Elon Musk’s Tesla is famous for its luxurious interior, smart interface, and environmentally friendly engine. But that electric engine has other benefits—it makes Tesla significantly faster than traditional combustion engine cars. The Tesla luxury sedan can accelerate up to 60 mph in only 2.4 seconds, making it one of the top three fastest cars on the market.
Why are Teslas so fast? Many components of Tesla’s design make it a super-fast car, including:
- Dual motors
- High horsepower
- Instant-on power
- Traction control
- 21-inch wheels
- Low center of gravity
- Lack of small moving parts
Tesla’s unique electric design is the secret to what makes it so much faster than comparable combustion engine cars on the market. Read on to dive into each element of Tesla’s design and explore its impact on acceleration and speed.
7 Reasons Why Tesla is Faster than Combustion Engine Cars
Tesla is a one of a kind vehicle. Though other electric motors exist, few have the capabilities of the Tesla luxury sedan.
In its class, Tesla is one of the only electric motor vehicles available; most other luxury racing cars have a combustion engine. The difference between a combustion engine’s functionality versus an electric motor’s functionality is significant, especially when it comes to acceleration.
1. Dual Motors
The Tesla has two electric motors, which can operate at different gear ratios. While one motor controls the front wheels, the other controls the back. This is incredibly rare in combustion engine vehicles—outside of some exotic sports cars, most combustion engine cars have only one motor.
The dual-motor allows Tesla to get more torque to the wheels, which increases acceleration. It also allows the Tesla to have different gear ratios for each set of wheels, which makes for a comparable experience to the gear shifting in a combustion engine.
2. High Horsepower
Between the two motors, the Tesla luxury sedan has about 762 horsepower. That’s more than one hundred horsepower higher than the average luxury sedan, which sits around 650 hp.
The massive amount of horsepower, combined with the fact that you don’t have to wait for the engine to warm up to access it, makes the Tesla an incredibly fast car when it comes to acceleration. The high horsepower in the Tesla means that it will keep moving forward as air resistance increases, allowing for smooth, super-fast acceleration.
3. Instant on Power
Instant On Power is one element of the electric motor with which the combustion engine can’t compete.
While combustion engines have to transmit fuel, a slow process with many moving pieces, an electric motor only operates on electricity, which moves not only more quickly, but more efficiently through the car.
As a result, Tesla essentially has instant-on power. Tesla drivers don’t have to shift gears and wait for the car to reach maximum horsepower and torque. With the push of a button, Tesla is ready to hit top speeds. Your only limitation is the speed of electricity.
4. Traction Control
Because electric motors have much more consistent torque, they have improved traction control over combustion engine motors. While combustion motors change levels of torque to the wheels as gears shift, electric motors are much more consistent and can be handled more delicately than their gas counterparts.
Improved traction control and handling mean the car can more easily gain speed quickly, without spinning out.
5. 21-Inch Wheels
Bigger wheels can improve handling, which, as mentioned above, enhances a car’s ability to increase speed quickly. The Tesla is definitely not the only car to embrace the 21-inch wheel to improve handling, but it does add the feature to enhance traction control and handling further.
There are some people who argue that the 21-inch wheels may not make a significant impact on the overall handling and speed of the car. While the 21-inch wheel doesn’t necessary improve speed on its own, the larger wheel has benefits for handling and performance, which will likely appeal to Tesla buyers.
6. Low Center of Gravity
The Tesla’s low center of gravity is the result of its electric motor. Unlike other muscle cars, which shift the vehicle’s weight to the back wheels, the Tesla is surprisingly balanced. This is because the electric motor is made up of many batteries, which line the bottom of the car and evenly distribute the vehicle’s weight while shifting the center of gravity slightly lower than the center of the car.
The even balance of the vehicle and lack of pressure on the rear wheels means the Tesla can accelerate and decelerate better than many comparable combustion engine cars and performs well on curves.
7. Fewer Small Moving Parts
The fewer small moving parts, the better in most machines: when you have fewer small elements, there is less opportunity for something to break or fail.
The Tesla is a relatively simple car in terms of parts and construction, meaning it not only has fewer hoops to jump through to achieve maximum acceleration, but it also doesn’t need repairs as frequently as combustion engine cars.
As mentioned with instant-on power, Tesla’s electric set-up can operate at the electricity’s speed that moves through the car. With fewer small parts getting in the way of the energy shifting from the motor to wheels, you can take off quicker and worry less.
Tesla vs. Other Electric Cars: A Comparison
Now that we understand why the Tesla is so fast compared to combustion engine cars, it is essential to think about how Tesla’s design compares to other electric vehicles on the market.
Business Insider created this chart, which compares each of the Tesla models—including the new and more affordable Model 3—to electric cars on the market today. The table includes horsepower, acceleration speed, range, and price, among other factors, to help buyers determine which car is the best choice for their money.
Compared to other electric cars, Tesla is remarkably high performing. Though the Tesla models X and S are some of the most expensive cars on the market, they also outperform all other models by hundreds of miles of range and hundreds of horsepower.
The BMW i3, for example, costs about $45,000 and can accelerate at about the same speed as the much less expensive Tesla Model 3. But the i3 has a range of only 81 miles and horsepower of only 170, compared to Tesla’s 215-mile range.
Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S and X outperform every other car in terms of horsepower and range. At a 220-mile range and 518 horsepower, the Tesla Model X is not only powerful. It’s fast.
The top speed of the Model X is 140 miles per hour, nearly 50 mph higher than all other cars on the market. That might not seem like much compared to other luxury cars, but when you consider the consistent performance, low cost, and accelerating speeds, the Tesla is hard to beat.
Which Tesla Model is the Fastest?
So Tesla offers the fastest electric cars on the market. But which Tesla model is best?
Teslas are often compared to other luxury cars but are rarely pitted against each other. This video from Throttle House matches all four Tesla models against each other in a drag race, but what do the specs really look like?
Tesla Model 3 Performance
The Tesla Model 3 comes in three varieties: Standard, Long-Range, and Performance. While the Standard car comes in at the lowest price, it is the car to beat when it comes to speeds with the Performance.
The Tesla Model 3’s Performance model has a top speed of 162 mph and a 310-mile range. It can also accelerate from 0-60 mph in only 3.2 seconds.
Tesla Model S Performance
The Model S is often cited as the car to beat. It comes in four modes: Standard, Long-Range, Performance, and Performance with Ludicrous Mode (more on that later).
The $116,000 Model S with the Ludicrous mode is the fastest of all these models. It can go from 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph. It also has a long range, at 345 miles.
The Model S Long-Range and Performance Modes also have decent acceleration rates. The Long Range can go 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and the Performance can do it in 3 seconds.
Tesla Model X Performance
The Model X is Tesla’s crossover SUV, but that doesn’t mean speed and performance aren’t a top priority.
The Model X has the same mode options as the Model S, and in Ludicrous Mode, it can go 0-60 mph in only 2.7 seconds. The Standard version of the Model X clocks in at 4.6 seconds to travel 0-60 mph, which is also pretty impressive for an SUV.
Tesla Model Y Performance
Finally, the Tesla Model Y. This sporty little sedan can go 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has a range of 291 miles. Its top speed is 155, making it a comparable car to other Tesla models, but not the fastest model available.
For quick reference, here’s a table comparing each of the top models based on top speed and acceleration:
|Tesla Model||Acceleration Rate||Top Speed|
|Model 3 Performance||3.2 s||162 mph|
|Model S with Ludicrous Mode||2.4 s||163 mph|
|Model S Performance||3 s||163 mph|
|Model S Long Range||3.7 s||163 mph|
|Model X with Ludicrous Mode||2.7 s||163 mph|
|Model Y||3.5 s||155 mph|
Guide to Speed Modes for Tesla
Tesla cars aren’t just about the bare bone’s ability—they have different modes and are integrated with self-driving technology that changes handling. There are three main modes that Tesla has launched, which can shift how your Tesla drives and what it is capable of.
- Chill Mode – All Tesla Models are equipped with Chill mode. It is the slowest, most efficient mode.
- Sport Mode – All Tesla Models are also equipped with Sport mode. It is the default performance mode.
- Ludicrous Mode – Ludicrous Mode is an upgrade for select performance model Teslas (Currently Model S and Model X)
- Cheetah Stance Mode – Tesla’s brand-new Cheetah Stance mode is all about racing. The launch in 2020 makes the Tesla quicker on the drag strip, so it can compare with other racing cars on the track.
- Plaid Mode – Plaid Mode has not been launched as of Fall 2020, but Musk promises it’s coming. Plaid is a next step up from Ludicrous Mode—it promises to be even more insane than previous Tesla speed and handling upgrades.
How to Keep Your Tesla Running at Top Speed
One of the major perks of owning a Tesla is that they require significantly less maintenance than other cars. Maintenance keeps every vehicle performing at top speed, and with the Tesla, it is easier than ever to keep your vehicle in excellent condition.
Tesla is always making changes to maintenance recommendations based on customer experience and car performance. As a brand, they tend toward recommending less maintenance because they want users to enjoy their cars without spending a lot of time at the dealership. But they do have some main recommendations that they encourage all customers to consider keeping their Tesla running at top performance.
Here are the maintenance recommendations Tesla makes for all Tesla owners:
- Tire Rotation: Every 6,250 Miles
- Cabin Air Filter: Every two years
- Brake Fluid: Every two years
- Wipers: Every two years
- AC Service: Every two years
You’ll notice that things like oil changes and fluid checks are not on this list. You’ll also notice that except for tire rotation and alignment, the Tesla doesn’t need maintenance very often at all—only every couple of years. This is intentional. Tesla wants to keep costs and time down on maintenance so that users can enjoy their cars.
These maintenance costs are very inexpensive, with costs consistently under $100 per job. Compared to the frequent oil changes and other maintenance on combustion engine cars, that means huge savings on transportation costs and more time to enjoy your vehicle’s performance.
What Is Battery Day, and Will it Improve Tesla Speeds?
When it comes to an electric motor’s performance, a primary factor in car quality is the quality of its battery.
In September 2020, Tesla hosted “Battery Day,” where they announced the launch of new battery technology that will dramatically improve Tesla’s performance. These new batteries will also reduce cost, making them comparable in price to standard gasoline cars.
While the total cost of ownership of an electric car is already comparable to a combustion engine car because of lower maintenance and fuel costs, the vehicles themselves are still more expensive overall. But this may change soon. By improving battery quality and price, Tesla can reduce the cost to buy a Tesla, making them the overall best choice for car buyers.
What news did Battery Day bring? And what does it mean for the speed and performance of the Tesla in years to come?
Overall, Tesla announced the following projected improvements in battery technology:
- 56% reduction in cost per kWh for a battery pack
- Reduction in the footprint of Tesla factories and cost of production
- Silicon anodes, which will allow for higher capacity at a lower cost
- Making the battery pack a part of the structure of the car, meaning that will add no weight to the car
- A projected $25,000 Tesla in the next three years
When we talk about speed, some improvements are more important than others—namely, the battery pack’s weight, which will significantly improve the Tesla’s ability to move quickly, because it will mean the car is lighter overall.
Increased capacity in the battery is also an essential part of this new announcement. Increased battery capacity means more potential for power, more extended range, and the possibility to see higher speeds in new Tesla models in the next few years.
When we think of race cars, we don’t usually think about electric vehicles—but because of Tesla, that is about to change.
Many factors play into Tesla’s ability to accelerate quickly and maintain comparatively high top speeds for an electric car. Those factors include the car’s dual-motor, wheels and traction control abilities, instant-on power, high horsepower, low center of gravity, and limited small moving parts.
In general, electric cars can accelerate faster than combustion engines because electricity just moves more quickly than fuel—plain and simple. The only hiccup is getting the horsepower to match the motor’s speed, and Elon Musk has made it his priority to solve that problem for car manufacturers around the world.
Though all Teslas are great for speed, if you want the fastest electric vehicle on the market, the Model S with Ludicrous mode upgrade is the vehicle for you. And with even speedier Cheetah Stance mode and Plaid mode coming down the pike—both enhancements that are available for the Model S—it’s easy to see why drivers looking for a top of the line sports car would choose Tesla.