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.

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