What's the Real-World Range of the Tesla Model S?

By · September 10, 2012

Tesla Model S

Tesla's spectacular Model S electric sedan grabs headlines on a daily basis, but the key metric for an electric vehicle is its real-world range. Until recently, we could only post Tesla's estimated range rating of 265 miles for the 85-kWh version of the Model S, but now there's been some real-world testing, conducted by Motor Trend, which proves that Tesla wasn't off the mark by much.

Recently, the folks at Motor Trend took a Model S for an extended road trip. After a mixed driving test from El Segundo, Calif. to San Diego and back, the staff at Motor Trend discovered that the Model S is easily capable of covering 238 miles on a full charge.

Motor Trend posted this after completing its lengthy test drive in the Tesla Model S: "The total range—adding the unused 4 miles—would be 238. Yes, 238 is 11 percent short of 265. Moreover, it was done while being very stingy with performance (for the most part). Is that 265 actually valid? If you drive predominately at highway speeds, then probably not. But were we to have included more medium-speed roads (long stretches at 45-50 miles per hour) well, possibly."

Motor Trend operated the Model S with the A/C in the off position, but had the vehicle's ventilation system turned on. Cruise control was set at 65 mph and the crew set the Model S' air suspension to its lowest setting.

At 238 miles, the efficiency of the Model S, with its 85 kWh battery pack, is 2.8 miles per kilowatt hour. That's not very efficient for a small electric car like the Nissan LEAF or Honda Fit EV, but the Model S is a significantly larger vehicle. While the Model S is breaking new technological ground in many ways, these numbers do not indicate a revolutionary change in efficiency.

But in the end, the Model S still managed to return more range than any other mass produced electric vehicle ever tested by a major publication. So, whether it's 238 or 265 miles, the 85-kWh version of the Tesla Model S is, as of right now, the electric range king.


· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Electric mileage goes down a noticeable amount at highway speeds. I have seen that with my Chevy Volt. Therefore, to me, the Motor Trend 238 miles seems quite good (on the highway), and not at all out of line compared to the Tesla figure of 265 miles (which would be a mix of highway and slower town driving, I assume). The EPA electric range for the Volt is 35 miles, but the actual times I have run out the battery, I got 40, 45, 49, 50 (twice) and 54 miles. Highway versus town driving makes a big difference

· · 5 years ago

"What's the Real-World Range of the Tesla Model S?"

What is wrong with this question ? Simple - there isn't one "real-world range". There are a range of possible answers depending on speed, temperature, terrain & driving style.

That is why some automag claiming "60 miles of real world range for Leaf" is no more real than various numbers I get in my daily driving.

A better question would be under what conditions do we expect to hit EPA rated range (and what conditions would we get more/less).

· Bubba Nicholson (not verified) · 5 years ago

With under the car as-you-drive road charging, range is unlimited.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Motortrend's tests the following day drove to Las Vegas and back, covering about 280 miles in a single charge (twice). Cruise control is not advantageous for energy consumption if you're on hills, as the car has to slow down and speed up constantly. Lastly, the image is of the first Model S prototype. Production cars have a turning indicator where the prototype has a tire well pressure relief vent, amongst many other changes.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Motortrend's tests the following day drove to Las Vegas and back, covering about 280 miles in a single charge (twice). Cruise control is not advantageous for energy consumption if you're on hills, as the car has to slow down and speed up constantly. Lastly, the image is of the first Model S prototype. Production cars have a turning indicator where the prototype has a tire well pressure relief vent, amongst many other changes.

· · 5 years ago

The Tesla Roadster was rated as having a range of 244 miles by the old EPA testing scheme. I've found that driving between 55 and 60 mph on level freeway, in moderate weather, with no climate control, I get that range in our Roadster.

From what little we know so far, I suspect the 85 kWh Model S will go 300 miles in the same conditions.

If I drive a steady 70 mph, the Roadster's range drops to about 175 miles. The same thing happens in a gas car, your gas mileage goes down significantly as your speed increases.

When I really care about range because I'm going on a long road trip and want to get all of it, I drive in the right lane and keep it under 60 mph, or better yet, get off the freeway and drive state highways which often have lower speed limits, less traffic, and better scenery.

Most of the time, the Roadster's range greatly exceeds my daily driving needs, so I generally get to drive however I want. I enjoy never buying gas so much that I'm willing to drive a little slower on the rare occasions when I need all the range I can get.

· · 5 years ago

"With under the car as-you-drive road charging, range is unlimited."

And, Bubba, faster-than-light time travel will allow us to zip out to the edge of the solar system for lunch everyday and head back to Earth in time for a late diner. That scenario is just about as likely to happen as witnessing most of the nations highways being dug up - to the tune of untold trillions of dollars - to install induction panels underneath them. Even if it was technically practical, who would pay for it?

The best sort of "electrified roads" I can think of would be for this country to finally invest in high speed passenger rail. As for the current and evolving network of EVSE terminals and electric cars with lithium batteries, we're on the right track there. It's just going to take a while to implement.

· · 5 years ago

How did they recharged the car in vegas, was it at the hotel with 110 volts for 20 hours or by 220-240 volts for 5 to 6 hours. If the charger was far from the hotel then did they choose another hotel nearer, how much it costed ?

Im shopping for a green car here in this website and i don't appreciate small articles not giving all the needed datas that we need to make a contious decision about what car to buy or wait many more years before a real bargain superior green car appear somewhere to buy.

· ThomasF (not verified) · 5 years ago

@gorr - try going to teslamotorsclub dot com and read the forums there if you want more detailed info.

· · 5 years ago

“A better question would be under what conditions do we expect to hit EPA rated range”
The EPA has strict, fairly repeatable tests that are used to get the label range (or MPG for non-electric vehicles). These tests (actually the correction calculations) were modified in 2008 in an attempt to make the label close to what an median driver will get (i.e. half of the drivers should get better than the label). Prior to this, there were complaints that it was too hard to get the advertised FE. Obviously, driving styles vary greatly and are influenced by the type of car. I suspect that xEV drivers are more conscious of their driving then, say, a driver of a Corvette and will probably have a better chance of beating the label. From what I have read in blogs, most Leaf owners (for example) regularly beat the 73 mile range.

One data point, is not a good test, however, if reports of Model S range continue to come in below the label, this is a sign to me that something is wrong with the way Tesla ran their test. By the way, these numbers do not come from the EPA but are self certified by the manufacturer.

· · 5 years ago

There are many public charging stations in Las Vegas, many at nice hotels.
See www.recargo.com or www.carstations.com
The Cosmopolitan has a 70 amp Tesla charger so one can charge a Model S in about 5 hours. I believe it is free to charge at most hotels that offer charging. It's just part of the effort to draw people in so they'll spend money on the games and shows.
There's also a 70 amp public charger in Barstow, CA that they could have used enroute if they had wanted.

· Bill Howland, (not verified) · 5 years ago

This is a Serious Question.

Can anyone tell me WHY the Tesla Roadster loses 10% of its range in the first 10 hours after charging? My Chevy volt loses essentially nothing in 10 hours after charging.

The Tesla doesn't 'slow' its discharge rate until the State - Of - Charge is under 45%. What the heck is it doing? Since I'm neither charging nor discharging, and the temperature is 'moderate' there should be nothing happening. I'll bite my tongue for what I would normally say next. Also that damn water pump runs all the time. Tesla told me not to worry about it.

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland,
The Volt never fully charges its battery all they way up in order to handle the extreme number of charge cycles it must endure to get 100,000 miles at ~40 miles per charge. You really never really know the SoC of the Volt.
Tesla, on the other hand, pretty much fills the battery all they way up.
On the other hand, I'm not sure what you're seeing. I've left our Roadster off the charger several times for 10 hours and don't recall seeing any 10% loss of range.
Your water pump shouldn't run all the time either. What year do you have? The early firmware on the 1.5's left the coolant pump running most of the time to ensure all cells were the same temperature. Later firmware mods stopped that and only had the coolant pump come on when you opened the driver door.
Have you been getting all of the firmware updates? You seem to be seeing things that I haven't heard about.
Those early firmware loads definitely put a load on the battery. That might also account for the 10% drop in 10 hours.

· Bill Howland, (not verified) · 5 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver

My firmware is exactly 2 weeks old. I'll have to try doing a standard charge. I usually don't charge for several days then do a range charge, but usually stop the charger before it gets totally full. Perhaps a 'standard' mode charge, and then see what happens. The normally quite good guesstomileage thingy gets stupid when I charge the battery too high.
My owner's manual said to expect a 7% per day loss down to 50% soc. I think it actually gets better somewhere around 40-45%. So by their own admission their battery charging system is horrible. I just don't see the need for a change in action between 65% and 35% soc.
The Tesla Rep told me the high voltage controller (aka alternator replacement) doesn't run unless the key is in the ignition or the charge port is not closed. I'm not sure that's true because I've done things where neither of the above things were done, yet the motorcycle battery never discharged. So what the Tesla Rep told me doesn't pass the smell test. He may have been misinformed. I have a 2.5 with zero options.

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland,
Since I have the 1.5 model which does not have the aux "motorcycle" battery and has the original reductive charger, my experience will be different from yours. It does, however, sound like the idle current draw is quite high. This sounds like an area for improvement for Tesla in the future.
It certainly isn't a critical shortcoming but could be cleaned up a bit.

· · 5 years ago

That's all very nice, but we still don't have a real world range example. A/C off? No, thanks. 65 mph? You would be the slowest car on the road, and passed left and right.

This reminds me of the unrealistic ranges reported by Leaf drivers. Now Leaf owners are selling their cars. What is it about "real world" EV people don't understand?

Try 75 mph, A/C on, set to 70 degrees, and then report back. Anything else is just hyperbole.

· Bill Howland, (not verified) · 5 years ago


Ok on my roadster the AC doesn't hurt mileage that much cuz its small, and the space it has to cool is tiny.. 70 mph or 80 mph starts to drastically hurt range. The worst thing though is the electric heater. Driving my roadster in the winter time yields only about 1/2 the range since 1/2 the juice is going to the heater. In February the seat heaters don't cut it.

· · 5 years ago

I guess a "real-world" test would be the 65-70mph with a/c on med/low with 2 kids or junk in the trunk. But my Leaf exceeds the EPA estimate. I travel 70miles RT (charge to 80% then timer turns the car to charge to 100% prior to my departure from home) and have no issues with the whole commute mixed driving with little heat and using the bum warmers as i pre-heat the car from the plug before i start the drive. I get home still with around 12-20miles on the GOM. and 2-3bars left. The larger battery (if ever available) will definately make a larger buffer on range and possibility to cut travel time and increase speed. However the car does what its supposed to do. around $40 in electricity over a month and saved over 58gals of gas @ $3.79 = massive savings. Driving electric does cut down the nonsense driving afterwork.

On the Tesla (which i hope to obtain at the end of my lease) 238 instead of 265 EPA miles per charge. Helluva lot better then my 75-98mile range, I wouldnt know what to do with the extra distance..... I think its pretty realistic.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

So whats the range using the uk highway average driving style - 80mph with the heater on ?

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