Did Tesla trade a little bit of charging speed in favor of more range?

The Tesla Model 3 is without a doubt the best-selling electric car (globally) ever. It has great range, performance, and also fast charging characteristics. Today we will take a look at the charging results of the entry-level Standard Range Plus (SR+) version in Europe (made in the USA).

Our primary interest will be the 2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+, tested recently by Bjørn Nyland (see video above), and compare it with the previous "2019-2020" SR+, using data from the Fastned fast-charging network (they appear to be in line with Bjørn Nyland's 2020 Model 3 SR+ test).

As far as we know, both of those SR+ cars are equipped with Panasonic's NCA battery cells (we are not 100% sure), manufactured at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada:

  • 2021 Model 3 SR+: 55 kWh pack (50.9 kWh usable), WLTP range of 448 km (278 mi)
  • 2020 Model 3 SR+: 53 kWh pack (49.0 kWh usable), WLTP range of 409 km (254 mi)

In Europe, there is now also a Chinese SR+ Model 3 with an LFP battery (CATL), which might have different charging characteristics. Initially, in China, there was also a SR+ version with NCM batteries from LG Chem's LG Energy Solution. Some reports say that LG batteries are used also in some Teslas produced in the U.S. as well, which means that it will be very difficult to compare Tesla products (on top of that are one going changes through new software updates).

Anyway, the analysis of Bjørn Nyland and Fastned data reveals that the new 2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+ with NCA battery charges slower than the "2019-2020" version. According to some comments, it might be related to the switch to new chemistry (more energy-dense and less costly, with lower cobalt content). Reportedly, a side effect of that is slightly lower charging power.

There are also other possibilities - Tesla maybe limited the initial charging power to make sure everything works as it should - and will unlock a similar/or better charging power at a later point.

Let's get into details.

Charging power vs state-of-charge (SOC)

First of all, the charging curve of the 2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+ is very smooth (natural for phese articular battery cells), without artificial power caps for certain SOC levels.

Charging from 65 % SOC is below 50 kW, which is not particularly high.

Peak charging power (when starting at around 10% SOC) is 159 kW.

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State-of-charge (SOC) vs time

We don't have exact time data for the charging session, but from the video it seems that the charging from 20% to 80% SOC took about 30 minutes.

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Average charging power vs state-of-charge (SOC)

The average power in the very important range from 20% to 80% SOC is 64 kW (not particularly high to be honest), which is 40% of the peak value.

To minimize the charging time on a long-distance journey, it's worth arriving at a lower SOC level.

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C-rate vs state-of-charge (SOC)

The peak C-rate* - charging power in relation to the total battery capacity of 55 kWh (estimated/guess) - is about 2.9C. That's one of the highest results in the industry.

However, the average C-rate when charging from 20% to 80% SOC is below 1.2C, which is average (Audi e-tron is at 1.6C for example).

*C-rate tells us how the charging power relates to the battery pack capacity. For example: 1C is 1-hour charging power (current), when the power value in kW is equal to the battery pack capacity in kWh. 2C would be enough to recharge in half an hour.

The net battery capacity estimated at 50.9 kWh stands for about 93% of the total battery capacity.

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Range replenishing speed vs state-of-charge (SOC)

The rate of replenishing range depends on the energy consumption and the energy consumption depends on the use case.

  • WLTP
    Taking into consideration the WLTP range of 448 km (278 miles) and available battery capacity of 50.9 kWh, we can assume energy consumption of 114 Wh/km (183 Wh/mile).
    The effective average speed of range replenishing when charging from 20% to 80% SOC would be 9.4 km/minute (5.8 miles/minute).

As we can see below, the range replenishing speed chart is the one in which Tesla shines, thanks to its high efficiency.

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Comparisons with other EVs

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3

Comparison of charging power

Now it's time to compare the 2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+ with the "2019-2020" version, mentioned in the introduction.

The data reveals that the previous version was charging at noticeably higher power across the 10-80% SOC range. The peak appears to be capped at 170 kW in the 2020 version.

It's quite interesting, as the older version has lower capacity (estimated at 53 kWh), compared to the newer one (estimated at 55 kWh).

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Comparison of State-of-charge (SOC) vs time

Higher power combined with a few percent smaller battery translates into much faster charging (about 30 minutes vs about 22 minutes).

*The starting points were adjusted to the lowest common SOC.

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Comparison of C-rate

The C-rate of the older Model 3 SR+ is noticeably higher than in the new version. At peak it exceeds 3.0C!

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Time for a small summary of all the numbers. The most important thing from the user perspective is that the previous Model 3 SR+ was able to average at 82 kW (20-80% SOC), which is a third faster than the new one:

DC Fast Charging Comparison by InsideEVs
Model
[data source]
Drive /
Battery
(kWh)
Max
Power
Avg
Power
(20-80%)
Max
C-Rate
Avg
C-Rate
(20-80%)
Time
(20-80%)
2020 Tesla Model 3 SR+
[Fastned]
RWD
53 kWh
170 kW 82 kW 3.2 1.5 22 min
2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+
[Bjørn Nyland]
RWD
55 kWh
159 kW 64 kW 2.9 1.2 30 min

Comparison of range replenishing speed

Because the new Model 3 SR+ has more range, it partially compensates for the lower charging power. In effect, the difference between the range replenishing speed is not as high as the difference between the charging power.

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The new Model 3 has 22% lower charging power average (20-80% SOC), while the range is replenished 18% slower. The WLTP range itself is almost 10% higher, so maybe it's an intentional trade-off.

DC Fast Charging Comparison by InsideEVs
Model
[data source]
Drive /
Battery
(kWh)
Avg
Power
(20-80%)
WLTP range
rep. rate
(20-80%)
2020 Tesla Model 3 SR+
[Fastned]
RWD
53 kWh
82 kW 11.4 km/min
7.1 mi/min
2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+
[Bjørn Nyland]
RWD
55 kWh
64 kW 9.4 km/min
5.8 mi/min

Conclusions

The 2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+ offers very good DC fast charging characteristics, however, it's not as good (at least now) as in the previous SR+. The reason might be a tradeoff between the energy density (for higher range) and the charging power.

In the case of Model 3 SR+, it's worth charging at low SOC levels, as the power is much higher in the beginning.

We are eager to see more tests of the Tesla cars so stay tuned for more reports.

2021 Tesla Model 3 SR+ :: DC Fast Charging Summary by InsideEVs
Drive: RWD; Battery pack (net / total): 50.9 / 55 kWh
[Data source: Bjørn Nyland]
Peak Power
Peak C-rate

Average Power (20-80% SOC)
Average-to-Peak Power
Average C-rate (20-80% SOC)

Time (20-80% SOC)
159 kW
2.9

64 kW
40%
1.2

about 30 min
Range Replenishing Speed (Average 20-80% SOC):
WLTP 9.4 km/min (5.8 mi/min)

General info:

* Some values on the charts are estimated from the data source.

** Temperature of the battery cells might highly negatively affect charging capabilities. We don't have data about temperatures of the battery at the beginning and during the charging process. In cold or hot weather, as well as after driving very dynamically, charging power might be significantly lower than shown on the charts (in extreme cases charging might be impossible until the battery temperature will not return to an acceptable level).

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