Tesla has upgraded the Model S, its flagship electric sedan, with a new range of 402 miles — thanks to several improvements, including new wheels.

Earlier this year, Tesla released a new “Long Range Plus” version of the Model S with an EPA-rated range that was later updated to 391 miles on a single charge.

The new version of the vehicle was achieved through several small changes over the last year, and Tesla needed to change the name in order for the EPA to give it new rating.

Around the same time, CEO Elon Musk claimed that Tesla is close to having a 400-mile electric car.

During Tesla’s Q1 2020 results, Musk claimed that they already achieved it because the EPA made a mistake when testing the new Model S Long Range Plus.

The CEO claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) left a door open with the key inside the vehicle during their cycle test — resulting in the electric car not going to “sleep” and draining the battery a little too much.

The EPA has denied that.

Now a few months later, Tesla is announcing that it achieved an official EPA range of 402 miles:

This significant achievement reflects Tesla’s obsession with efficiency and energy frugality, and is realized through several changes, both iterative and transformational, in core hardware and system architecture development by the Tesla engineering, design, and production teams. These changes went into production earlier this year when we first started manufacturing Model S Long Range Plus at our factory in Fremont, California. All Model S Long Range Plus vehicles will receive the new 402-mile rating.

It should mean that all Model S Long-Range vehicles produced since February should achieve this range.

Tesla lists the improvements that resulted in Model S achieving a 402-mile range:

  • Significant Mass Reduction: Mass is the enemy of both efficiency and performance, and minimizing the weight of every component is an ongoing goal for our design and engineering teams. Several lessons from the engineering design and manufacturing of Model 3 and Model Y have now been carried over to Model S and Model X. This has unlocked new areas of mass reduction while maintaining the premium feel and performance of both vehicles. Additional weight savings have also been achieved through the standardization of Tesla’s in-house seat manufacturing and lighter weight materials used in our battery pack and drive units.
  • New “Tempest” Aero Wheels and Tires: Our newest 8.5 inch-wide aero wheels reduce aerodynamic drag compared to the previous wheels on Model S Long Range, and when paired with a new custom tire specifically engineered to reduce rolling resistance, add a 2% improvement to overall range.
  • Increased Drive Unit Efficiency: In our rear AC-induction drive unit, we replaced the mechanical oil pump with an electric oil pump that optimizes lubrication independent of vehicle speed to reduce friction. Further improvements to the gearbox in our front permanent magnet synchronous reluctance motors shared with Model 3 and Model Y have resulted in a further increase of 2% more range while driving on the highway.
  • Maximizing Regenerative Braking: Our newest drive feature, HOLD, blends the motor’s regenerative braking with physical brakes to bring our cars to a stop by easing off of the accelerator pedal. To bring the car to a stop smoothly, regenerative braking now works at a lower speed and deceleration rate, sending more energy back to the battery pack while simultaneously enabling a driving experience like no other car.

Electrek’s Take

It looks like Elon was right because it sounds like all those improvements were already in the car when the EPA tested it.

Either way, it’s a nice milestone for EVs, but range is highly dependent on how you drive the vehicle too.

In order to achieve 400 miles, you are going to have to limit your speed under 70 mph and use the aero wheels with low resistance tires.

What I find most interesting about this update is that Tesla has started to implement several improvements that they have made with Model 3 to their older Model S and Model X programs.

Tesla’s rapid improvement cycle and refusal to stick to a model-year system is paying dividends here.

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