Innovation

Tesla: Elon Musk-shared video reveals Model S Plaid's record-breaking speed

The Tesla Model S Plaid has already set an impressive record on a famous racetrack.

Tesla/YouTube

Tesla’s next electric car just reached a new milestone in the race to electrification.

On Thursday, CEO Elon Musk shared a photo on Twitter of a lap time for the recently-released Tesla Model S Plaid. The sedan took on the Nürburgring, Germany’s legendary racetrack venue, and came away with the official world speed record for a production electric car. The following day, Tesla shared a video on YouTube of the record-breaking run.

Musk’s photo reveals that the vehicle recorded its fastest time of seven minutes, 30 seconds, and 909 milliseconds. This was likely on the longer of the complex’s two circuits, the 20.832-kilometer (12.945-mile) Nordschleife circuit, built in 1927. The car reached an average speed of 166.32 km/h (103.35 mph).

Tesla's record-breaking lap time.Elon Musk/Twitter

The feat demonstrates how Tesla’s technology is advancing in the race to replace gas-powered cars. The company is in an ongoing race with other manufacturers like Porsche, which set the previous record of seven minutes and 42 seconds in September 2019.

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The Model S Plaid, released in June, is the company’s fastest-ever vehicle. It offers an EPA-estimated range of 396 miles, a top speed of 200 mph, and 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of 1.99 seconds. The car is priced at $129,990 before savings and incentives.

Watch the record-breaking run below:

The video shows the new steering yoke, perhaps the most controversial design decision in the new vehicle. The yoke replaces the full circle wheel found in most other cars. MotorTrend described it after a hands-on as “hit and miss” for daily driving.

It seems the yoke didn’t stop Tesla from beating the record, however.

It’s the new record for a production electric vehicle, but in other categories, other manufacturers have achieved faster:

  • In June 2021, Porsche achieved the fastest time for any production car at six minutes 43 seconds with its 911 GT2 RS.
  • In June 2019, Volkswagen set the record for the fastest electric vehicle on the circuit with its ID.R racecar. The vehicle achieved a time of six minutes and five seconds.
  • In June 2018, Porsche set the record for the fastest vehicle overall with the 919 Evo Le Mans racecar, at a breakneck pace of just five minutes, 19 seconds, and 545 milliseconds.

Electrek notes that the length used by Tesla and other automakers may differ from times set by the public on the Nordschleife circuit. While the route is open to the public, these public sessions use a shorter configuration of 19.1 kilometers (11.87 miles) from the bridge to the gantry. Laps are also set on a 20.6-kilometer configuration (12.8 miles). The longest, 12.945-mile version is reserved for closed sessions — the setup that Tesla is using.

The Inverse analysis — Tesla’s feat may mean little for real-world use, but it could help communicate to buyers that these cars are ready to replace their traditional gas-powered vehicle.

Tesla is scheduled to release the even faster second-generation Roadster sometime next year. Considering how Musk described it at the 2017 launch event as a “hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” it’s clear that Tesla’s main goal with these feats is to boost the image of electric vehicles.

Not everyone is pleased with the race to perfect Nürburgring timings. James May, co-host of British car shows Top Gear and The Grand Tour, wrote in 2009 that this focus “encourages compromise in the areas that actually make a car pleasant to drive.” May argued that handling is more important than grip for real-world use, for instance, but grip improves lap times.

Mass-market vehicles like the Model 3 and Model Y sacrifice performance for a more consumer-friendly price tag for buyers excited by these records but more interested in real-world use.

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