Hybrids & Electrics

Does the New Tesla Model S Really Have a 400-Mile Range?

Claimed range is crucial for EVs, something that Tesla understands very well. It’s why, although the Porsche Taycan has the performance advantage, Tesla’s cars sell because of efficiency. At least, efficiency on paper. Updated for 2020, the Tesla Model S claims to offer a longer range than ever. But will it back that up with real-world results?

The Tesla Model S’ 402-mile range details

Metallic gray 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus driving around a mountain road
2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus | Car and Driver via Instagram

The 2019 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus was EPA-rated at 370 miles of range. For 2020, though, that’s been bumped up to 402 miles. According to Motor Trend, it’s the first production EV to be rated at over 400 miles.

2020 Tesla Model Y interior
2020 Tesla Model Y interior | Tesla

The range increase comes via a number of small improvements, Car and Driver reports. Firstly, the seats, which are shared with the Model 3 and Model Y, are lighter. The sedan’s drive units and battery pack are also lighter. Exactly how much weight was trimmed hasn’t been specified. But Tesla reports the Model X will also receive the lighter seats at some point in the future.

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Additionally, the 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus features more aerodynamic wheels. The tires have less rolling resistance, too. The front motors’ transmission has been revised to reduce energy losses. The rear motors and transmission have also gotten upgrades. Instead of a mechanical oil pump, there’s now a more-efficient electric one.

The Tesla Model S’ software also contributes to the increased claimed range. The EV’s regenerative braking has a new Hold Mode, which lowers the speed at which the friction brakes kick in. That way, the regen brakes can recover more energy.

On Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed all Model S’ made after late January 2020 have the increased range. The added range doesn’t come with added cost, though. As of this writing, Tesla’s discounted prices are still in place. A Tesla Model S Long Range Plus, before EV incentives, starts at $74,990.

Can the Tesla Model S really do 402 miles?

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Obviously, the 402-mile claim is subject to the same “your mileage may vary” disclaimer as an ICE vehicle’s claimed fuel efficiency. Theoretically, it may be possible to get 402 miles out of a Tesla Model S on a single charge. But weather conditions, traffic, and driving habits all play into that.

It’s also worth pointing out that these claims are based on EPA testing procedures. This doesn’t mean the EPA has actually tested the 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range Plus. Rather, Tesla ran the EPA’s testing procedure, and after reviewing the data, the agency approved the claim. In addition, these procedures aren’t uniform. For example, when Porsche ran the EPA tests on the Taycan, it used a ‘conservative’ variant. Tesla could have run a more generous approved procedure to get a higher number.

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Furthermore, Tesla’s cars have struggled to live up to their claims in the past. True, both the Model S and Model 3 have more real-world range than the Taycan, InsideEVs, and Car and Driver report. But they would, considering they have larger battery packs. However, in Carwow’s long-range tests, the Model 3 Long Range only saw 78% of its claimed range. And in Car and Driver’s testing, the 2019 Model S Performance was about 68% as efficient as it claimed to be.

How does the competition compare?

A blue Rivian R1T pickup on a forest road
Rivian R1T | Rivian

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Rivian claims its R1T and R1S will be able to achieve 400 miles of range. However, as of this writing, these claims haven’t been verified by EPA testing. And both the truck and SUV are still unavailable. Additionally, it will likely be harder for Rivian’s EVs to see that range in real-world conditions. Both the R1T and R1S are tall and somewhat boxy—neither of which translate well for range.

Red 2019 Chevrlet Bolt EV hatchback driving down the road next to a forest
2019 Chevrlet Bolt EV | Chevrolet

Additionally, even if it doesn’t quite reach 402 miles on a charge, no other electric sedan can match it. The closest is the Chevrolet Bolt hatchback, which only has a claimed 259 miles of range. However, while it’s not quite as luxurious, the Bolt is roughly half the price.

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