Technical Guide: Electric Scooter Tires

Close up of Minimotors Dualtron 3 scooter with man riding

Tires connect your electric scooter with the ground. They are an important part of safety, durability, and ride quality. This guide covers the ins and outs of electric scooter tires. You’ll learn the advantages and disadvantages of pneumatic (air-filled) and solid (airless) tires.

Tire Type Comparison

TypeFlat ResistanceRide QualityTraction
Pneumatic,
Inner tube
PoorExcellentExcellent
Pneumatic,
Tubeless
GoodExcellentExcellent
Solid,
Honeycomb /
Air Pocket
ExcellentGoodPoor
Solid,
Filled
ExcellentPoorPoor

Types of Tires

There are two commonly used types of electric scooter tires:

Overall, pneumatic tires are better performing than solid tires. Pneumatic or air-filled tires are more efficient, and provide better cushioning and traction. For this reason, we always recommend them. Solid tires are zero maintenance because they don’t get flats but won’t necessarily last longer than pneumatic ones.

Both types of tires will wear out over time.

Pneumatic (Air-filled) Tires

Pneumatic tires, also called air-filled tires, are made of supple rubber and use air pressure to maintain their structure. They have a valve stem that protrudes either from the side or into the center of the wheel, which you use to fill or empty air from the tire and also check the air pressure. Most tires that you see on other vehicles — cars, bicycles, motorcycles — are pneumatic. Pneumatic tires come in two flavors: tubeless and inner tube.

Tubeless tires

EMOVE Cruiser front wheel and deck
The EMOVE Cruiser has large tubeless pneumatic tires that are more flat resistant than ones with inner tubes.

Tubeless tires are common on automobiles, consisting of only the tire that forms an air-tight seal around the tire rim. The tire rim houses the valve stem. Tubeless tires tend to be more heavy duty, puncture resistant, and higher performance. For that reason, you’ll generally only find these more expensive tires on premium and performance scooters. However, if you do get a flat or need to change the tire, it can be a real pain. On some electric scooters you will actually have to take the whole wheel to a tire shop and have them use their tire removal machine to get it off.

Inner tube tires

Close up of Xiaomi M365 front tire
The Xiaomi Mi M365 has front and rear pneumatic inner tube tires.

Inner tube pneumatic tires are common on bicycles and electric scooters; they have a heavy outer tire “shell,” which has treads and makes contact with the road. Inside the outer tire is a separate inner tube that holds the air and has the valve stem. If the outer tire is punctured, only the inner tube needs to be patched or replaced.

Advantages of Pneumatic Tires

Pneumatic tires have three major benefits compared to solid tires: lower rolling friction, better ride cushioning, and better traction.

Lower rolling coefficient of friction means that these tires lose less energy as they roll along the ground. You will get better mileage and higher top speed with pneumatic tires.

Better ride cushioning is afforded by the air pressure in the tire. Pneumatic tires are better able to absorb bumps in the road than solid ones. On some scooters, they are the only form of suspension.

Pneumatic tires are made of supple rubber and have a better static coefficient of friction, which means they are less likely to slip as they roll along the ground. They will allow you to stop more quickly without sliding. Additionally, they provide better traction even in wet conditions.

Disadvantages of Pneumatic Tires

There are two disadvantages to pneumatic tires: susceptibility to flats and tire pressure maintenance. One of the most common complaints from scooter riders is the necessity to replace or refill pneumatic tires. With solid tires, you won’t get flats or have to monitor the tire pressure, but pneumatic tires (inner tube or tubeless) still perform better overall. 

Pro Tip: Reduce your chances of getting a flat with a few simple tire tips. If you’re shopping for a pneumatic tire scooter, try to get one with split rims. Split rims are rims bolted together that can be separated, allowing for much easier tire changes. 

Solid Tires

Booster V front wheel motor
The UScooters Booster V has solid tires that will never get a flat, but have a harsher ride.

Solid tires use a rubber or solid polyurethane foam filling material to provide structural integrity, rather than air pressure. They are completely immune to punctures and will never go flat like a pneumatic tire. This is their major (and only) benefit. In every other way, solid tires are inferior to pneumatic tires.

One thing to note is that solid tires can be much more difficult to change. For example, the Segway Ninebot ES2 electric scooters are notorious for having a solid front tire that is impossible to change, requiring the entire wheel (and motor) to be exchanged. Keep this in mind when exploring electric scooter options that have solid tires.

Solid tires are not necessarily more durable than pneumatic tires. They will never go flat from being punctured. However, they are often made of hard plastics that will wear down more quickly due to their higher rolling friction. 

Solid tires have two basic forms: honeycomb and filled. 

Honeycomb / Air Pocket Tires

The Unagi Model One has air pocket tires that provide some cushion but are immune to flats.

Some solid tires have a “honeycomb” or “air pocket” construction. Honeycomb tires are made from the same rubber as other solid tires and have an internal honeycomb or ribbed construction designed to provide structural integrity and keep the weight down. Because there are air pockets within the tire, they provide more cushion than their filled solid counterparts. With less rubber than filled rubber tires, honeycomb tends to be lighter weight but not as light as pneumatic tires. These are the least common type of tires among air-filled and solid types.

Filled (Solid) Tires

Filled tires contain a rubber, foam, or other solid yet flexible polymer filling. Filled solid tires are heavier and stiffer in construction. These types of materials tend to be very durable, but can get damaged and wear down over time. Wear and tear ordinarily does not render filled tires inoperable, but happens more quickly than with pneumatic tires. Again, filled tires can be difficult to replace.

Advantages of Solid Tires

The main benefit of solid tires is that you will never have a flat or need to deal with air pressure. Any punctures to solid tires will not make them inoperable or less effective, as with pneumatic tires. In general, solid tires are less expensive than pneumatic tires not only in upkeep but in general cost.

Disadvantages of Solid Tires

There are a number of downsides to having solid tires on your electric scooter, including being heavier than air-filled tires, worse traction, and worse ride quality. Not only will solid tires affect the quality of your ride, some are almost impossible to replace. Also, solid tires will have worse traction than air-filled tires, particularly in wet conditions. 

Tires Size and Surface

The Qiewa QPower is fitted with knobby tires that perform well off-road and provide traction on loose soil.

Along with tire type, the diameter, width, and tread pattern also affects its safety, traction, and rider comfort.

Larger diameter tires give a safer, more comfortable ride. As the tire diameter increases, it’s easier to roll over obstacles in the road. This means you will feel less of a jolt when you encounter bumps or potholes. You are also less likely to get the wheel caught in a pothole, which could throw you off the scooter, making it safer. 

Generally, the wider the tire, the more stable (and, in turn, comfort) you will feel. Wider tires are less likely to get caught in cracks in the road, where you almost feel like you’re being guided down a track, and safer.  

Some e-scooters have tires with knobby off-road tread while others have smooth tread suited for paved roads. Similarly to bicycle tires and those designed for urban roads vs. rural terrain, you will find scooter tire treads also come in varieties. 

Most commuter scooters will come with smooth on-road tires, whereas many premium and extreme performance scooters are available with on- or off-road tires. 

Common Tire Configurations

In general, manufacturers design electric scooters with pneumatic tires but some use a mix of both air-filled and solid tires. In mixed configurations, the front tire is often air-filled while the rear tire is solid. Rear tires bear more of the rider’s weight and tend to be more susceptible to flats than the front tire. According to our own study, rear tires get flats about 10X more than front tires. By using this mixed configuration, one can gain some of the benefits of pneumatic tires while dramatically reducing your odds of getting a flat. 

A majority of the scooters that we’ve reviewed with mixed tire types are in the $800 price range, with only a couple in the $300 range including the Swagtron Swagger 5

Oftentimes, brands use solid tires on lower-priced scooters. About 40% of budget electric scooters (under $300) have solid tires, 47% come with air-filled tires, and 13% have a combination of solid and air-filled tires. 

When looking at electric scooters across all price ranges, pneumatic tires are more common in general, and scooters in the premium and performance ($2500 to $4000) price range all have pneumatic tires (and disc brakes). 

Pro Tip: Use the “Tires” column in our scooter comparison database to research scooters by tire type.

Tire Maintenance

As mentioned, solid tires are much more difficult to replace than air-filled tires; however, they require no maintenance. With some configurations, you have to remove the tire from the scooter in order to replace it. For solid tires, this is common and can even require professional assistance. For pneumatic tires, the design can make replacing them simpler or more difficult. 

For example, some electric scooters, especially those in the higher price ranges, come with split-rim tire designs. With a split-rim tire, you can easily remove half of the tire to replace the inner tube without taking the tire off of the scooter. 

Pro Tip: If the tires on your electric scooter need replacing, check the terms of your warranty as some distributors provide replacement of component parts.

Summary

Pneumatic (tube filled and tubeless) tires are the best tires for your electric scooter. Air-filled tires will give you a more comfortable ride and keep you glued to the ground better than solid tires. 

When shopping for an electric scooter, be sure to take a look at the types of tires. Along with brakes and any suspension, your tires greatly affect your ride quality. 

Check out our current ESG Editor’s pick of the best electric scooters on the market!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I replace pneumatic tires? Is it worth it?

Yes, you can replace pneumatic tires, but depending on the style of tire and enclosure, it may be more or less difficult. If the scooter has split rims, then the rim can be taken apart, allowing for easier tire change. If the scooter doesn’t have a split rim, then you will have to forcefully pry the tire off the rim and stretch it back on when replacing it. 

For inner tube tires, you typically only need to replace the tube. However, if the tire itself is badly damaged, you will also need to replace that. 

If you have a flat, we recommended trying tire sealant first before trying to replace either the inner tube or tire.

Can I replace solid tires? Is it worth it?

Yes, you can replace solid tires but it’s generally a difficult endeavor. On some budget electric scooters, the entire wheel (including the motor) must be replaced together. This is generally prohibitively expensive. 

On more premium scooters, like the UScooters line, tires can be replaced, but with some difficulty.

Can I swap out solid tires for pneumatic tires?

Without major modifications of the scooter, you generally cannot convert a solid tire scooter into pneumatic.

Can I swap out pneumatic tires for solid tires?

Yes, and this seems to be most popular for the Xiaomi M365. Solid replacement tires are widely available on Amazon. However the procedure is quite difficult and involves using a long lever arm and requires A LOT of muscle.

Do some solid tire types perform better than others?

Honeycomb or air-pocket tires tend to provide slightly better suspension than solid tires. However, this depends a lot on the brand.

Do tires on electric scooters need adjustment? Is that something I should do, if I’m not a professional?

The only necessary maintenance is checking the pressure and adding air to pneumatic tires. Eventually, all tires will need to be replaced after the tread wears down or if they become damaged.   

Can I replace my tires with off-brand/generic tires? 

Yes, electric scooter tires and inner tubes come in standard diameters and widths. So long as you find an appropriate-sized replacement, it should work.

Do all scooter models come with tires for regular riding vs. off-roading?

Yes, most premium and extreme performance scooters have optional off-road tires. These tires have a more aggressive, deeper, and knobbier tread pattern that provides better traction off-road.

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About the Author

Justin

Justin is a cofounder of ESG and has a degree in engineering. He writes about the science and technology of electric scooters.

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