The Tesla Dual Motor Explained


The Tesla Dual Motor Explained

Tesla has made its dual-motor more readily available on their models, but what is the dual motor? What does it do? And how will it benefit the consumer?

So what is the Tesla dual-motor? The dual-motor is a secondary motor attached to the front axle of Tesla vehicles that allows for all-wheel-drive. This motor allows for better traction than typical all-wheel-drive cars, while also overcoming the performance dredge that usually is associated with the additional traction. 

Tesla’s drive train has shown that electric vehicles can more than compete with their gasoline counterparts. Continue reading for everything you need to know about the dual-motor from Tesla. 

What is a Tesla Dual Motor?

Tesla’s are immensely popular, due in large part to the technological features that they incorporate into their vehicles to make them more efficient and user friendly. One of these features is their dual motor. 

Tesla first introduced dual-motors on the Tesla Model S in 2014. They saw this Model’s popularity and wanted to reach a broader demographic of drivers in more geographic locations. 

The dual-motor allowed buyers to benefit from an all-wheel-drive vehicle in the same familiar electric car package they had grown to adore. 

Instead of having a drive unit just on the rear axle, which had been the case until Tesla introduced the AWD Model S. The dual-motor introduced a second drive unit to the front axle. 

The dual-motor works in the same way as an all-wheel-drive system, sending power to specific wheels to optimize its traction, even in inclement weather. Unlike a standard AWD mechanism, which is mechanical, the dual-motor is based on a digital system that can shift power in milliseconds to optimize traction. 

Tesla’s dual-motors also have the surprising benefit of improving the performance of all aspects of the vehicle. Not only is there additional traction gained, but it also increases the: 

  • Quickness 
  • Top speed 
  • Range of the cars 

From the introduction of the dual-motor by Elon Musk, this video does a fantastic job of summing up the features of this drive train. Jump ahead to the 1:00 mark, where Musk begins to talk about the dual-motor. 

Do all Tesla’s Have a Dual Motor?

As we have discussed, the Tesla Model S was the first to incorporate the dual motor, but it is no longer the only Tesla model with this feature. 

Now, each of Tesla’s vehicles either comes with a dual motor as standard or is available as an upgrade. 

The only vehicle in Tesla’s range that doesn’t feature the dual-motor as standard is fittingly the budget-friendly, entry-level Model 3. Instead, this vehicle only features a single motor, which makes it rear-wheel drive. 

Of course, the addition of this extra motor does add to the price of your vehicle. Below are the price differences between models from Tesla’s website

  • Model 3: Standard Range Plus – Rear Wheel Drive ($37,990)
  • Long Range Plus/Performance: Dual Motor All Wheel Drive ($46,990/$54,990)

  • Model Y: Comes standard with Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
  • Long Range Plus/Performance ($43,690/$53,690)

  • Model X: Comes standard with Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
  • Long Range Plus/Performance ($79,990/$99,990)

  • Model S: Comes Standard with Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
  • Long Range Plus/Performance ($74,990/$94,990)
  • Plaid: Tri-Motor All Wheel Drive ($139,990)

As the above Model and price breakdown list demonstrates, the Model 3’s price increases by $9,000 when the dual-motor feature is added. This additional cost shouldn’t be confused as just the upgraded drive train. In addition to featuring the dual motors, the long-range plus Model S also has a premium interior upgrade.

There isn’t a price breakdown of the additional cost for just the extra motor from Tesla’s website, but this video provides a little more detail. According to the video, upgrading to the dual-motor only costs roughly $4,000. 

The video above was from Tesla’s website in 2018 when the Model 3 was initially introduced with this engine, so the price may now differ. The option of adding just the powertrain upgrade is no longer available on their site. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the video also mentions that the same powertrain upgrade for the Model S was a $5,000 upgrade. Perhaps this price discrepancy has to do with parts of the Model S being more expensive, or maybe they just charge more for a more expensive car. 

The Cybertruck, Tesla’s newest offering, is not featured on this price breakdown, since it’s only available for preorder and not currently available to consumers. Tesla is actually offering this in a rear-wheel-drive configuration, as well as a dual and tri-motor. 

Are Dual Motor’s Necessary?

You may be wondering if the use of this form of all-wheel drive something that all of its vehicles really need to feature? For those who aren’t driving in snow or other inclement weather daily, this may seem like an item that isn’t necessary. 

Even RWD Tesla’s are known to handle quite well in conditions that are considered less than ideal. If you equip any model that doesn’t have AWD with winter tires, it performs very admirably. 

If you find yourself often going to places like mountains or trails, then AWD is definitely recommended just for the added safety that you can achieve from this system. 

If you’re generally in cities with moderate weather, you may not find the same value in the dual-motor. 

More Advantages of the Dual Motor

If the decision of whether or not this drive train is necessary for your life was just based on traction, it would be relatively cut and dry. However, there are several additional advantages that the dual-motor provides other than its ability to maintain grip. 

One of the most significant advantages aside from providing AWD is the increased range you can achieve. The Model 3 and Cybertruck are the only two models that still incorporate an RWD powertrain and an option for the dual-motor. 

In the Model 3, you can achieve an estimated additional 72 miles per charge, while the Cybertruck boasts an extra 50 miles

If speed is something that will influence your decision, the Cybertruck is 2 seconds faster from 0-60 mph, and the Model 3 is 0.9 seconds faster, with the powertrain upgrade. 

Resale Value Improves

An additional advantage that we haven’t talked about yet is resale value. 

AWD vehicles, regardless of brand, hold a higher resale value than models with only two-wheel-drive. Tesla’s themselves are known to maintain their value exceptionally well. 

According to KBB, electric vehicles with the highest resale values, Tesla’s Model X, Model 3, and Model S, respectively, take the top three places. 

So, while you may not find the value in the dual-motor for its intended purpose, you may find the hidden value from some of the other benefits.

How Traditional AWD Compares to Tesla’s Dual Motors

While traditional AWD systems provide fantastic traction, even in the worst weather conditions, they accomplish this feat at the expense of some other systems. 

AWD vehicles work by isolating the distinctive axles so that they can spin at different speeds. 

Allowing the axels to rotate separately means that if a portion of the car is slipping or your wheels have lost traction, your vehicle will still send power to the areas that have traction. 

Increased Cost

Compared to two-wheel-drive vehicles, AWD cars are considered relatively complex, with many more moving parts. More parts, especially moving parts that are integral in propelling your vehicle, means there are more areas where your car could fail. 

This means that if your drive train has a mechanical issue, repair costs will be more expensive than a two-wheel-drive car. 

These systems are much more complex, so mechanics will have to do more work to accomplish the same task. They will also have to potentially replace more parts, which can increase the cost significantly.

If you have a warranty, your drive train’s complexity may not matter as much, but for those who don’t, this is a huge consideration to take into account. 

Impact on Tires

Not only are these cars more complicated, which can lead to higher repair costs, but you’re also likely to go through tires faster because of the way that power transfers to the wheels.  

Two-wheel drive cars allow for the tires to be rotated since they don’t wear evenly, leading to an increase in the life of your tires. Since AWD cars send power to all wheels, the tires will wear simultaneously, not allowing you to gain tire rotation benefits. 

The wheels are sent more power in an AWD car, which again causes the tires to wear more quickly. 

Less Fuel Efficiency

While traditional AWD is great for icy, rainy, or muddy areas, it can severely affect fuel economy. 

Traditional AWD systems found on gasoline-powered vehicles send power to each wheel. Since your car has to send additional power to more locations, your fuel efficiency is compromised. 

These AWD systems also feature more parts than their two-wheel-drive counterparts, which increases the vehicle’s weight. A heavier car will inevitably be less fuel-efficient because it takes more power to get the car moving and keeping it up to speed. 

More Expensive

Though there are some drawbacks to adding AWD, the system is considered a benefit and an upgrade. In line with this, AWD cars are more expensive. 

If you aren’t driving in areas where AWD is necessary, you can save yourself some money by sticking to two-wheel-drive. If you require the extra capability, be ready to: 

  • Pay more money
  • Have less fuel efficiency
  • Pay extra for repairs 

How Tesla’s AWD is Different

Tesla’s dual-motor, while considered to be AWD, addresses some of the issues seen by gasoline-powered cars. 

As we touched on, when going from an RWD gas car to an AWD gas vehicle, your fuel efficiency will suffer. 

Tesla’s that have a dual-motor don’t experience this same issue. In fact, their vehicles actually have an increased range because of this addition. 

Since Tesla can shift the motor’s driving power at its optimum efficiency point, these cars can overcome the motor’s added weight. 

Dual-motors also provide the benefit of avoiding a catastrophic failure if one of the motors stops functioning. 

Musk tweeted about the dual-motors that are found in his vehicles. 

In this tweet, he brings up an exciting potential benefit that can be seen from this design. One of the motors is specifically designed with range in mind, while the other is more focused on performance. 

In the unlikely event that one of these two motors were to fail, the other one would take over, and the car would drive fine. A vehicle with just a single motor would just quit working if something went wrong with the motor. 

This backup is clearly a huge advantage versus a typical AWD system. If there is a severe issue with a gas vehicle’s drive train, it is rendered entirely inoperable. Teslas don’t have this issue. You can continue driving without noticing a huge drop-off in performance. 

With the dual-motor, you can achieve all of the benefits of an AWD drivetrain without the drawbacks found in gas cars. 

Tesla’s Tri-Motor

Both the Model S Plaid and Cybertruck (preorder only) can feature a tri-motor.

When you choose to equip either of these cars with a tri-motor, your vehicle will have two motors on the rear axle, one controlling each wheel, and a single motor on the front axle to power the front two wheels. 

This extra motor, as you might have guessed, similarly to when you go from a single-engine to two, has a few performance advantages like more power and extended range. 

This third motor provides another very significant advantage that isn’t as obvious as more power and extended range. 

The tri-motor powertrain performs similarly to a locked differential in a gas-powered vehicle. 

For those unfamiliar, a locking differential essentially locks two wheels together, which forces them to both rotate at the same time. 

The advantage of this, especially in off-road situations, is that even if you don’t have traction to one wheel, the other wheel with traction is used to power and get your car out of the troubling situation. 

Though these Tesla’s don’t actually have a locking differential, the two motors on the back wheels work around the same concept. 

The Benefit of Three

If you’re going off-roading in your new Cybertruck and you’re in a situation where one wheel is without traction, the additional motor allows for the wheel with traction to power the vehicle. You can imagine the possibilities that this can potentially provide users. 

You’ll be able to take your Tesla on pretty much any road condition and have the confidence to know that it will perform. 

This additional motor does add a very significant price to the cost of the vehicle. 

Whereas we mentioned a $4,000 price upgrade for the single motor to the dual motor, adding one more motor is much more costly. 

Cybertruck

  • Single Motor Rear Wheel Drive – $39,900
  • Dual Motor All Wheel Drive – $49,900
  • Tri-Motor All Wheel Drive – $69,900

An additional $20,000 from dual-motor to tri-motor is undoubtedly a considerable chunk of change for the Cybertruck. Besides the off-road capability added from this extra engine, you also receive a few other pretty significant advantages. 

A Lot More Range

The range increases from more than 300 miles on a single charge to an over 500-mile capability. The towing capacity also takes a significant jump, from around 10,000 lbs. to more than 14,000 lbs. 

Finally, for all you speed demons, the 0-60 mph decreases by 1.6 seconds, taking just 2.9 seconds to reach this speed from a standstill. 

Most people won’t ever need the extra off-road capabilities you can achieve from this upgrade, but if any of the other performance aspects pique your interest, just be ready to break out your wallet. 

The Future of the Dual Motor

As mentioned throughout this piece, Tesla has made a dual-motor powertrain standard in most of its vehicles, and it’s available as an option in all of them. So, what does the future hold for this efficient powertrain?

Tesla does seem to still be fully committed to making their vehicles accessible for everyone. 

So, the addition of the rear-wheel-drive Model 3 and Cybertruck satisfies this less expensive market. 

If Tesla continues to make the dual-motor a standard feature of its cars, should you be worried about these vehicles’ prices continuing to increase?

Though you are still gaining the benefits of this currently upgrade feature, there is still a market segment that desires the least expensive option possible. 

Tesla’s Commitment to Price Effectiveness

As technology advances and things become more straightforward and less expensive to manufacture, the cost of adding this drive train will inevitably decrease. If it becomes a standard feature for all Tesla’s, even the budget Model 3, the price upgrade will eventually be driven down.

Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, has stated several times that he wants to make his vehicles more accessible. Accessibility is just another code word for less expensive. 

Whether that means making some vehicles without the dual motors or finding ways to bring down the dual motors’ price so everyone can have the benefits they provide, we’re sure Tesla has something up their sleeves. 

At the pace Tesla is advancing, it seems like a quad motor might be the next logical step. Four motors would lead to each wheel being individually controlled, for even more efficiency gains.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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