Tesla Motors provides some of the world’s most luxurious electric vehicles on the market. These vehicles made battery-powered vehicles popular through outstanding performance and high-tech innovations such as improved driving range. As the years went by, Tesla continues to improve the quality of their vehicles to remain a leader in the automobile industry.
How far can a Tesla go on a charge? All Teslas prior to 2021 can go between 262-402 miles range. Future Tesla models (2020-2021) will be able to go 500-600+ miles on a charge.
Despite the high-performance ratings, you will rarely reach these lengths regardless of the Tesla model you have. Several different factors determine the performance of an electric vehicle. With the right precautions, you can manage these factors to increase the range of your Tesla beyond the reported values.
Tesla Motors and Driving Range Performance
Anyone buying an automobile must sieve through a wide array of features. These features will vary by model and model year, but for most electric vehicles (EV), the key features are their batteries, Tesla cars included. Particularly, electric car buyers want to know how much range they can get out of them.
Driving range, or milage, is the distance a vehicle can travel on a single load of fuel, either a full gas tank for traditional vehicles or a full battery for an electric. In other words, the range is how long it takes before you must recharge your vehicle. Tesla cars can get this value as a remaining battery charge or as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mileage rating.
Battery size is the largest contributor to any EV’s driving range. With a large battery, a vehicle simply has more energy to go farther. However, large batteries also take a lot of time to recharge. You cannot just charge them up for a few minutes and expect to get more distance like you can with a gas-powered vehicle.
Thus, you must consider the working range when buying a vehicle. The working range is the distance you can travel before you must head back home. A short-range vehicle may offer a farther working range if you have the time at each location to recharge the battery.
Tesla offers several different range categories:
- Standard Range (SR) – up to 300 miles
- The performance or Standard Range Plus (SR+) – 300 miles with performance boosts
- Long-Range (LR) – more than 300 miles
Each category comes with its set of features and benefits. For instance, long-range vehicles offer an all-wheel-drive (AWD). AWD uses two drives to improve efficiency and acceleration. However, those features come at a high cost. Therefore, you must weigh each category by price as well.
Tesla Performance Range Characteristics by Model
While competition continues to close in, Tesla Motors is still the best EVs in the EPA’s driving range category. The Model S can do 402 miles while most other EVs clock in under 250. With better models coming down the line, Tesla seems unbeatable.
Even if you factor in their effective working range, Tesla cars still give you more performance for their price. There are numerous reasons for this situation, including more accurate testing practices, large battery sizes for each range category, and more efficient drive trains.
These high-performance numbers suggest that Tesla cars are worth the money if you can afford them. Still, with seven models currently on the market and another on the way, choosing the right Tesla car for you can be challenging. It requires some research into your range needs and an understanding of how each model performs. While only you can do the first task, this list is here to help you with the second.
As 2020 ends, car manufacturers are bringing out their 2021 model years. Along with the standard Models X, S, 3, and Y, Tesla is bringing back an old classic. Originally launched in 2008, the Tesla Roadster comes back as it left, sporting a maximum acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in under 2 seconds.
The Roadster is returning as an all-performance vehicle with a top speed of over 250 miles per hour. The AWD power train will take you over 600 miles on a single recharge as well. It is simply the EV for sports car fans. Tesla claims they will also make an even faster “Founders Series” version, but only 1000 of them will be built.
As it is unreleased, the Roadster’s limitations and benefits are speculations at best. While it sports a 200-kWh battery behind a pair of electric motors, The vehicle is unlikely to maintain its 620-mile range except under light use.
- Starting Price: $200,000
- Configuration: LR
- Range: 620 miles
- Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 1.9s
2020 Model S
Originally launched in 2012, the Tesla Model S is the flagship for the company. A phenomenal piece of machinery, the Model S defines what an EV is. The 2020 model year features a Jaguar-like smooth, long, and low design to go with its AWD drivetrain and auto-pilot.
The agile sedan also comes in three configurations: Long Range+, Performance, and Plaid, with Tesla dropping the SR in 2019. It also takes advantage of Tesla’s V3 Supercharging system, reducing its charging time by 25 percent.
It’s as if your brain is connected to the wheels. You think, and the car moves forward. There are hardly any moving parts between your foot and the forward motion of the car – electrons move from the battery to the motor, and the motor turns the wheels. That’s it.
- Starting price: $69,420
- Configurations: LR+, P, PL
- Range: 402 miles (LR+), 387 miles (P), 520+ miles (PL)
- Acceleration: 0-60mph in 3.7s (LR+), 2.3s (P), <2.0s (PL)
2019 Tesla Model X
Often called the “soccer mom” electric car, the Model X is an SUV with room for seven people. The 2019 model year comes in two AWD-equipped variants. The LR Model X and go 351 miles before needing a recharge, while the Performance tier can only do 305 miles but with a higher acceleration.
Either format is fast enough to compete with anything in the 2020 model year, making the 2019 Model X one of the fastest rides for families of up to seven people. The naming scheme may confuse veteran Tesla owners, though. Tesla switched to the industry classification standard with its 2019 models, with the 100D becoming LR while the P100D is becoming the performance tier.
- Starting price: $82,200
- Configurations: LR, SR+
- Range: 305 miles (SR+), 351 miles (LR)
- Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 4.4s (LR), 2.6s (SR+)
2019 Model S
While it does not have the updated features of the 2020 model year, the older 2019 Model S is still a contender for the best EV on the road. The sedan still retains the SR setup, letting you choose between distance and performance. The model year even supports the Jaguar design and AWD in all three formats.
While the LR and SR+ variants introduced the ratings seen in their 2020 versions, the SR 2019 Model S is no slouch either. The base sedan can go 270 miles before needing a recharge and a comparable 3.9 seconds of maximum acceleration.
Despite the respectable performance, the 2019 Model S is slow to recharge. The battery does give the sedan a lower center of gravity and better agility around turns, but you pay for that power in time spent hooked up at a station.
- Starting Price: $76,200
- Configurations: SR, SR+, LR
- Advertised Range: 335 miles (LR), 315 miles (SR+), 270 miles (SR)
- Advertised Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 3.7s (LR), 2.4s (SR+), 3.0s (SR)
2020 Model X
Tesla made 2020 the fastest and greenest model year for the Model X SUV. With room for seven people, the crossover remains its annual position as a practical, AWD, high-tech vehicle for families. Its two configurations can take you over 300 miles before needed a recharge as well.
Tesla constantly upgrades their models every year with the latest battery and motor technologies, ensuring that remain the best and more efficient in the market. Tested on Germany’s Nürburgring racecourse, the new Model X’s upgraded power train offers respectable performance in both variants.
Speaking of the variants, the LR+ Model X can reach an impressive 371 miles before needing a recharge while taking 4.4 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the Performance tier is 2 seconds faster, though it can only go 341 miles on a single full battery.
- Starting price: $79,990
- Configurations: LR+, P
- Range: 371 miles (LR+), 341 miles (P)
- Accelerations: 0-60 mph in 4.4s (LR+), 2.6 (P)
2020 Model 3
Tesla claims to not believe in model years, but they keep updating their stock each year. These updates provide an incremental performance upgrade along with the usual software tweaks. The 2020 Model 3 even takes advantage of the Tesla V3 Supercharging Network to reduce its recharging time. All variants can now go further as well, keeping you on the road longer.
The SR+ version now supports a rear-wheel-drive system that can reach 60 miles per hour in under 5.1 seconds. The Performance tier improves the acceleration to under 3.5 seconds, making the Model 3 0.4 seconds faster than the Performance-tier Model S. All three models keep the under-floor battery placement for the improved center of gravity and performance characteristics.
- Starting: Price: $37,990
- Configurations: SR+, LR, P
- Range: 263 miles (SR+), 353 miles (LR), 315 miles (P)
- Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 5.3s (SR+), 4.2s (LR), 3.1s (P)
2020 Model Y
The compact 2020 Model Y crossover SUV fills the gap between the Model 3 and the Model X. It provides enough cargo space, amenities, and driving range for every family. While Tesla originally envisioned four variants, they ended up dropping their offers two.
Both versions of the Model Y come with the same standard AWD and range features. The Performance tier has a second faster acceleration over the LR configuration. Regardless of which your buy, the Model Y remains competitive to similar gas-powered vehicles from Mercedes-Bens, Audi, and BMW.
However, the Model Y poorly retains its max range compared to Model 3. The ModelY’ ss advertised range is only good on straight, level roads under ideal conditions. Hilly terrain can drop the range by at least 100 miles due to the car’s extra weight.
- Starting price: $51,190
- Configurations: LR, SR+
- Range: 316 miles (LR), 315 (SR+)
- Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 4.8s (LR), 3.5s (SR+)
2019 Model 3
The Model 3 was the low-cost alternative to the Model S. Its driving range is comparable to the S for half the price and fewer luxuries. The four-door compact sedan still has the performance to rival the BMW 3 and the Mercedes-Benz C-class.
While the 2019 model year does not have the performance of its current year cousins, the base range of 240 miles is great for most daily commutes. The long-range Model 3 clocks in at 325 miles while the Performance has 310 miles range.
The EPA rated the model at 116 to 133 miles per hour equivalent (MPGe), though most drives will only get around 84 MPGe.
- Starting Price: $36,200
- Configurations: P, LR, SR+
- Range: 310 miles (P), 325 miles (LR), 240 miles (SR+)
- Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 3.2s (P), 4.4s (LR), 5.3s (SR+)
Working Range Versus Advertised Range
While EV manufacturers and enthusiasts boast the ranges of their vehicles, most drivers will never reach the post range of their vehicles. The difference between the posted and observed ranges has many causes. However, the most important of these are battery size and chemistry, as well as the availability of charging stations.
Battery size is the key consideration for the driving range. Tesla builds each model with a specific battery size in mind, and this battery size ultimately determines the ranges they advertise.
For instance, the Model S comes with a stock 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which induces a constant 443 foot-pounds of torque into the motors. This torque is what gives the Modele S its 16,000 rpm and 400-mile driving range. A larger 200-kWh battery pack can increase that range up to 600 miles without changing anything else.
However, the absolute range of an EV battery is just a calculated ideal and does not truly reflect how a car will actually perform. Drive motors create back voltages, which retard the range in the process. This effect gets worse, the faster you travel.
Charging Station Availability
A Tesla vehicle’s driving range is only as good as the distance between charging stations. As electric cars become more popular, more charging stations will pop up. Until then, you must deal with the current limited availability and make sure you can drive to a station in time.
You must also consider how long it takes for your car to recharge. If there are no charging stations within walking distance of your workplace or home, you must schedule charging into your schedule. That charging time will reduce the effective range of your vehicle as well.
Batteries Decay Over Time
As with any electrical device, EV batteries are not forever. While large batteries decay more slowly than small packs, every battery will eventually become useless. Tesla’s ss long-range battery packs will degrade by 3 percent efficiency over the life of the vehicle. In other words, you will end up paying an extra $800 for that 20-percent faster Level 2 recharging.
Fortunately, the decay is slow enough that most people will not notice it. Generally, if you stick to major supercharger routes and your local area, the battery will not be the range bottleneck for your vehicle. Instead, your driving habits will be the source of your reduced performance.
Therefore, there is no shame in getting a vehicle with a smaller battery if that is all you can budget. You may need to alter your driving to fit, but the small battery will save you money in the long run.
While confusing, you never want to charge your car’ ss battery fully and then drive until it drops to zero. It might seem useful, but the practice ruins the battery. Therefore, you only want to charge it up to about 80% capacity and keep it above 20%. If you must, you can push the car to 90/10 for road trips, but you should never go beyond that.
Tesla Tire Size and Driving Range
Tires perform several important functions for your vehicle. They allow the car to accelerate. They help the braking system. They improve the handling of the vehicle while they reduce shocks and road noise. However, they may also reduce the effective driving range.
Not every tire works in all situations. Some tires work best at high speeds. Other tires help maintain traction on wet roads. The requirements for these and other specialized tasks are not always compatible with each other. It is these incompatibilities that eat into your vehicle’ ss range.
While tread design is important, it is not as big as the size of the tires themselves. For instance, a Model X with 20-inch tires can go 305 miles but will only do 270 miles. On 22-inch wheels. In other words, decreasing Xire size by 20 inches improved the performance of the car by 30 miles.
You see the effect on all Tesla models. The Model 3 LR can reach up to 440 miles on 18-inch wheels but barely goes over 400 miles on 20-inch tires. A 2019 Model 3 SR cannot even go over 300 miles with 18-inch wheels without special aerodynamic hubcaps. The same range drops occur with the Model S and three as well.
The effect is not limited to electric vehicles. A 4-inch decrease in tire size will improve the fuel economy of a gas vehicle by 10 percent as well.
The key term is rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is any force that reduces motion. To get the most distance out of your vehicle, you want low rolling resistance. However, many of the contributing factors, such as road quality, are not in your control.
Because of this effect, most of the time, you want to stick with stock Tesla tires on most models. While you could go with smaller tires, wheel size is not the only factor that affects range. Smaller tires grip the road less, which can make them slip and lose traction.
Luckily, All new EVs come equipped with at least 18-inch wheels, providing a decent range without jeopardizing performance in other ways. If you need more distance out of your Tesla, you can just add a hubcap for a 3-4 percent boost.
All EVs have a climate problem, Teslas included. While they brag about driving ranges of 400 miles or more, those numbers are only good if you drive in Southern California or Florida. Travel anywhere north, and you will be lucky if your Model S will do even 100 miles, especially during winter months.
Winter driving is by far the worst-case scenario for any car. Manufacturers rarely build for it. Dealers rarely talk about it either. Tesla is guilty of both. Sure, your Tesla will deliver its projected range during a storm, but it will leave you stranded there as well.
It does not even need to be cold before you see a drop in Tesla’s range. You only need a 45-degree Fahrenheit day to see the range of a Performance Model S to drop from 300 miles down to 150 miles. The car will lie about it too, displaying a full range and battery.
Even the “projected rang”” indicator will be off. The problem is so bad that if you do not catch it in time, you may run the battery to zero reported charge in the middle of nowhere, relying on any residual charge left to get you back to civilization.
Things get worse as temperatures get colder. All Tesla models drop to a 15-miles range or lower as the airdrops below freezing. These cars will adjust a bit as they go, but none of them are viable modes of transport for Winter driving.
The Problem is the Batteries
Tesla cars and EVs, in general, have problems during cold weather due to how their batteries function. EV batteries require specific operating temperatures.
While they will still function during non-ideal conditions, you will see a reduced performance from the extra stress on the battery. This effect is especially true in cold environments as it takes more energy to maintain optimal temperatures for the battery and the drive train.
Cold weather also reduces regenerative braking. Regenerative braking systems recharge the battery as your drive, allowing you to go farther than you otherwise could. In cold weather, energy from the brakes get diverted to heating your vehicle or is otherwise unusable.
While you cannot avoid cold weather driving when living in colder climates, you can mitigate the effects. Tesla offers the following advice to anyone who must drive their vehicles in Winter.
- Recharge the vehicle whenever possible: Charing the battery produces some heat and help maintain the health of the battery. The car’ ss computer will prevent over-charging. So, there are no drawbacks to keeping the car plugged in.
- Precondition before driving: Preconditioning sets the battery and the passenger cabin to their optimal temperatures before your power on the vehicle. You can even precondition the battery while it is plugged into a charger.
- Limit heater and air conditioning use: Anything you do in your Tesla draws power from the battery. Therefore, you must limit your energy use if you want to get the most range of the car. While some usage is unavoidable, you can use seat heaters to stay warm in most situations.
It would be nice if Tesla made cars for cold climates. Then, driving during Winter would not be such a hassle, but the technology does not yet exist. For now, you must live according to the needs of EVs and avoid using them as the temperatures drop.
The Tesla Motors line of EV cars come with similar ranges, ensuring that comfort and affordability are the key considerations for their customers. You can get either a Model S, X, or three, which can easily do around 400 miles on a single charge. You can sacrifice some of that range for overall performance, but you will never find a sub-250-mile Tesla these days. Even the Model Y does 300 miles.
Tesla is not done yet. There are things Tesla can do to improve their range values. The 2020 model year already has higher ranges than the 2019s, and the 2021s look even better. For instance, the 2021 Roadster already goes over 600 miles, and Tesla already has plans to do the same with all their models.
Still, there is a lot more to driving range than the raw power of an EV battery. From road conditions to driving habits, many factors affect the effective range of any vehicle.