Why are Tesla wheels so big? A thought

I think looks have to do with it too but the primary reason might be: suspension considerations.

My reasoning is this: the larger wheels are able to “overcome” obstacles in the road (such as broken pavement, potholes, and uneven pavement)

Do you think I’m right?

Since EVs have a lot of low-end torque, it’s able to power a heavy wheel/tire combo and get it moving without much issue. It’s regenerative system is able to capture the momentum of that large spinning mass during breaking as well.

BUT, the primary reason is because bigger wheels/tires are able to ‘overcome’ bad roads (where as a tiny wheel/tire gets ‘swallowed up,’ so to speak, I’m exaggerating of course.)

Larger wheels mean low profile tires that are subject to more damage from potholes and bad roads .

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Well, a 20” wheel is 50% heavier than a 15” wheel so shock valving/spring rate needs to be tweaked to keep handling consistent.
I solid modeled rims and cad says so.

Nope. Better having a ‘normal’ size wheel with a higher profile tire, more sidewall to absorb ‘obstacles in the road’.

Big wheels are mostly a fashion fad. Rough riding, easier to damage. Some size increase needed for the large brakes these heavy EVs require, but anything over base size is a waste to me. Slightly better handling is usually not worth it, other than for sports/sporty cars.


I agree with the OP, and I was thinking essentially the same thing just a few days ago.

Over the years, Consumer Reports has been pretty consistent with statements along the lines of “larger wheels produce a rougher ride”, but that has not been my experience.

My former car with 17 inch wheels managed potholes better than a previous car with 16 inch wheels, and my new car–with 50-series tires on 20 inch wheels–glides over potholes with nary a notice of those road imperfections. And, I keep those tires inflated to 3 psi over the vehicle mfr’s recommendation.

Teslas are everywhere where I live. Never noticed their wheels being larger than any other 2020s cars.

I’m sure cars can be designed to ride well with lower profile tires, mine do with their 50 series tires. But take that car and put wheels/tires with higher sidewalls, and I’d bet it would ride even smoother. I’m looking at a new car that comes with 19" wheels, but the option package I want automatically comes with 21" wheels. I may try to see if they’ll swap out the wheels, I’d think someone would want them.

First - Style. Big wheels seem to be popular.
Second - there are complex braking and energy regeneration devices behind those big rims. Maybe they need the space?
Third - while it seems negligible, electric cars seem to have large smooth wheels to lower wind resistance and increase mileage.

When Goodyear created a 17" Corvette tire an inch wider than the previous 16" tire, the lower profile, wider 17" actually rode better on the same car! I got a chance to ride these on a test track. Black Magic was my thought at the time! So some of the improvement is definitely in the tire itself.

That said, brake engineers love them, as @texases points out, but stylists do too. So the suspension engineers design in more fore-aft compliance, structures engineers add stiffness to the body, and damper engineers soften the compression damping to accommodate.

The low profile tires on a Tesla (and SUVs and trucks) are a challenge because they weigh so much. They do want to protect the wheels and tire sidewalls. It is difficult when you have a 30 series sidewall.


No, I think it’s more likely because Teslas, like most electric cars are very heavy for the size of vehicles they are. Heavy vehicles need bigger brakes, bigger brakes need larger wheels in order to clear the larger discs.

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I think part of the difference in ride is that you now drive a Lexus and used to drive a Subaru. The Lexus is meant to absorb road imperfections better than the Subaru, and is part of why you paid more for it.

Of course, I expected a Lexus to have a luxury-level ride, and I haven’t been disappointed, but Subarus are known for excellent ride qualities, also. This is one of CR’s comments about the 2023 Outback:

The Outback has a solid feel, with a very comfortable ride that outshines some luxury SUVs

My Outback was 11 years old, but it still rode and handled very well, especially in comparison to American-made competitors.

Don’t know, but guessing part of the reason for larger diameter wheels is less rolling resistance. Mt Bike designers switched from 26 in to 29 in diameter wheels for similar reason.

Nope. Bigger wheels are heavier, get poorer mpgs. And it’s the same size tire, bigger or smaller wheel in this case.

Big heavy wheels are real power and acceleration sinks, too. The near-instant high torque of an electric motor somewhat compensates for that.

Had to look for it but this is from a C&D test back in 2010,


It’s all how the rest of the vehicle looks whether or not the wheels look bigger or smaller. Hopefully the image shows up for everyone, but below is a picture of my old CX-7. They may not look like it, but those are 19" rims.

The answer must be purely for style and handling. A Tesla is a performance car, not a money saver. As someone’s post showed, bigger wheels get worse fuel economy.