By on February 18, 2020

Tesla Model S sales have taken a backseat to the electric sedan’s hot-selling Model 3 sibling, but the model remains a valuable asset for the automaker. For one thing, it offers the most range of any Tesla vehicle. Now, buyers of both the Model S and X can expect greater driving distances, all thanks to a product upgrade added several months ago.

Real-world range is another matter, and on that front there’s reason for Porsche Taycan buyers to smile.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the upgrade late last week, saying the Model S Long Range Plus now delivers an EPA-estimated 390 miles of range, up from 373 miles. The additional range will soon be unlocked in existing vehicles via an over-the-air software update.

The pricier Model S Performance retains its 348-mile rating.

Like the Model S, the long-legged version of the Model X sees its range grow to 351 miles, up 23 from before. While no version of the Model S or X can be described as a range slug (or slow), adding extra miles is one way to keep these now aging models fresh as competition gathers around the Palo Alto automaker.

One of those competitors is Porsche, with its Taycan sedan. The slinky EV comes in performance-minded Turbo and Turbo S guises, though its EPA rating falls far short of its U.S. rival.

Image: Porsche AG

While the hottest Taycan’s 192-mile range earned the vehicle both jeers and sympathy, Car and Driver set out to discover whether the differences between the hottest electric Porsche and brawniest Tesla Model S were really all that great in real-world driving. A comparo test ensued between the Turbo S and Model S Performance, performed on a California track at interstate cruising speeds.

Recall the two range ratings: 192 miles, and 348.

The simulated road trip did not see the test vehicles driven to the point of drainage. In the interest of longevity, EV battery packs halt the vehicle, or at least slow it, before the pack can become too depleted. Under optimal conditions (and time constraints) at Hyundai’s flat California City test loop, both models were put through their paces.

The results, after 100 miles of 75 mph driving (which most certainly is not how the EPA tests average range), showed that battery depletion was not in line with the stated ranges. Especially not in the Tesla’s case.

From Car and Driver:

At the conclusion of our 100 miles, the Tesla was sitting at a 55 percent state of charge, and the Porsche was just behind at 52 percent. We then used the rate of battery depletion and range reduction—which, given our idealized test conditions, was extremely stable—to extrapolate out to a predicted total range figure.

The results were far closer than we expected: 209 miles for the Taycan, and 222 for the Model S.

Although that number might seem low for the Model S, it’s between our other Tesla highway-range results. The last Model S we tested, a 2018 100D, achieved 270 miles to a 335-mile EPA rating, and the first Model 3, a rear-drive Long Range, got 200 miles versus its 310-mile EPA figure at the time. That means at a steady 75 mph, the 100D achieved 81 percent of its EPA range, and the Model 3, 65 percent, while the figure for this latest Model S is 68 percent.

It’s food for thought for any prospective EV buyer. Certain models make more efficient use of their battery capacity, and everything from speed to terrain to temperature to driving style will impact how far you can go on a charge.

[Images: Abu hasim.A/Shutterstock, Porsche]

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25 Comments on “As Tesla Boosts Range, a Mileage Comparo With Porsche Proves Interesting...”

  • avatar

    They should have ran them from indicated full to the point where they shut off and measured range. The in between charge level indicators aren’t perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yes. I have had many ICE cars where the lower half on the gas gauge was 1/4 of the total range. The repeatability of the performance stats are noteworthy though

      • 0 avatar

        All my vehicles suffer from this problem. I’ve often wondered if its gauge inaccuracy, a calculation issue or just a basic calibration problem.

        Example: the DTE (distant to empty) read out after a fill up indicates 400 miles of range. And sure enough at 1/2 a tank I’ve gone 200 miles and have an indicated 200 to go, so the math checks out. However after only 300 miles the low fuel warning comes on and the E is getting close. So I pull into a gas station and fill up. Checking the math indicates that 400 miles was never going to happen given the MPG and tank capacity. I know “empty” is bone dry, there is a buffer of a few gallons (2 or 3) but its not enough to make up that missing distance.

    • 0 avatar

      A UK car channel ran a “to dead” test on some EVs earlier this year. About 45-50 degrees on the English motorways. The Tesla Model 3 went the farthest at 270 (but just 78% of its claimed range) while the Kia EV Niro went 255 miles but a full 90% of its claimed range. The I-Pace, Leaf, eTron, and EQC was the rest of the order.

      Here’s a link with the summary part time stamped, but the whole thing is worth a watch if you have time:

  • avatar

    I’m no fan of Elon Musk and his fabulisms, but this test was pretty unscientific. Car and Driver is a hollow shell of itself, and should be read strictly as marketing fluff for whatever advertisers they are courting.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    That was an interesting article (the full C&D review) as it also talked about the Porsche’s performance being repeatable where as the Tesla’s degraded pretty early in spirited driving. They picked the Tesla because of price however. I can’t really blame them.

    Is there any talk of Teslas not meeting real world range in the manner of say, Ford Ecoboosts? My Leaf’s range meter is pretty close but given the limited range it needs to be.

  • avatar

    what product upgrades? Most of the added distance was from software updates. And since I have been spot on with Apple’s “planned obsolescence” concept, I seriously doubt the Tesla people “just discovered” more range. I figure that they had this update in the works for years and added it as they needed to for marketing purposes. So all those idiots who were early adopters are the ones getting the shaft – the updates likely were ready to roll even at day one or year one – but were held back to suit the need to keep the brand fresh. And this is the company that has nearly 80% of its Model 3’s being sent back to be quality corrected because they are built so poorly. 20% are ready to ship out of the factory – the other 80% have to have glaring quality issues addressed – last year a business magazine reported on this so it is fact. Oddly, Ford’s launch of the new Explorer had a much smaller “reject” level but that made huge news as “ford Botched the Explorer rollout (CNBC).

    I wouldn’t put it past Muskrat et al for having 400 miles ready to launch whenever they feel like it. No real physical change happened. All smoke and mirrors and snake oil salesmanship.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “No real physical change happened.”

      Not exactly. I’m guessing they did one of two things, or both:

      1. Utilized more of the battery’s safety margin, which all lithium ion cells must have.

      2. Found more efficiencies in the power delivery curve, which is governed by software.

      So no, you’re not getting different parts, but the code is affecting how they physically perform. Snake oil doesn’t actually do anything; this does.

      Right now, Tesla enjoys one of the best (lowest) battery degradation curves in the industry. I wonder how these OTA range pushes will affect that in the long run.

      • 0 avatar

        ” Utilized more of the battery’s safety margin, which all lithium ion cells must have.”

        Yeah, but they make the changes based on data they get from monitoring the fleet. As far as all lithium ion batteries needing a safety margin, I wouldn’t feel safe saying that. Technology is advancing and durability of some of the new coatings are reducing and maybe even eliminating the need for a safety margin. Tesla has a new battery chemistry that is good enough to get you 4000 cycles. If you have 4000 cycles on a 300 mile range battery, that 1 million 200 thousand miles. Would you worry about a safety margin on a 4000 cycle battery?

        “Dioxazolones And Nitrile Sulfites As Electrolyte Additives For Lithium-Ion Batteries”

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s plausible that tweaking the regenerative braking algorithms could increase the range during city driving with all that start and stopping. I don’t see how they’ll get much more in highway range with tweaks like this.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…everything from speed to terrain to temperature to driving style will impact how far you can go on a charge”

    Well, that’s the truth about (all) cars. And don’t forget about towing, and battery degradation.

  • avatar

    Chicago to Saint Louis is about 300 miles. According to Musk, the Model S can make it on one charge. According to C&D, it can’t. The discrepancy is important.

  • avatar

    Let’s see how many of these electrics fare after 5 years. As SCE battery degradation happens over time much like your cell phone is not good as when it new to keep its charge. Add to that after a certain amount of degradation, ambient temperatures impact batteries driving in the varying weather conditions and seasons.

    • 0 avatar

      @randyinrocklin: Battery chemistry is changing and the electrode coatings and chemistry in a state of the art EV battery like a Tesla is very different than what is in most cell phone batteries. That being said, I agree and I’m interested to see how they degrade over time. My own personal experience with a Nissan battery in 5.5 years and 96k miles is that a properly cared-for battery can maintain most of its original capacity. I still have 12 all 12 bars on a Leaf.

      Currently, I’m trying to hang on and buy a Tesla with the Maxwell dry electrode technology. There is other interesting battery tech in the pipeline. Toyota officially unveils its solid-state battery on July 24th and IBM has some interesting battery tech with 800 Wh/kg gravimetric density. It’s possible that these new technologies could eliminate most if not all of the current and past battery technology issues.

    • 0 avatar

      We’re running an experiment toward this end. We bought a new Bolt last year, and run it the vast majority of the time in the range between 50% and 90% charge, which supposedly is very friendly to Li-Ion batteries. (The Bolt has a nice feature that allows you not to charge to 100% unless you want to for a long trip.) No apparent degradation yet, but it’s early. I expect to keep this Bolt for at least five years, will do my best to treat the battery with kid gloves, and am very curious how it will do on range by the end of that time.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Tesla battery degradation (or lack of) is very well documented.

      Here’s an example from 2016, when the Model S was already 4 years old:

      Unlike mcs, my 12 Leaf experienced terrible degradation, and it was well-maintained from new.

      The trick these days is to build margin into the pack, which is then tapped into as the battery ages. This goes a long way toward customer satisfaction. My 19 Ioniq EV has shown no degradation at all after 17k miles and 15 months, and still has 100% State of Health. It’s believed that Hyundai has a 10% margin on top of the usable battery; i.e., the pack is 31 kWh, but 28 kWh is the usable portion.

  • avatar

    EV’s have better city range than highway, unlike traditional ICE cars. And range has everything to do with speed. Without definitions it’s hard to draw conclusions. However the cars battery capacity estimates should be pretty accurate. Comparing them to a cars gas gauge is not meaningful, EV’s are a different ball game. Tesla “unlocking” more range, and then fabricating an excuse for them that somehow magic software has made this possible, is not supported by any evidence. More likely they’re just allowing you to tap more of the ACTUAL battery capacity and eroding the safety margin.

    • 0 avatar

      One more reason why EVs are only for local errands. If you have to travel beyond one charge, get on an airplane and rent another EV at the destination. (I’d include buses and trains but people who can afford Teslas can afford airline tickets.)

      • 0 avatar

        ” is not supported by any evidence”

        Actually it is. I’ve driven EVs and exceeded EPA range and I’ve done worse. It’s all dependent on how you drive. It may come as a shock to you, but those same rules apply to ICE cars. Much it depends on how smoothly you drive the car. If you maintain a steady speed and keep to the speed limit, you’re going to meet or exceed the EPA range.

        EVs for local errands only? Give me a break. Over 300 miles range is local only?? Guess what, 300 to 390 miles is beyond local. Even if you’re going 500+ miles, a stop after driving over 3 hours is reasonable. That was my limit when I was driving long distances in an ICE car. Local only?? Then how did I get 96k miles in 5 and a half years in an EV driving local only?

  • avatar

    Elon Musk is a genius at both marketing/promotion and engineering strategy. Musk does not lay all the cards out, only a few of them. Tesla can just update software to beat the current competition it has now and maybe in the future without major new model releases like that of Model S and X! Ford must scared stiff when their Mustang Mach E is at the dealers now!

  • avatar

    Taycan has a two speed automatic — that is why it has good relative efficiency at high speed.

  • avatar

    Is this the same company that recently adjusted their battery warranties downward and range-lowered older Model S and X?

    No way, must be a different outfit. The Tesla I’ve read about doesn’t have any problems.

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