Tested: Tesla Model 3 Aero Versus Non-Aero Wheels – Video


What’s the wheel efficiency difference?

The Tesla Model 3 comes stock with supposedly aerodynamic wheel covers, which might most kindly be described as ugly. We understand some may take issue with that assessment of their aesthetics, but they would be wrong. Or insane. Or blind.

The cover’s only redeeming value would appear to be the boost they give to the efficiency of the all-electric sedan, allowing it to squeak out more miles per charge than the perfectly fine wheels that lie beneath the plastic disks. According to Tesla, they increase efficiency (and range) by up to 10 percent. Apparently not satisfied with that answer, one owner, who goes by the name Prolifk on YouTube, decided to put them to the test, to see how much they might improve range in real life.

Although he couldn’t conduct his tests in a lab or, more appropriately, a wind tunnel, our protagonist took great pains to develop a strategy to reduce the elements that might impact the final findings. A route of 17.5 miles was laid out — from Los Angeles to West Covina, California — and passes made with and without the covers. The tests were timed to avoid traffic, and pains were taken to avoid things like excessive lane changes that might impact the findings. The temperature was 54 degrees Fahrenheit and most of the driving was done at a constant 70 miles per hour.

You can see the lengths they went to in the nicely-done video above, but in case you’re in a hurry, here are the numbers according to this first trial. Drum roll please. Ok, without the covers, the Tesla Model 3 covered the distance using 282 watt-hours per mile, while with the aerodynamic covers in place, the result was 270 watt-hours per mile.

That is definitely an improvement, but not nearly a 10-percent one. In fact, the difference maths out to be a 4.3 percent change. A little disappointing. Unless, that is, you are looking for a reason to drive around with your perfectly lovely 18″ standard wheels au naturel. If you’re headed out on a long trip, the sin of spending 4.3 percent more energy isn’t the worst of crimes. Plus, around town at slower speeds, that difference likely drops even further.

So, whatever your preference, don’t be afraid to do you. If you prefer the look of the wheel cover — perhaps you’ve had them color-keyed to the car —  then go for it (and don’t listen to the haters, even if it’s us)! If you don’t, still go for it. A conservative driving style could probably eat up the difference anyway.

Source: YouTube via Teslarati

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30 Comments on "Tested: Tesla Model 3 Aero Versus Non-Aero Wheels – Video"

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It’s better at higher speeds. I would like to see some data for SF to LA at typical i5 speeds

I agree, higher speed (around 80-85 MPH on I-5)the aero wheel cover would improve the range by more than 4.0-4.5%. On Germany Autobahn with speed up to 130-140 MPH the improvement may be up to 6-8% or more.

If you don’t like them Pop them on for any long distance trips. Leave them off for daily driving in the city.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Sexy = Aero covers On
Aero covers off = Not Sexy

Take them off, take them all off?
Dah, dah, dah…

Please Tesla, silver grey aero wheels! Not this ugly colour! Unmarketable! (what was the strange idea behind that?)

Can you paint they and colour? Or is the material hard for paint to coat?

I do not intent of painting my car! I let Tesla do the job! Here https://electrek.co/2018/01/19/tesla-model-3-aero-wheels-explained/ Robert Palin says he is not right with the dark grey aero wheels.

4% could matter for a long road trip.

I’d like to see the standard 18″ wheels painted bright silver (no aero covers). I think they’d look even better than acceptable.

Excellent video, methodology, and presentation, by the way.

Only if they are spinners.

If you look for some of the older pictures of the pre-production cars, there are some pictures with silver painted 18″ wheels without the wheel covers.

According to EPA documents, the 50 mph road load horsepower is over 10% higher for the 19″ wheels vs the aero wheels, so maybe they come with tires that are less efficient but otherwise smoother and/or higher grip, so half the loss from aero, half from tires.

5% is still a solid difference. The other way to look at it is usually driving without them, and then popping them on in the rare instance that it’ll save you a charging stop.

When did Tesla announce such a thing?! It was a guy (supposedly working for them), on the web, not Tesla!
And don’t get me started about your sanity or vision observations…
The test is interesting…4% seems too low but it is an improvement.

Well, shout out to “Prolifk”: THANK YOU!!

Just on a common sense basis, I had strong doubts that merely putting some drag-reducing wheel covers on the TM3 could possibly make 10% difference in overall energy efficiency. The 4% assertion here seems far more plausible, altho frankly it’s still more than I would have expected.

I still hope to see some aftermarket wheel covers for this car which look nice, don’t increase drag by much over the standard equipment “aero covers”, and don’t cost an arm and a leg. (I think people who would pay $1000 or more for that kind of thing must have far more dollars than sense!)


From what that aero engineer said, part of the savings come the low rolling resistance design of the rim itself, which helps during city driving (low speeds with frequent accelerations), and part from the aerodynamic hubcaps at high speeds. So when that other engineer (or perhaps it was the same guy at a different time) said a 10% savings, I don’t think he meant with the caps on vs off, bit compared to other wheel designs.

That makes sense, as EPA data compares aero wheels with 19″ wheels, and that’s where the 10% is.

LRR rims? That doesn’t make any sense. Maybe they’re lighter, which could account for more efficient acceleration.

I really don’t understand all the hate those covers get.

Would you drive a new car with a dog poop on the bonnet if the dog poop gave it 10% better mileage?

The wheels are as ugly as sin, really bad design (no excuse not to look good just because of its function).

I don’t believe anybody can look at them and not think “they are the ugliest wheels I’ve ever seen”, I don’t think it is possible to not be offended by their hideous looks.

They don’t look beautiful to me but they don’t look ugly either. They’re just plain or average.

If you consider beauty to mean minimal coverage, that’s just not possible. They have to cover most of the wheel area and the holes have to be aerodynamic. They’d be even more efficient as smooth flat discs with no holes but unfortunately the brakes and tires need some amount of air cooling.

I never even look at wheels. They’re just the dark blobs at the corners of a car.

I know the guy probably has a life but I would trust the results more if he repeated this test like 9 more times at least.

Now to get the government to permit the replacement of external mirrors with digital cameras. 4-5% here, 4-5% there adds up.

They should make these for the Models S & X too.

I agree with the other guy, the wheels arw just dark blobs.

The power needed to push an object through a fluid (air in this case) increases as the cube of the velocity. At 80 mph instead of 70 mph, there is nearly an additional 50 percent increase in power required to overcome the higher drag. Of course you are using that increased power for a shorter period of time, so the total energy used only increases as the square of the velocity – a 30% increase in total energy needed to overcome drag. The wheel covers would likely help even more in drag reduction at higher speeds. If you are road tripping at higher speeds, use the covers.

It would be too embarrassing to be seen in a car with such a hideous wart on each corner.

I’d rather pay more than go through that indignity. People with no sense of style or those that have given up on ever looking good again should feel free to use them though.

According to the designer, the wheels and covers are designed as a “system” to reduce rotational mass, weight and air drag. Compare the “system” to the optional 19s and see what we get.

I wonder if putting the center cap in and the lug nut caps on would matter? Probably not.