Tesla Motors To Announce Model S OTA Software Update on Thursday to ‘End Range Anxiety,’ Promises Elon Musk

With real-life Iron Man Elon Musk at the helm, Tesla Motors has managed to challenge pretty much every stereotype that has plagued electric cars, from their top speed and acceleration through to their practicality and suitability for longer-distance trips.

Tesla Motors will push an over-the-air update for Model S cars to solve range anxiety, promises Elon Musk.

Tesla Motors will push an over-the-air update for Model S cars to solve range anxiety, promises Elon Musk.

On Thursday, the Californian automaker has promised to unveil something that it says will solve one of the biggest challenges to electric car adoption ever in the form of a free, over-the-air software update for every single all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sedan ever made.

That update, said Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk yesterday evening on social media site Twitter, would end range anxiety forever.

Range anxiety — the fear that your electric car will run out of charge before you reach your destination — is a real problem facing hundreds of first-time plug-in car owners around the globe. While it often fades with experience and time, some inexperienced electric car owners suffer such an acute range anxiety that they may not venture out of their home town for fear of not having somewhere to plug in.

More commonly suffered in the first few months of plug-in ownership, range anxiety can often be exacerbated by a negative charging experience such as finding a rapid charging station is offline or broken when there’s no other alternative. Those who suffer it are more likely to own shorter-range plug-in vehicles  like the Nissan LEAF or Mitsubishi i-Miev than those who  own longer-range or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

It's not clear what the change will be, but it's unlikely to be anything involving the Supercharger network

It’s not clear what the change will be, but it’s unlikely to be anything involving the Supercharger network

With an achievable  range in excess of 180 miles for its low-end Tesla Model S 60 and a range in excess of 250 miles for its high-end Tesla Model S P85D, we’ve never associated range anxiety with any of Tesla’s electric cars. Thanks to Tesla’s rapidly-expanding network of Superchargers — which can recharge a Tesla Model S battery pack at speeds of up to 170 miles of range per half-hour and provide free, unlimited power to anyone with a Supercharger-equipped Model S — we’re struggling to think of any Tesla Model S owners who have worried about range anxiety as much as most plug-in owners we know.

As many in the automotive press, we’ve got to admit that we’re struggling to predict just what Thursday’s announcement will include. Since the update is coming over-the-air, we can say for certain that it’s unlikely to include anything to do with battery swapping or future battery pack capacity upgrades.

It could of course potentially be a software upgrade designed to allow the Model S to charge even more quickly from a Supercharge station, but if we had one guess, it would be that Tesla has made improvements to its on-board range prediction software.

If we had to guess, we'd say Tesla has created a 'low-power' mode designed to ensure range isn't squandered under a right foot.

If we had to guess, we’d say Tesla has created a ‘low-power’ mode designed to ensure range isn’t squandered under a right foot.

Back in software update 6.1, Tesla introduced something called Trip Energy Prediction. A new feature designed to help owners predict how much range they’d have at their destination, the Energy Prediction graph is built into the Model S navigation system and takes into account elevation changes, speed and even predicted driving behavior based on past trips. Having used this on a recent trip from Oslo, Norway to London, England, we can verify that this feature is both useful and fairly accurate.

It’s conceivable that Tesla has found a way to tweak this software to allow owners to reduce their Model S’ power output under normal operating conditions to ensure that they can reach their destination no matter what. Similar to some of the ‘eco’ modes found on other plug-in vehicles, it might essentially reduce the power output from the motor at the expense of a few extra seconds on acceleration.

In most electric cars, this would result in a marked drop in performance. On even the entry-level Tesla Model S 60, there’s more than 280 kilowatts of power under normal operating conditions. Having driven the Tesla Model S 60 to near empty with just one mile of range remaining and power output restricted to around 160 kilowatts of that to protect the car’s battery pack however, we can attest to the fact that a Tesla Model S with no charge can still outperform most other cars on the road.

Sadly, our musings above are just educated guesses, but Tesla tells us we could hear more later today about the promised software update, with a full reveal taking place on Thursday morning at 9am Pacific.

As always, we’ll bring you more information as we have it.


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  • Pixelbase Electric

    Another week, another bit of Musk / Tesla noise, trying to divert from losses and Gigafactory setbacks? Maybe. nnnUntil Tesla produce an affordable, energy-efficient EV, they have little to say to me.

  • Kirill Klip

    Elon is always pushing the boundaries and now Apple Electric Car is coming:nnAppleInsider: Investigative Report On Top-Secret Apple Electric iCar.nn

  • Major Sceptic

    I’d say range anxiety would plague any electric vehicle owner if they where low on juice some distance away from home and the charger they where hoping to use was out of commission, why would a Tesla be any different.

    • Surya

      Because the chance of such a thing happening is noticeably smaller?

      • Major Sceptic

        That makes no sense, if car x and car y arrive at charging station close to Mt and charging station z is out of commission how is car y less likely to be effected? n

        • Surya

          If your range is longer you have to charge less. If you have to charge less there is less chance of that going wrong. There is a higher chance of you having more range left to make it to the next charger if it does go wrong. How doesn’t that make sense? It’s simple math.

  • heltonja

    Maybe Tesla finally perfected the electric car that doesn’t need batteries ;)nn

  • Dennis Pascual

    Having driven an Active E (BMW’s <=100 Mile car that is the predecessor to the i3 ) to 54,321 miles for two years. The mere act of moving into a Tesla Model S has already taken care of Range Anxiety for me. As more and more EVs took to the roads in 2013, we decided to go Tesla so that we would not be as reliant on the many EV charging options that are available to me in Southern California. Thus, I tend to charge at home, at the office, or at Tesla SCs. Rarely am I reliant on the public charging infrastructure that I had been with my Active E.

  • One has to think the software update will provide more information to the driver in directing them to a charging station prior to their car running out of juice.nnnTweaking motor efficiency could add a smidgen of range but anxiety is a factor of remaining range, not total range.nnnIt has to be something to do with managing what energy you have left and getting a charge before it runs out.

    • “It has to be something to do with managing what energy you have left and getting a charge before it runs out.”nnnHa! Told ya!nnnRange Assurance, trip planning 🙂

  • Matt Beard

    I posted this somewhere else yesterday, but it sums up my thoughts:nnI have been thunking hard on this one and I have come up with the only thing that actually makes sense of removing range anxiety via an Over-The-Air update:nnRange-Guided Cruise Control – a new version of cruise control that knows your next charger (as you have told the sat-nav) and the route you will be taking (again from the sat-nav) and the terrain, speed limits and traffic levels on that route. It uses these to work out the speed to drive at all parts of that route to get you to the charger with some juice left. These speeds are continually re-evaluated as you drive to ensure that there are no surprises. So, you enter the location of the first charger you want to use, engage RGCC and steer. No pedal input needed except at junctions and (if you don’t have one of the more recent cars with in-built radar) when there is slower traffic ahead.nnThere may even be a mode where you are in control of the throttle, but you get an audible warning any time your power usage exceeds the level that the system has predicted you need to use for this part of the route.

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