Everything You Need to Know About the Performance of the Tesla Model S

Everything You Need to Know About the Performance of the Tesla Model S

There have been many declarations of superior performance made about the Tesla Model S, and it would seem like baseless bragging if it weren’t for all the technical tests that this vehicle has been put through. Luckily for potential drivers, this electric car model has met and exceeded all expectations of its performance. 

The Tesla Model S has many top-quality performance design features such as a fully electric powertrain, the lowest drag coefficient in automobile production, and extensive safety features. This model can accelerate from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds and has a top speed of 163 mph. It also features several advanced electronics and other amenities. 

From the sleek exterior of the Model S to the impressive mechanical components contained inside, there are many aspects of Tesla’s design that contribute to its superior performance. Keep reading to learn more about how the Tesla Model S performs on the road. 

The Range of the Tesla Model S

The range of a vehicle is the distance that it can travel before it needs to be refueled or—in the case of the Tesla Model S—recharged. While car producers try to make the range of a vehicle as high as possible to reduce the number of times the driver has to pull over during travel, this factor must also be balanced against other design issues in the vehicle. High-range battery packs tend to be heavier than smaller battery packs in electric vehicles, and this extra weight can also decrease a vehicle’s efficiency. 

The baseline Tesla Model S range is 348 miles, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recently, Tesla has put out an advanced version of the Model S, known as the North American Model S Long Range Plus has been revealed as having a range of 402 miles. 

Here are some of the factors that have contributed to Tesla’s extended range design (Source: Tesla):

  • Mass reduction: Weight saving is one aspect of design where engineers can make significant improvements in a car’s range efficiency—the lighter a car is, the farther it can go on one charge. By using state-of-the-art lightweight materials and a standardized seating system, Tesla has significantly decreased the amount of inherent weight in the Model S. 
  • Tire design: Tesla has redesigned the Tesla S to include eight and a half inch aerodynamic tires specifically designed to improve rolling resistance and increase the vehicle’s range per charge. This design change alone increased the range of the Tesla Model S by two percent. 
  • Regenerative braking: Regenerative braking in the Tesla S, known as the HOLD System, maintains maximum efficiency during braking to reduce the amount of power drawn from the electric drivetrain. The HOLD System accomplishes this by smoothing acceleration and deceleration through electronic control of the pedal. 
  • Improved drive unit: The drive unit of the Tesla Model S was refined by replacing the mechanical oil pump with an electric oil pump. There were also improvements made to the gearbox to improve the efficiency of the drive unit. These design changes add two percent efficiency to Tesla’s effective range. 

The above features are designed so that the Tesla Model S performs with the highest possible range. As a company, Tesla has also made great strides with making supercharging stations accessible across North America. If a Tesla driver has to make a pit stop to recharge while traveling, there should be plenty of places to do it. 

The Range of Tesla Service Accessibility

When it comes to refining the Tesla brand and improving its vehicles’ performance, Tesla doesn’t just focus on the driving range of the vehicle itself. 

Tesla is also putting a lot of work into extending the range of their offered services and any technical support involving Tesla vehicles. Many issues that arise in Tesla cars can be repaired through remote access due to their integration into the Tesla network. However, Tesla is still working hard to ensure that there are certified Tesla mechanics stationed across North America so that nobody is too far to receive fast and thorough maintenance of their vehicles. 

This renewed focus on service accountability is in response to customer complaints a few years ago about the speed of Tesla’s maintenance and collision services. (Source: Business Insider)

Tesla is not only increasing the amount of Tesla-certified mechanics across the United States; it is also increasing owner accessibility to services such as Tesla mechanics that come to your home through the Mobile Service Support program

The Battery of the Tesla Model S

When it was first unveiled in 2012, the Tesla Model S had the largest electric battery pack of any vehicle in the Tesla line. This battery was initially released with a capacity of 85.0 kWh and a starting range of 265 miles. By the time 2016 rolled around, Tesla had already introduced the 100.0 kWh battery pack, which extended the Tesla Model S range to 315 miles. 

The range and efficiency performance of the Tesla Model S has continued to improve even though the battery design hasn’t changed. This is due to improvements in other engineering factors such as rolling resistance and drag. 

Here are some other aspects of Tesla’s battery design that affect its performance (Source: Car and Driver): 

  • Full access to battery capacity: Many electric car producers reserve some portion of an electric battery’s full energy potential to keep the battery from being completely tapped out and reducing its lifespan. The total discharge of an electric battery can cause the battery to degrade more quickly. However, Tesla gives its car owners full access to the energy capacity of the battery. 
  • Early warning of low reserves: The Tesla Model S will warn a driver that they are at zero available miles on a charge even though there is still some battery reserve left, which helps drivers to get to a charging station even if they’re technically “on empty.” This performance feature is designed to act similarly to how a low gaslight in a standard car will go off while the car still technically has enough power to get the driver to a fueling station. 
  • Cumulative energy data studies: One of the reasons that Tesla has been able to improve the efficiency of the Tesla electric battery without changing the design of the battery itself is by collecting driving data from Tesla vehicles on the road and running that data through simulations to see where the car suffers most in terms of performance and efficiency. Engineers then use this data to make improvements to Tesla’s model designs. 
  • Supercharging improvements: It isn’t just Tesla’s battery that has undergone changes that have improved its performance. Supercharging stations can add 160 miles to the range of a Tesla Model S in only fifteen minutes (compared to older supercharger models that only added 70 miles to the range of a Tesla Model S in the same amount of time). 

The design of the Tesla Model S battery contributes greatly to its efficiency and performance on the road. Tesla has shown that they are committed to continually improving their vehicles’ designs, so this efficiency is bound to increase incrementally as design flaws are found and reduced or removed altogether.  

Drive and Horsepower in the Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S is designed to have a higher level of torque than even the Tesla Roadster, making it not only the most powerful Tesla but also one of the most powerful cars on the road (electric or not). The torque bands for the Tesla Roadster and Roadster Sport were 0-5400 and 0-5100 rpm, while the torque band for the Tesla Model S is 0-7000. The Tesla Model S has a motor that is 300kW, which translates to 402 horsepower.

The torque band in an engine curve represents the amount of power cars can produce to pull the mass of a vehicle forward under the motor’s motion. (Source: CarBikeTech) Ultimately, the torque of a vehicle’s motor defines how fast the car is capable of accelerating and how responsive the car is on the road in response to acceleration, deceleration, and turning. 

Top Speed and Acceleration in the Tesla Model S

One of the most famous design aspects of the Tesla line of vehicles (and the Tesla Model S in particular) is its speed and acceleration. The Tesla Model S is known as the fastest-accelerating car in production. (Source: Business Insider) The Tesla Model S is capable of accelerating from 0 mph to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds. This makes it the fastest performing car on the planet, even against racing cars such as Lamborghinis and other high-performance luxury vehicles. 

Here are some other notable aspects of the Tesla Model S performance regarding its speed and acceleration: 

  • Top speed: The top speed of a Tesla Model S is 163 miles-per-hour. However, Tesla has recently involved a new version of the Tesla Model S called “Plaid” that is capable of accelerating up to 200 miles-per-hour. 
  • Dual-engine design: The standard Tesla Model S is designed with a dual electric engine design. This dual-engine design contrasts with the traditional one-engine design in mechanical automobiles, where power is distributed to all for wheels in the drivetrain from a single-engine. The Tesla Model S splits the power between an electric engine that runs the front end and an engine that runs the rear end, leading to a more power-efficient design. 
  • Standing start torque: Unlike conventional vehicles, the Tesla Model S can deliver peak torque and acceleration from a standstill. This is one of its design elements that has led to the Model S becoming the fastest-accelerating car on the market. 

The Tesla Model S’s top speed and acceleration have been shown to rival even racing models like the McLaren F1. For those drivers who want one of the fastest cars on the road while also maintaining the highest level of efficiency available, the Tesla Model S is definitely a model to consider.

The Tesla Model S “Plaid”

The Tesla Model S has undergone several design iterations since the start of its production in 2012. The latest of these remodels is a vehicle named the Tesla Model S Plaid, after the only speed faster than “Ludicrous” in the cult classic science fiction comedy Spaceballs. (Source: Road and Track)

This is a reference to Tesla’s top speed mode, which is called Ludicrous Mode. Ludicrous Mode increases the Tesla Model S’s top acceleration speed from zero to sixty miles-per-hour in 2.8 seconds to 2.28 seconds, making it the fastest accelerating commercial car on the planet. 

The next evolution of the Tesla Model S, Plaid, features several design aspects that increase the power, range, and acceleration of the Tesla Model S even further: 

  • Tri-motor system: While all Tesla models, including the Tesla Model S up to the Plaid, have featured a dual-motor electric system, the Plaid version of the Model S adds another motor to the drive system. The main benefit of the tri-motor system is that it allows for torque vectoring. This allows the differential to individually control the torque delivered to each wheel, leading to superior handling and acceleration.  
  • Increased range: As opposed to the range of the standard Tesla Model S, which has a range of 348 miles, the new Tesla Model S Plaid promises a range of more than 520 miles. 
  • Improved acceleration: While the dual-motor Tesla Model S can get from zero to sixty in 2.28 seconds thanks to the Ludicrous Mode update, the Tesla Model S Plaid has promised an acceleration speed of zero to sixty in less than two seconds. (Source: ElecTrek)
  • Increased top speed: Thanks to the tri-motor system and improved torque in the Tesla Model S Plaid, the Plaid’s top speed is increased from 155 miles-per-hour in the standard Model S to 200 miles-per-hour (governed) in the Tesla Model S Plaid. 

Even though the original Tesla Model S is arguably the highest-performing vehicle in Tesla’s current roster of models, the Model S’s newest iteration manages to make improvements even on the impressive standards set forth by the baseline model. 

Does the Model S Have Smooth Driving? 

All Tesla vehicles are known for their super smooth driving capacity, and there is one major reason for this—Tesla’s electric motor only contains one mechanical component (the rotor), meaning that the intrusion of both mechanical noise and vibration is reduced as much as possible in driving a Tesla Model S. 

Another design element that affects how smoothly the Model S performs on the road is its lightweight design compared to other sedans of the same size. The stock Tesla Model S weighs 4,960 pounds. This lightweight design is aided by aluminum construction as well as other advanced lightweight plastics and materials. Because the Tesla is so light, this greatly reduces vibration, resistance, and noise during driving operations.

Electronic Performance in the Tesla Model S

Along with its engine and drivetrain performance capabilities, the Tesla Model S also has one of the most advanced electronics systems of any car produced in the 21st century. The system electronics on the Tesla Model S introduce various quality-of-life improvements throughout the car’s systems for drivers to take advantage of. There are also electrical components that help increase the car’s performance on the road as well. 

Here are a few of the electrical aspects of the Tesla Model S that affect its overall performance: 

  • Electronic oil pump: By converting many mechanical components (like the oil pump) into electronic components, the Tesla Model S can fall back on the governing aspects of the car’s systems to make the operation of the engine as energy-efficient as possible. Not only does this allow the Tesla Model S to be driven longer, but it also affects torque and heat resistance. 
  • Large central touchscreen display: The electronics’ input system on the Tesla Model S has been streamlined to be focused on a single large central touchscreen display. While the touchscreen doesn’t directly influence performance, it makes the car easier to manage from the operator’s perspective, which can make it more efficient and easier to drive. 
  • 360-degree camera range: The Tesla Model S features forward-facing, rear, and side cameras so that the driver can see around the vehicle. The car’s autopilot system also utilizes these cameras to detect obstacles and other vehicles on the road. (Source: Tesla)
  • 160-meter radar: The Tesla Model S features a forward-facing radar with a range of 160 meters to allow the car to sense even far-off obstacles at high speed. This helps prevent accidental collisions and teach the Tesla Model S expanded data about traffic patterns and how the Model S performs during operation. 
  • Ultrasonic sensors: Along with radar and camera sensors, the Tesla Model S also features ultrasonic sensors that help the system recognize nearby obstacles and aid drivers with parking or avoiding collision during lane changes. 
  • Autopilot system: One of the most notable aspects of Tesla’s design is its autopilot system, which allows the Tesla vehicle to direct itself while under a driver’s supervision. Autopilot allows the car to accelerate, steer, brake, parallel park, perpendicular park, change lanes, and navigate without driver input. As Tesla vehicles spend more time on the road, the data gathered by their electronics allows them to perform autopilot activities more accurately. 
  • Summon system: An advanced aspect of Tesla’s autopilot system is the summon feature, which allows the car to retrieve itself from a parking lot and return to the driver’s location without the need for manual input valet service. 
  • Seamless electronic updates: Because the Tesla Model S is always connected to the Tesla network, this means that all software updates and other amendments to the car’s operating system can be delivered directly to the vehicle’s electronic suite. In other words, the more often you drive and operate your Tesla Model S, the “smarter” the car gets. 
  • App integration: The Tesla Model S features application integration in its electronics that allows drivers to use musical web applications such as Slacker and TuneIn to help drivers connect to local radio stations, listen to podcasts, and even set up playlists. Since the Tesla Model S also allows the car to autopilot, this gives the driver plenty of time to play with these amenities in their vehicle without creating a safety hazard on the road.  

The electronic suite on the Tesla Model S is easily one of the most impressive features of the vehicle’s design and does a great deal to contribute to its excellent performance on the road. 

The electronics allow the car to be driven more efficiently. This efficiency allows the car to monitor breakdowns in mechanical function more easily and service them via software upgrades rather than physical replacement or repair. 

Safety Performance in the Tesla Model S

Since Tesla is the only self-driving car on the market, it must maintain one of the best safety performance records. For people to be willing to surrender control of the vehicle over completely to a suite of electronic controls, the car needs to be extremely trustworthy.

The good news for potential Tesla Model S drivers is that the Tesla Model S managed to earn the single best safety rating of any car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). So when it comes to safety performance, drivers can’t find a better example than this vehicle. 
(Source: Tesla)

Here are some of the various design aspects of the Tesla Model S that contribute to its safety performance on the road:  

  • Airbags: The Tesla Model S is designed with airbags placed at the front, side, overhead, and knees. This helps to protect passengers from an impact at practically any angle on the road. The car’s comprehensive series of sensors also help ensure that airbags go off to prevent impact injuries every time a major collision occurs. 
  • Low center of gravity: The car is designed with most of its weight distributed evenly across the bottom of the car’s chassis. This helps prevent rollover accidents and makes the Tesla Model S one of the least likely cars to roll over in an accident, even at high speeds. 
  • Anti-lock brakes: The Tesla Model S features an antilock brake system that senses the point at which the tires fail to respond to braking and modulates braking power to give the car more steering capability in an emergency braking situation. 
  • Front crumple zone: Unlike a conventional mechanical vehicle, which is front end heavy and features a combustible engine dangerously close to the front of the car’s passenger cabin, the Tesla Model S is designed with the car’s powertrain in the base of the vehicle instead. This allows the vehicle to incorporate storage in the front end that acts to absorb impact damage in the event of a front-end collision. 
  • Electrical design: The electrical design of the Tesla Model S compared to standard vehicles is much safer due to the lack of combustible gasoline built into the car’s ignition system. This Tesla is also designed to be insulated so that even if the battery does catch fire, it is isolated from the passenger cabin. This means that there is less chance of a fire enveloping the vehicle due to how the car’s design is compartmentalized.
  • Roof resilience: Even though the Tesla Model S has one of the lowest statistical chances and incidences of a rollover accident, Tesla’s cabin and roof have been designed to stand forces up to four times the vehicle’s total weight. Therefore, even in the event of a rollover, the cabin is much more likely to maintain intact under high impacts. 
  • Seatbelt pretensioners: Automated seatbelt pretensioners lock passengers into place in the optimal position to avoid injury during a vehicle collision, ensuring that the seatbelt can perform correctly to protect passengers during an accident. 
  • Stability control: The Tesla Model S includes electronic stability control that helps the car remain stable on the road even under unstable driving conditions or under erratic input from the driver. This helps keep the driver from losing control of the vehicle even at high speeds.   

From the structural design of the Tesla Model 3 to its onboard electronics, many safety features have been placed into the vehicle to help improve its safety performance on the road. As a result, Tesla has reported that there has only been one death in a Tesla-related accident for every 320 million miles driven in one of these vehicles. (Source: Quartz)

When people think of a vehicle’s performance, they often think exclusively of how fast the car can go or how many miles to the gallon (or charge) it can get. But a car’s safety performance is even more important than its power since a car that can’t get past safety performance regulations can’t be allowed to operate on the road anyway. 

The Tesla Model S is One of the Highest Performing Vehicles Available

No matter whether you’re buying a Tesla Model S for its energy efficiency or you want a luxury sports car on the cutting edge of technological advances, the Tesla Model S is one of the highest-performing vehicles you can buy regarding power, speed, safety, and drivability. 

While Tesla has occasionally been accused of overstating its vehicles’ technical prowess, few other cars on the market can even stand in the same league as the Tesla Model S. 

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The articles here on ThatTeslaChannel.com are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

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