPMS, I did this on a Prius with a set of performance tire/wheels. I only had a small amber icon lit. I don't know how the Volt would react to not having TPMS installed in a winter set of wheels.
I figure I can live dangerously, like we all did just a few years ago, and drive around for ~3 winter months without TPMS.
Does anyone know what alerts you get on a Volt without TPMS sensors in a wheelset?
 

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Goodyear Fuel Max - excellent in Summer, definitely need Winter tires - slip, slide,

I picked up the Michelin X-ice 3. The Goodyear Ultra Grips are great, as are the Nokian you mention. I'd probably say the Nokian are the best out there for those who can afford those.
 

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The Haps are good too. My issue is QUIET. I have to have quiet tires. Summer and Winter, I have to have quiet tires. My old favorites, the Michelin Symmetry tires did the trick all year long, and now the tire, with that special S shaped tread is no more. Two sets of tires needed. Please, take it seriously, the FuelMax tires are wonderful, quiet, fuel efficient; however, not for Winter. Darn near smashed several times and decided to use my Lincoln MKX instead in even an inch of snow or slush.
 

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...On the subject of not using TPMS, I did this on a Prius with a set of performance tire/wheels. I only had a small amber icon lit. I don't know how the Volt would react to not having TPMS installed in a winter set of wheels.
I figure I can live dangerously, like we all did just a few years ago, and drive around for ~3 winter months without TPMS.
Does anyone know what alerts you get on a Volt without TPMS sensors in a wheelset?
I don't have the answer to your question but can point out that there's less reason to skip the TPMS than there was on the Prius since new sensors can be introduced to the Volt without an expensive trip to the dealer (though you'll need a triggering magnet like this).
 

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I just picked up my snow tires. I got the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2s mounted on the stock wheels for $182/tire. I'll get the wheels next year. I'll be interested to hear your feedback on these as well. I'm in western NY near Buffalo and it's my first year here, so I won't have a prior experience upon which to base my impressions. The LRR qualities of the R2 really helped my decisions along with the Consumer Reports rating that put the new R2 as the 2nd best snow tire they tested. Honestly, though the price was incredible compared to what I thought he was going to quote me and they were actually cheaper than the Michelin Xi3s that I had been thinking of as the most likely winner.
 

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I definitely don't consider the OEM tires "Quiet". I just put a set of Firestone WinterForce tires on my Volt (Not LRR tires, on the OEM rims). I can't speak to the loss in range as I'm also using more heat which costs range as well. It seems on par with last winter but I can't tell scientifically. I'd say the losses are minimal at lower speeds. I don't think my highway milage was as good on a recent weekend trip, but again there are too many variables to make any kind of conclusive statement. I find the sound of the WinterForce tires a little quieter than the OEM FuelMax tires.
 

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Definitely going with winter tires this year, after one winter on the OEM tires. Don't have teenagers around anymore to push me up the driveway when I can't make it in 1-2" of snow (and that was my experience...) With the OEM tires, I found that my control when driving in bad weather was amazing - with all the computer assists. But the traction was terrible. Hence my decision to get snows.

My dealer was enthusiastic about the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2's so I'll probably do that. But I am trying be cheap here, so I'll ask:

How bad an idea is to just put the snows on the front and let the back wiggle around however it wants to?
 

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Definitely going with winter tires this year, after one winter on the OEM tires. Don't have teenagers around anymore to push me up the driveway when I can't make it in 1-2" of snow (and that was my experience...) With the OEM tires, I found that my control when driving in bad weather was amazing - with all the computer assists. But the traction was terrible. Hence my decision to get snows.

My dealer was enthusiastic about the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2's so I'll probably do that.
X-Ice3, Blizzak, and the ContiWinterContact are other recommended tires. XI3 is LRR, others are not.

I have Blizzak's and they're nice winter tires but they're a little loud and not so great on mileage. I went with Blizzak because I used them on my previous car and they were great (kept me out of 3 accidents where I had to drive around trouble, including one where I had to go off-road to stay safe). The R2's are better w.r.t. LRR so that's definitely a range benefit. Compared to the Blizzak's, I'd say the R2's are better but not by enough to make me want to change.

But I am trying be cheap here, so I'll ask:

How bad an idea is to just put the snows on the front and let the back wiggle around however it wants to?
I don't want to say it's head-up-your-ass bad, but it's not smart. You live where it snows and maybe gets ice under that snow or even black ice on the roads. I want everything I can get helping me keep the car on the road. 1 tow out of the ditch wipes out your savings. Spend the extra money and get them all around.
 

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How bad an idea is to just put the snows on the front and let the back wiggle around however it wants to?
On a car this heavy I don't think it's such a great idea. On an exit ramp, for example, you'll have the front wheels going where you want, but the back end can easily come around because all that battery weight in the center/rear of the car has it's own momentum. On most FWD cars where the majority of the weight is in the front, you can get away with fronts only if you always corner slowly. But personally I wouldn't chance it on the Volt. Too much weight in the back.

edit - I recommend to all my customers etc to put on 4 snow tires, although there are some who insist on only using 2.
 

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I'll say it. It is a dangerous idea to put snows on the front and less tractive tires on the back. I'll say it again. It is DANGEROUS!

I've had a lot of experience in driving in snow with front wheel drive cars - and I'll add loose gravel as it can cause situations similar problems as snow.

Traction control helps but, on ice and very slippery snow it will NOT control the back end coming around which it will surely do in some situations. That can spin you into oncoming traffic very quickly and easily - even when going slow. A front wheel drive car has more weight on the front and therefore usually more traction and hold back. A Volt in 'L' will tend to exacerbate the problem as will an ICE FWD where the gas peddle is suddenly raised as compression on the drive train will tend to slow the front faster. You make that worse by putting on a set of front tires that have even more traction than the rear. Your back end WILL come around and you WILL lose control under specific conditions. You will NOT recover until the momentum thing plays out. By that time you will be stuck on the shoulder or torn apart by a truck or maybe just cave in some panels. But you will NOT get to choose the outcome.

On front wheel drive cars I run lower tire pressure on the rears in order to equalize the tire foot print on the lighter rear end of the car.
 

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I bought a set of 215/60R-16 General Altimax Arctic and matching alloy rims from TireRack for $825 including the $137 shipping. I've had the tiers on another car and the tread pattern is excellent for winter conditions and superior to other winter tires I've run on the same cars. I do not run studs. These tires are good enough I don't feel the need for them and IMO studs are a two edged sword in terms of safety. They're made in Germany. Hansook (Korea) produces a very similar tire pattern but my experience is their quality is very variable because one tire wore out in a very short time though I'd never had trouble before or after in that position. These Generals are SO much quieter though they might not be quite as good on cornering as the OEM's performance though I think you'd have to be really pushing it to notice. I live in an area with a lot of hills, curves and elevation change.

I don't like spending as much money on alloys for winter tires but by the time you add up 3 seasons of swapping tires (leased car) it's not bad on a cost basis and I can handle swapping the wheels myself and I can resell in the future. The tire diameter seems to be VERY close to the OEM results so I'm guessing the speedometer variance is likely still less than the usual margin of most car's speedos.
 

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A good all season tire replacement for the Volt are the Michelin Primacy MXV4's, H-rated.
I really liked that tire on my 2011. Any word on how the MXMs perform in icy/snowy conditions?

(btw, for weight the numerical load rating is what counts, not the letter. Any tire that satisfies the Volt's top speed letter should be OK, as long as its load rating is 94 or greater. I wouldn't go for anything less than H-rating though, and some may prefer the stiffness/handling of a V-rating.)
 

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I have the Michelin MXM and I must say with the winter storm we are having right now, they work really well, I have a steep hill to go home and they just plow thru. The grip is good on the snow loose or packed. I must say the volt is a mountain goat, great control on the snow. I'm impressed.
 

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I just put on Michelin Ice 3's 215 65 16's on Alloys from TireRack. So far I love them, I'll see how they are when the snow flies. I skipped the TPMS, I got cheap. They are a bit taller then my OEM's.
 

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Just doubling back to this thread to say that the Firestone Winterforce tires are most excellent in icy sleety snowy mix. Traction benefits far outweigh any range losses I might be seeing. At this point I can't tell for sure if my range is any different. It seems on par with last winter, the ICE coming on about 3 blocks from home ;)
 

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Just doubling back to this thread to say that the Firestone Winterforce tires are most excellent in icy sleety snowy mix. Traction benefits far outweigh any range losses I might be seeing. At this point I can't tell for sure if my range is any different. It seems on par with last winter, the ICE coming on about 3 blocks from home ;)
Remind us - are the Firestone's LRR? (There are LRR Winter tires, right? Or am I just making that up?)
 
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