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How Tesla Improves the Range of Its Electric Cars


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Car and Driver magazine explores what gives Tesla's vehicles their comparatively long range. And apparently one factor is just "big batteries. This may be obvious, but a battery that holds more energy should translate to more range, and Tesla has the largest battery packs out there... What isn't always obvious is how much of a battery pack's energy is usable versus its maximum theoretical or gross capacity... Based on the limited data we have, it seems that Tesla allows its cars to use more of a pack's capacity than other manufacturers do. We suspect that's partially because the company puts some of the responsibility on the driver to choose how high to charge the battery, noting that anything above a 90 percent charge should be reserved only for trips, not everyday use. Tesla's largest battery pack carries the energy equivalent of just 2.9 gallons of gas when fully charged. The key to extending EPA range is to use less electricity to propel the vehicle and to recapture as much energy as possible using the electric motors to slow the vehicle whenever the driver lifts off the accelerator during the EPA cycles' many slowdowns. Tesla's aggressive regenerative braking alone nets it a 13 percent gain in range versus the Porsche Taycan, which waits until the driver presses the brake pedal before initiating meaningful regen. This is one piece of Tesla's holistic approach to efficiency that also includes its vehicles' ability to roll down the road with less friction than their competitors. Tesla also obtained more efficiency through the engineering of its all-wheel-drive. But there's also another interesting wrinkle: [T]he EPA allows automakers the option to run three additional drive cycles and use those results to earn a more favorable adjustment factor. Currently, only Tesla and Audi employ this strategy for their EVs, and Tesla scores the most advantageous results, with adjustments that range from 29.5 percent on the Model 3 Standard Range Plus to 24.4 percent on the Model Y Performance. If Tesla had used the standard adjustment factor of 30 percent, the Model Y Performance's window-sticker range would drop to 292 miles. But because Tesla takes advantage of the EPA's alternate methodology, the company can instead claim a 315-mile range. This is all within the regulatory rules. Among EV makers, Tesla has been at this game longer than most, so it's not surprising that it has figured out the tricks to maximizing its EPA numbers. And the magazine shares this tip for prospective Tesla customers. "Based on the road-load data it has submitted to the EPA, opting for 21-inch wheels on a Model S Long Range Plus will cut the range by nearly 80 miles.

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