Do you need the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus?
Tesla eclipsed the 400-mile electric vehicle range barrier with the new Long Range Plus trim, once again pushing the limits of what’s possible with electric vehicle technology.
While the 400-mile barrier is significant because of humanity’s obsession with round numbers, it didn’t come as the result of some special effort on Tesla’s part. Ever since the beginning, the company has focused on making constant improvements to their vehicles, with new iterations being released regularly. Some such changes include small quality-of-life tweaks like how wide the Model S door opens, to increasing fast charging speed and incremental range increases over time.
In fact, Tesla achieved modest bumps in Model S and Model X range a couple of times over the last year and a half, including updates in April 2019, November 2019, and February 2020. With this approach, it was only a matter of time that they would reach this new milestone and release the 402-mile Model S Long Range Plus and 351-mile Model X Long Range Plus.
How they did it:
Tesla posted an article detailing some of the new updates that helped achieve this long range. The largest improvement comes as a result of mass reduction, which Tesla says is a result of lessons learned from manufacturing Model 3 and Model Y. “This has unlocked new areas of mass reduction while maintaining the premium feel and performance of both vehicles” said Tesla in a blog post. “Additional weight savings have also been achieved through the standardization of Tesla’s in-house seat manufacturing and lighter weight materials used in our battery pack and drive units.” Mass is one of the biggest enemies of electric vehicle range and choosing heavy luxury materials is a trade-off many automakers make. Any reduction that can be found without compromising the quality of the car is important.
Drag is another enemy of electric vehicle range, which is why Teslas are designed to have some of the lowest drag coefficients of any cars built, ever. While Tesla’s sleek body styling is good, it can’t make up for the drag created by the wheels and tires. Tesla’s wheels have always had an eye on efficiency, and they released the 19” Tempest Wheels as the new standard option for Model S Long Range Plus. “Our newest 8.5 inch-wide aero wheels reduce aerodynamic drag compared to the previous wheels on Model S Long Range, and when paired with a new custom tire specifically engineered to reduce rolling resistance, add a 2% improvement to overall range,” said Tesla.
Another point of Tesla’s efficiency comes from the very nature of electric motors themselves. They convert over 70% of stored energy into work, which is much higher than the efficiency of internal combustion engines – which convert between 10 and 30% of stored energy. Energy not turned into work is usually wasted as heat, which is one of the reasons internal combustion engines get much hotter than electric vehicles. Even though electric motors are very efficient, Tesla is still exploring and finding new avenues for more efficiency. Those updates found their way into the Model S and Model X Long Range Plus. “in our rear AC-induction drive unit, we replaced the mechanical oil pump with an electric oil pump that optimizes lubrication independent of vehicle speed to reduce friction,” said Tesla. “Further improvements to the gearbox in our front permanent magnet synchronous reluctance motors shared with Model 3 and Model Y have resulted in a further increase of 2% more range while driving on the highway.”
But do you need it?
There is no circumstance where having a longer-ranged electric vehicle is a bad thing but it’s worth noting that once you get up past 300 miles, the practical difference in range differences becomes less noticeable.
There aren’t many trips that the 402-mile Model S Long Range Plus could make without charging that a 2019 335-mile Model S Long Range cannot. Tesla’s superchargers are spaced out every 120-150 miles so the long range may or may not reduce the amount of charging stops you need to make on a road trip.
For daily driving purposes you want an EV with approximately twice as much range as your round-trip commute. That way you always have enough charge to make it to and from work and run an errand on the way, even if you’ve lost range due to extra hot or frigid conditions. With the average American driving about 30 miles per day, even short range EVs like the Volkswagen e-Golf and Fiat 500e can work for most people’s daily drive. Long-range EVs become most useful for people with particularly long commutes and for road trips.
With this analysis in mind, a driver would need to be on the road for more than 165 miles per day, every day, year-round in all weather conditions to make it worth jumping to a Model S Long Range Plus over a 2019 Model S Long Range. This is obviously an edge case, though there are people who fall into this category!
Ultimately the range boost from Model S and Model X Long Range Plus is a nice perk for any driver, but most drivers don’t need to worry too much about which specific long-range Tesla they get. 300+ miles of range will get almost every driver anywhere they need to go without fail.