It’s fairly common knowledge among the electric vehicle community that there can be a notable gulf between the manufacturer-estimated range, EPA range, and real-world range. A new study proves these differences by analyzing data from thousands of active Teslas.
Recurrent Auto, a car trading and research company, collected data from over 12,000 Teslas, and 360,000 charging cycles along with feedback from several Tesla drivers. It found that the range displayed on the gauge cluster (before adding a destination) does not account for the impact of temperature and driving patterns.
In temperatures less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the Tesla Model Y had an average range of roughly 45 percent of the EPA estimate. In warmer temperatures, between 70-90F, the range improved, retaining over 60 percent of the EPA estimate. This data was based on 3,332 vehicles.
Data from the Model S generated similar results. In colder temperatures, the electric sedan lost over 50 percent range, but in warmer climates, it retained about 60 percent of the charge.
Gallery: Recurrent Auto Range Data
In a separate test, Recurrent co-founder and CEO Scott Case found that the maximum range on his 2021 Model Y with an EPA range of 326 miles was only 252 miles during warm months between June and September, in Minneapolis. In December and January, the maximum range was as low as 188 miles, and 196 miles, respectively.
In a statement, Case said, “They (EV owners) know their range drops in the heat and cold, but they don’t see that on their car’s dashboard. The reality is that the laws of physics apply to Tesla, too – Tesla is not much different than other automakers.”
We've written about several Tesla owners in the past, who shared details of battery degradation after a certain number of miles driven. None of them seemed to have experienced such a drastic range drop from the time their vehicles were new.
The results are better for EVs equipped with heat pumps and advanced thermal management. All new Teslas get the heat pump as standard equipment – the system recycles heat generated from the battery and motors to warm the cabin, optimize charging speeds, and improve driving range, as explained by the Austin-headquartered brand early this year.
Recurrent states that EPA tests EVs in a temperature-controlled laboratory, where EVs don’t exceed 60 miles per hour. The test cycle also allows for “manufacturer-determined adjustments,” which can provide inaccurate results. It adds that the onboard system in a Tesla only accounts for temperature and driving conditions when the destination is set.
Range estimates vary across the world, but the EPA test cycle in the US is considered closer to accurate compared to Europe’s WLTP, whose range estimates are generally 22 percent higher than EPA and China’s NEDC, which is the most overly optimistic among the three, as its estimates are 35 percent higher than EPA.
As a reminder, several factors dictate range, not just temperature and driving patterns: wind speed, elevation changes, terrain, tires health, battery age and degradation, and charging patterns can also impact how far you can drive your EV on a single charge.