Anyone that has followed the Tesla story over the past few years would know that one of the primary talking points against the electric car maker is the impending competition that’s coming from more experienced, more competent carmakers. Critics argued that once legacy automakers get serious in their electric car efforts, a company as inexperienced as Tesla would easily be overwhelmed. This scenario has not happened at all — and if Tesla’s recent range updates to its S3XY lineup are anything to go by, it is becoming evident that legacy auto has fallen ridiculously behind in the electric car race.
Tesla’s recent range updates, which were rolled out together with the “refresh” of the Model 3, further cemented the company’s place at the top of the EV market. With the new updates, the Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor AWD was able to hit an EPA-estimated range of 353 miles per charge, and even its heftier, heavier sibling, the Model Y, was able to achieve a range of 326 miles. The Model X, an incredibly heavy tank of a vehicle, reached 371 miles per charge, and even the power-hungry Tesla Model S Performance is nearing 400 miles at 387 miles per charge.
It should be noted that Tesla was able to accomplish these improvements without any of the big updates that it announced during Battery Day. During the highly-anticipated event, Tesla revealed its batteries’ new 4680 form factor, which has 5x the volume of the Model 3 and Model Y’s 2170 cells. Tesla also announced a new vehicle manufacturing system that prioritizes single-piece casts and a structural battery pack. Other innovations, such as the use of high-nickel cathodes and silicon anodes, were discussed as well.
None of these innovations are in Tesla’s recently-updated vehicles.
Ultimately, Tesla’s recent updates highlight just how far the company has gone ahead of the pack in the electric vehicle sector. The fact that the electric car maker was able to achieve a 371-mile range for the Model X Long Range Dual Motor AWD with the same 100 kWh battery pack and the same 18650 cells as its Model X 100D predecessor is almost ridiculous. This is especially notable considering that the Audi e-tron, which has a battery pack that’s almost the same size as the Model X, has a range of 222 miles, and that’s the variant with the improved range already.
Tesla’s lead in range becomes even more significant when one considers the Model 3 and the Model Y, both of which utilize a battery pack that pretty much tops up at 75 kWh. A comparison of the two vehicles against the competition shows a stark contrast, with the Polestar 2, a car that’s largely considered as a legitimate rival to the Model 3, having an EPA-estimated range of 233 miles from a 78 kWh battery pack. The Jaguar I-PACE, a crossover that’s pretty close in size to the Model Y, follows the same pattern, having an EPA-estimated range of 246 miles per charge from a 90 kWh battery.
There are likely numerous reasons behind Tesla’s insane lead in the electric car sector today, but a good part of it likely has a lot to do with the company’s intense focus on battery tech and development. Tesla has been focused on improving and optimizing its batteries since Day 1, and as could be seen in the recent range updates of the S3XY lineup, this obsessive pursuit of optimization matters a lot. These efforts are not emulated at all with most legacy automakers, as veterans seem typically content with using off-the-shelf batteries from suppliers for their EV programs.
Yet perhaps the most uncomfortable reason behind legacy auto’s distance from Tesla’s vehicles today is something far simpler: hubris. While legacy automakers have been stating for years that they are serious about their future shift to electric cars, their actions have largely been far less tangible than their words. Today, it is almost as if Tesla’s competitors in the EV sector were far too comfortable just watching the electric car maker improve over the years. And now that Tesla has turned into a force that’s very difficult to ignore, they are scrambling to catch up.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to catch a moving target. By the time legacy automakers can catch up to where Tesla is today, it is almost certain that the electric car maker will be even further ahead. This distance will likely be even farther, too, as Tesla’s next-generation battery technology is yet to enter the picture. Once Tesla’s 4680 cells are in production and its vehicles are being built with structural battery packs, the gap between the electric car maker and its competitors will most definitely be even more significant. And that, at least for legacy auto, is a scenario worthy of the final act of a tragedy.