Innovation

Tesla: Elon Musk makes a bold assertion about electric car battery range

Tesla looks set to launch a new model of its electric vehicle, but CEO Elon Musk has taken a strong position on battery range.

Tesla is about to launch an electric vehicle with less than 400 miles of battery range — but Elon Musk has suggested that’s probably fine.

The electric vehicle firm is set to launch the Tesla Model S Plaid sedan on Thursday. Tesla is expected to hand over the keys for the first few cars to lucky buyers, similar to ones held for the Model 3 in 2017 and 2020. But on Sunday, days before the launch, Musk revealed that the Plaid+ upgrade expected in mid-2022 was now canceled.

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While the move won’t change Thursday’s event, it does put a damper on hopes that Tesla would release an electric car with an even larger amount of battery range between charges. Thursday’s Plaid car will feature an impressive array of specs, beating out the existing Model S on speed, but actually features reduced range compared to its predecessor. Plaid+ was expected to offer more range than ever.

Here’s how the specs compare:

  • The current Model S costs $78,490 and offers a battery range of 412 miles, a top speed of 155 mph, and 0 to 60 mph times of 3.1 seconds.
  • The Model S Plaid costs $118,490 and offers a battery range of 390 miles, a top speed of 200 mph, and 0 to 60 mph times of 1.99 seconds.
  • The now-canceled Model S Plaid+ would have cost $148,490 and offer a battery range of more than 520 miles, a top speed of 200 mph, and 0 to 60 mph times of under two seconds.

The Plaid+ model may have cost an impressive $30,000 extra but would have also offered at least 130 miles of extra range.

While that may have been useful for long road trips, winter conditions that cut range, or other scenarios like towing, Musk has suggested it’s not a big deal. In a comment to Electrek, Musk stated:

“What we are seeing is that once you have a range above 400 miles, more range doesn’t really matter. There are essentially zero trips above 400 miles where the driver doesn’t need to stop for restroom, food, coffee, etc. anyway.”

On his Twitter page, Musk also wrote that there’s “no need” for the Plaid+ car as “Plaid is just so good.”

Tesla Model S in action.Tesla

It’s a strong claim, especially as a 2019 Volvo survey found 58 percent of non-electric car drivers cited running out of power as their main concern about switching.

It’s not the first time Tesla has focused on other areas of the electric car. Indeed, the company’s network of high-powered superchargers was designed to stretch the Model S’ initially limited range even further. Doug Alfaro, a former Tesla regional manager that oversaw the early supercharger rollout, explained the logic to Inverse in February 2020.

“Tesla wanted to build the best car ever in all different scenarios to fully replace the combustion vehicle,” he said. “You can use it day to day but also for important emotional parts of vehicle ownership. Road trips, visit family, business to business trips.”

If you’re stopping to take a break, you can also charge up at the same time.

The Inverse analysis — From a competition standpoint, Tesla remains in front. Its 390-mile range makes the Model S Plaid the vehicle with the current-highest range as rated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But Tesla will face stiff competition soon. The Lucid Air sedan is set to hit roads in late 2021, with the Dream Edition with a projected range of 503 miles. The Grand Touring model will offer a projected range of 517 miles and a price of $131,500 — a direct pitch for Plaid+ customers focused on range.

Tesla is planning the Cybertruck for a late 2021 launch with over 500 miles of range, but buyers hoping for a more traditional sedan will be left disappointed.

The firm’s advanced battery technology, which promised improved range, was originally set for the Plaid+ version of the Model S. With that model gone, all eyes will be on Tesla to see whether it includes the new cells in a future iteration of the Model S.

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