Telsa Model Y range jumps from 280 to 315 miles; S and X may increase, too

Two noteworthy nuggets came out of Tesla’s Q4 2019 earnings report and CEO Elon Musk’s phone call afterward. Beyond the record sales and quarterly profit and skyrocketing stock, the letter stated that the range for the coming Model Y has risen from 280 miles to 315 miles. That larger figure applies to both versions that can be ordered at the moment, the dual-motor, all-wheel drive Long Range and Performance trims. The investor letter explained the range improvement being “Due to continued engineering progress of the Model Y all-wheel drive (AWD).” On the earnings call, Musk said, “We managed to achieve by far the highest energy efficiency of any SUV ever produced at 4.1 miles per kilowatt hour.”

Even at 4.1 miles per kWh, the Model Y goes above and beyond; with the 75-kWh battery pack we presume the long range models fit, using every electron would still only get the compact crossover out to 307.5 miles. Tesla produced a chart comparing the Model Y efficiency to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Jaguar I-Pace, Mercedes-Benz EQC, and Audi E-tron, showing that none of the others cracked three EPA-rated miles per kWh.

The rear-wheel-drive versions have been taken down from Tesla’s online design studio, perhaps because Tesla plans to take its time with the production ramp-up, especially after having moved the production date up to the beginning of this year. At the Model Y launch, the RWD versions were billed as having 300 miles of range compared to AWD’s 280 miles. Whenever the rear-drivers appear again on Tesla’s site, we expect they’ll benefit from a bump in range, too.

The Model S and Model X apparently already got range increases, but Tesla didn’t tell anyone, including the EPA. The Model 3 and Model Y use Panasonic’s 2170 battery cell instead of the 18650 cell in the Model S and Model X. On the earnings call, Musk took a question about whether the 2170 cells would migrate to the flagship products. He said they wouldn’t, then asked a nearby exec if the sedan’s range was already around 380 miles before saying, “We’re rapidly approaching a 400-mile range for Model S.” Right now, the EPA site lists the Model S Long Range with a 373-mile range, the Model X Long Range at 328 miles. Musk said the company will stick with the 18650 cells in those products because, “We’re pretty happy with the energy content of the cell, and the improvements in the efficiency of the vehicle.”

More might be on the way for the top-tier offerings, though. A couple of rumors on Twitter, when taken together, hint that the Model S and Model X will get quantum increases in range. Last week, a hacker by the Twiiter handle of “Green” discovered code in the S and X software indicating “Two new S/X battery types in several configs (not yet sure of the capacity – TBD).” A few days later, user “BLKMDL3” tweeted, “I was just told by someone who works for Tesla that Model S and X are coming out in summer with a 120kWh battery! 400 mile range for X and 500 mile range for S.” We’ll have to take these as coming from the fringes of the speculative cosmos for the moment, but Tesla has big plans for the year, including its “alien” Plaid powertrain and the first pre-production units of the Tesla Semi, so a larger battery wouldn’t be unthinkable. A 500-mile range in a passenger car might be the biggest and most welcome milestone for the segment, though.

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