Long Term Review: Can Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 Winter Tires Give Grip and Good Economy?

As anyone who has been driving an electric car for a while will tell you, your choice of tire is just as important as the weather conditions and how you drive in influencing how far your car will travel on a single charge.

For the next few months, well be putting the Hakkapeliitta R2 through its paces.

This winter, we’re putting the supposedly EV-friendly Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tire through its paces.

Most electric cars today come from the factory fitted with tires designed specifically to maximise range in temperate weather. Made of a special compound designed to ensure low rolling resistance while offering grip in wet weather, these tires may be fine in warmer weather, but they’re not great when it comes to winter weather. Then again, neither are regular all-season or summer tires.

That’s because the compound in all-season and summer tires lose their flexibility when the temperature drops below 10 degrees celsius or so. Winter tires by comparison, are designed to stay soft and supple when the temperature drops well below freezing, and have specially-designed tread patterns designed to aid grip on icy or snowy roads.

Off with the summer tires and on with the winter ones. Thanks to discount tire Beaverton for installation

Off with the summer tires and on with the winter ones. Thanks to Discount Tire Beaverton for a professional installation

The problem? While winter tires give better grip, they generally affect fuel economy and range. And for that reason, many electric car owners forgo winter tires altogether. But in the Hakkapeliitta R2, Finnish tire company Nokian claims to have a winter tire that’s capable of providing great winter grip without sacrificing electric car range.

So we decided to call Nokian’s bluff and asked it to let us put its claims to the test. It agreed.

Which is how we’re testing a brand-new set of Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tires on our 2013 Nissan LEAF staff car this winter, with the aim of carrying out three specific tasks.

Firstly, we’re going to evaluate the tires and their performance in a variety of conditions, including both dry and wet roads above and below freezing point, as well as on heavily iced and snowy roads.  While we’re based in Portland Oregon, a place with very little winter snow, we’re close enough to both the Cascades and Mount Hood. Both get significant snowfall in the average winter season, and Mount Hood — despite low levels of snow over the summer — has the longest snow season of any U.S. ski resort.

We’ll be checking to see how well the tires grip in wintry conditions, paying close attention to how the tires handle the high-torque output of an electric car motor.

So far, were impressed.

So far, we’re impressed, but it’s too early to say for sure if EV range lost will be worth the grip.

Second, we’ll be examining the effects the Hakkapeliitta R2 tires have on our electric car range. We want to know how much range is lost due to the tires in cold weather, and if there’s any noticeable difference between it and a Nissan LEAF with regular all-weather tires.

We’ll be paying particular attention to trips we know well, evaluating if winter tires mean planning for extra stops, or if our overall consumption rises noticeably during winter.

Finally, we’ll be looking at the overall benefits of using winter tires on an electric car, even in areas where there’s little winter snow. Our aim? To find out if you should consider winter tires for your electric car next year.

Obviously, our winter test won’t give you the answers you need for this season, but with the tires fitted a little over ten days ago — and our first winter trip on an unplowed, snowy mountain pass where winter tires or chains are required by law, we’ve noted the following things.

Grip is vastly improved on pack ice and snow. Indeed, climbing to Government Camp on Route 26 from Portland, we were able to climb the several thousand feet up to Skibowl West with no traction worries, all while watching SUVs with all-wheel drive and summer tires struggle on the same pass.

Transport Evolved Hakkapeliitta R2 1

Grip on non-snowy passes with plenty of wet leaves is also improved, with Hakkapeliitta R2s gripping better than the stock Michelin Energy Saver tires they replaced. However, when brand new, we’ll note grip on dry, warmer tarmac is less impressive, with some loss of traction when getting over-excited with the accelerator. Since no tires are particularly grippy when new, we’ll hold off judgment at this time.

We’ll be covering the Hakkapeliitta’s unique structure and technical capabilities in future posts throughout the winter, but for now we’re curious to know if you fit winter tires on your electric car.

Do you live somewhere where winter tires are required? Or perhaps you just want improved grip should the weather turn bad. Either way, let us know what’s on your car this winter.


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  • Fitted a new set of Hakkapeliitta R2 on our Tesla Model S earlier this month. In the first few mild (10C) days with the tires, these were our early findings:

    1. Louder than the stock Goodyear OEM summer tires (which only had 8000 km on them) especially at Canadian highway speeds of 120 km/h.

    2. Greater grip in rainy conditions. Very noticeable improvement, such as less traction control moments under hard throttle.

    3. Equal or better efficiency in dry conditions. Saw the best efficiency on a 400 km road trip in the Nokian winter tires compared to the Goodyear summer tires on similar drives. Surprised us, in a good way!

    4. Grip in cold (0C) conditions was good. No slip or braking (never hit anti lock) issues.

    Haven’t had any really snowy weather yet, not sure I’ll remember this article in a few weeks time, but if I do, I’ll post back.

  • Andrew Chewter

    Tried posting to this article a few days ago and it appears to have been lost in the ether? Maybe because I included a link? (Can I include links to my blog where relevant? Google search Kootenay EV Family if you want to find it.)

    Anyways, I am into my second season of driving on my Hakka R2s, mounted on 16″ wheels on my 2014 Leaf. We live in Nelson, BC; so plenty of rain, slush and snow for 3-4 months! Similar to ‘Smart Electric’, I have found the grip in rainy conditions to be better than the stock all season tires. I have also documented my daily efficiency for most of the 18 months that I have owned the car, and have a 70km one-way commute, so I think it is sufficient data to assert that my efficiency is improved by this tire over the stock tire (all conditions similar). They (and the Leaf) handle slushy roads quite well too. I think the slight extra weight of the Leaf over a similar sized car helps.

    In terms of ice/snow grip, the Hakka R2s are a very close second to the studded Hakka 7s (we also own) and Hakka 5s (mounted on a Honda Fit we owned a number of years ago). Where they really beat the studded versions is in the transitional road conditions, including black ice. On pure ice, with sufficient depth for stud purchase, the studs are better. For my driving conditions though, the R2s are a better choice, with the bonus of less noise and higher efficiency. Weekdays are a commute along the river with wildly varying elevations, corners, and road conditions where these tires excel; they also do well in our weekend sojurns to the local ski hill (Whitewater), with 1,100 m of elevation gain.

    Having said all that, I really hope Nissan releases an AWD Rogue with similar motor set-up to the Volvo XC90 or Model S/X, since AWD is a huge help in our region of BC. (Since it seems Subaru won’t do anything EV, our Forester will have to be retired and we would like an almost-equivalent replacement, since it is otherwise a great car and the right size for us.)

  • cros13

    I have a set of bridgestone blizzaks on my i3 here in Ireland. Ordered them at the same time as the car. My preference would have been for Nokians but they hadn’t launched until a month after I picked up my car.

    Once the temperature drops below 7C or in very wet conditions you get much better grip on the winters. I’d have them on all year but for two issues: Wear and ride comfort.

    My big problem at the moment is that due to climate change we’re not getting predictable winter weather here in Ireland any more. Last christmas day we ended up with temperatures higher than the summer average, nearly 20C above the christmas days of my childhood. One week it’s -5 and the next it’s 16-17.

  • Pat Campbell

    Nice article Nikki. Also appreciate the comments. Sounds like the tires I’ll need once we own an EV.

  • I have the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2’s on my Tesla Model S. They’ve done great in past winters and just trying to figure out the best time to put them on again this season. My Tesla is pre-AWD, but with the Nokian’s it feels like its glued to the road in the Winter.

  • Charley

    I was all set to buy Nokian Hak R2, but then I read Consumer Reports reviews of the Hak R2, Michelin Ice Xi3, Bridgestone Blizzak 80, and other top studless Winter tires. It says the R2, Mi3, and Blizzak 80 have poor wet braking. I live in the Pacific North West (midway between Portland and Olympia) so wet braking is very important to me.

    Other reviewers (besides Consumer Reports) like the Hak R2, Mich Mi3, and Blizzak 80 just fine. So I’m curious, what are the experiences of the author of this review (Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield) with wet braking ability of the R2 at various temperatures?

    I read a reviewer at another website saying the R2 corners and brakes good on wet and dry pavement below 40F, but is terrible above 50F. If so, that’s not really a problem since it’s meant to be used below 40F. Maybe Consumer Reports tested the wet and dry braking above 50F?

    If I buy Hak R2, I will only run them during months with temp consistently below 50F. So it won’t be a problem if R2 needs temp below 50F to perform.

    • Arnis

      On Hak R2 all the thread is design according to the worst surfaces: ice and snow. Wet grip is measured not on those. Hak R2 is pretty much world leader in those hard conditions, at the cost of worse results in other, much easier conditions. In short, would you rather choose winter tire that needs 50 meters to stop on water and 150 meters on ice OR tire that needs 70 meters to stop on water and 120 meters on ice? (same for feet)

    • David

      I am in the same situation. Unfortunately, my daughter goes to school in August from California to Maine. Since she is curiously opposed to storing a second set of tires in her dorm room, or driving back to CA in November, I need to put the tires on in August in CA. for her to drive to Maine. I am also looking at either the R2, Mi3, or possibly the Nokian MRG3. If I thought the R2s would do reasonably well in the three months of warmer weather, I would definitely get those in a heartbeat.