Tesla’s 400-mile Model S is a subtle update, but it’s a chilling reminder to rival carmakers

(Photo: Tesla Photographer/Instagram)

There is a particularly interesting trend happening in the electric vehicle sector. While it is undeniable that Tesla is leading the industry’s shift to EVs, veteran carmakers are prone to claim that they have or are developing technology that is at par or superior to the electric car maker’s innovations. The Tesla Model S’ 402-mile EPA rating subtly sends a message that this is not necessarily the case. 

For some time now, there has been a lot of talk surrounding Tesla and its upcoming Battery Day event. The company has been pretty thin on the specifics of the event, but speculations are abounding that discussions will be held surrounding the company’s next-generation batteries. Tesla has not formally hinted at the details of these batteries, though all signs point to cells that would be able to last a million miles. Discussions about other innovations such as cobalt-free cells for China-made Model 3s are also expected to be held at the event. 

Similar to how vehicles like the Porsche Taycan and the Audi e-tron were dubbed as “Tesla Killers” in previous years, veteran automakers such as GM appear to be keen on establishing the idea that it is not being left behind in the EV race. Just last month, for example, GM Executive Vice President Doug Parks stated that the automaker’s own “million-mile” battery is “almost there.” Parks stated that there are multiple teams within GM that are working on zero cobalt batteries as well. 

(Photo: Tesla Photographer/Instagram)

Such statements from GM only validate Tesla’s points about electric vehicles. The fact that the veteran automaker’s battery plans seem to be inspired, at least in some way, by the younger EV maker means that the auto industry has now reached a point where electric powered transportation is a given. That being said, there is very little doubt that the Model S’ updated EPA ratings, which show that the 100 kWh flagship sedan could go 402 miles on a single charge, is likely sending some chills down the spine of Tesla’s rivals. 

As noted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, every Model S that has been produced since January has been equipped with a 402 mile range. This feat, as stated by the company in an announcement on its official website, was accomplished through a variety of means, including significant mass reduction, new aero wheels that optimize efficiency, increased drive unit efficiencies, and optimized regenerative braking.

What this means is that Tesla was able to draw out 400 miles of EPA range from a 100 kWh battery pack using its current battery technology. The 400-mile Model S today is just a hyper-optimized version of the Raven series that came out last year. Unless Tesla states otherwise on Battery Day, it appears that the current generation Raven Model S is not yet equipped with the company’s next-generation million-mile batteries. 

(Photo: fromwhereicharge/Instagram)

It should be noted that other companies have pledged to release vehicles with a range of 400 miles as well. Electric pickup maker Rivian’s flagship R1T pickup truck goes 400 miles too, but that vehicle is equipped with a 180 kWh battery pack. The GMC Hummer EV, widely speculated to be a legitimate competitor to the Tesla Cybertruck, is also poised to be released with a 400-mile range. But just like the Rivian R1T, there’s a good chance that its battery pack will be substantially bigger than the 100 kWh pack used in Tesla’s flagship sedan. 

Of course, it would be easy to argue that larger vehicles like the Rivian R1T and the GMC Hummer EV would obviously need more batteries due to their size, but it should be noted that Tesla’s Cybertruck, which will likely have a battery that’s far larger than the Model S’ 100 kWh pack, has some impressive range as well. During its unveiling, Elon Musk noted that the all-electric pickup’s tri-motor variant will have over 500 miles of range. The specifics of the Cybertruck’s battery have not been disclosed by Tesla yet, though it is almost certain that it will be utilizing the company’s million mile battery cells. 

So what does this mean for the Model S? With a million-mile battery and a 100 kWh pack, the flagship sedan’s succeeding generations will most likely achieve a range estimate that’s even more impressive than its current 402-mile EPA rating. And this, ultimately, is something that will be very hard to meet or compete with, especially among veteran automakers that have not dedicated the same amount of time and effort into developing battery technology from the ground up. 

Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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