Tesla Model Y With 500-Mile Range Could Already Be Here

At Tesla’s battery day back in September 2020, Tesla promised a 56% reduction in battery pricing from its next-generation 4680 cells. But these new, larger cells also allegedly offer greater energy density. With Tesla’s habitual secrecy about the actual capacity of its battery packs, rumors have been circulating regarding what stage Tesla is at with its 4680 cells. But one rumor is particularly tantalizing: there could already be Tesla Model Ys on the road with a potential for 500 miles of range.

One origin of this rumor was a Tweet by a Tesla follower on Twitter called @DoctorJack16, who claimed that some Tesla employees are already driving Tesla Model Ys with enough batteries for 500 miles. His evidence is scant, but there have even been theories that the range is there but currently locked while the new cells are tested. This refers to Tesla Model Y cars manufactured in Giga Texas, which are now shipping with the 4680 cells and “structural” batteries, which mean the cells and packs are integrated into the chassis to save the need for extra elements to add rigidity.

The calculations of this 500-mile range are based on the figures announced at Tesla Battery Day in 2020. The headline for many was the 56% reduction in pricing, but Tesla also announced 16% more range from the cell design, 20% from the anode material, 4% from the cathode material, and 14% from the cell vehicle integration (structural battery). That makes a total addition of 54%. The Tesla Model Y has an EPA range in the USA of 330 and a WLTP range in the UK of 331 miles. Add 54% and you get 508 or 510 miles respectively.

Whether or not this rumor is true (and it really doesn’t have much proof behind it), we will be seeing EVs with this kind of range in a few years’ time. The Mercedes-Benz electric prototype Vision EQXX managed to drive all the way from Stuttgart, Germany to Silverstone, UK on a single charge – a distance of 1,202km (751 miles). This car has a 100kWh battery, the same as a current Tesla Model S. It’s achieving its incredible range through efficiency, including the driving, although from the description of this trip it wasn’t being “hypermiled” for the entire journey. It had to contend with highway speeds and traffic, making the achievement even more incredible.

Both vehicle efficiency and battery density are steadily increasing. There are many technologies vying to provide the next sea change, such as Theion’s sulfur-based batteries, which promise to triple density over current lithium-ion cells. Already, there is an increasing number of EVs with close to 400 miles of range, such as the Tesla Model S, BMW iX xDrive50, and Ford Mustang Mach E RWD Extended Range. The Mercedes EQS 450+ claims up to 453 miles (WLTP).

As with any disruptive new technology, though, the arrival of battery-electric vehicles has created radical differences of opinion about where transportation should be headed. Some argue that cars should be banned altogether, and everyone forced to use a bicycle. Slightly less radical is the idea that most people living in cities don’t need a car with a huge range when the majority of their journeys are under 50 miles round trip. Buying a car with a longer range is therefore a waste of money and resources.

This is valid if ALL your journeys are this length, but most people who only own one car want it to be able to do all their journeys with the one vehicle, even if the long ones are only once or twice a year. This is where the figure of 500 miles of range is particularly magical. From my experience as an EV owner, while you can achieve the specified range (in fact I managed this yesterday with mine even though the aircon was on), you’re more likely to get 70-80%. After all, who wants to drive like grandma all the time? So that means 500 miles of range is really 350-400 miles.

More than once, I have engaged in “discussions” on social media with American readers who claim they do journeys of around 12 hours in one go. Maybe Hunter S Thompson managed that while jacked up on speed, and you could switch drivers every so often for an epic Jack Kerouac-style US road trip. But it doesn’t seem like a great way to travel, and borderline impossible with your family in the car as well.

Americans do tend to drive longer distance than Europeans, particularly the British. In fact, the average USA driver travels 14,000 miles a year, whereas in the UK it’s half that. Culturally, Americans seem prepared to drive an hour to the mall whereas we Brits won’t bother. In fact, the longest distance you could drive in the UK is from Land’s End (in Cornwall) to John o’ Groats (in Scotland), which is 874 miles (or 841 miles depending on the road choice). The fastest ever time for this was 9 hours 36 minutes at average speed of 89mph, which is 19mph above the fastest UK limit, so clearly illegal. In reality, it’s a journey with at least one overnight break, probably two.

Already, if you own a car with a WLTP/EPA range of 300 miles and have home charging, your trips to the public charger will be minimal, only taking place on longer journeys. Increase that to 500 miles, and the only times you will use a public charger will be during multi-day trips, such as driving holidays. A real-world range of 350-400 miles is more than a complete day’s driving for most sane drivers. So any day trip will be covered.

While this might not be so true for US drivers, for UK drivers, a car with a 500-mile range would make problems with the public charging network rather moot for those who have home or nearby street charging. You would barely ever need to charge anywhere else. That’s why these rumors of a Tesla Model Y with 500 miles of range are so exciting. Whether or not they are true, a car with this capability is not far away, and it would mean a clear change of refueling culture for many drivers.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmorris/2022/07/16/tesla-model-y-with-500-mile-range-could-already-be-here/