It’s Official: Tesla Model S 70D, Model S 85D The Most Efficient Tesla Model S Variants You Can Buy

When Tesla Motors first launched its Model S electric sedan back in 2012, its long-range Model S 85 was given an official range rating by the U.S. EPA of 265 miles per charge of its 85 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, at a fuel economy equivalent of 89 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) on the combined cycle. Its most efficient model, the Model S 40, was rated as having a range of 139 miles per charge at a fuel economy of 94 MPGe.

The dual-motor Tesla Model S cars are the most efficient Teslas yet.

The dual-motor Tesla Model S cars are the most efficient Teslas yet.

While it was undeniably the longest-range electric car to ever go on sale, the sub 100-MPGe fuel economy ratings — a calculated figure based on 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity holding the same amount of energy as one gallon of gasoline — made the Tesla Model S far from the most energy efficient car on the road. (That crown currently stands with the BMW i3 electric car, whose lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bodyshell and lightweight lithium-ion battery pack means it can manage more than 124 MPGe on the combined EPA test cycle.)

The Tesla Model S 70D is the first Tesla to break the 100 MPGe barrier

But as our friends over at Electrek note, Tesla’s recently-announced Model S 70D has just become the first Tesla Model S variant to break through the 100 MPGe ceiling, managing a combined fuel economy of 101 MPGe on the EPA’s official testing cycle.

The Tesla Model S 70D is the most efficient Model S yet.

The Tesla Model S 70D is the most efficient Model S yet.

Announced earlier this spring, the Tesla Model S 70D replaces the Tesla Model S 60 as Tesla’s entry-level model, and features not one but two electric motors for all-wheel drive capability. In addition, it offers an additional 32 miles of range over the Model S 60, offering an EPA-approved 240 miles per charge.

While it doesn’t have the 3.2-second 0-62 time of the range-topping Tesla Model S P85D or the 270-mile EPA-approved range of the Tesla Model S 85D — both of which were added to the Tesla lineup in October last year — the Tesla Model S 70D beats the 93 MPGe and 100 MPGe ratings of its respective siblings.

Unlike an all-wheel drive vehicle with an internal combustion engine, which tend to be far more inefficient than two-wheel drive variants thanks to the mechanical losses incurred as power is fed through heavy transfer boxes and prop shafts on their way to the wheels, Tesla’s dual-wheel drive models are the most efficient cars Tesla has built.

That’s because each motor is responsible for driving two wheels each, halving the work required of each motor and allowing it to operate more efficiently than a single motor being asked to do twice the work.

The Model S P85D might be fast, but it's not the most efficient.

The Model S P85D might be fast, but it’s not the most efficient.

While each motor is smaller than the motor in single-motor Model S variants, the additional efficiency of two motors more than makes up for the additional weight of the 70 D and 85D over the 60 and 85 models, resulting in a massive improvement in fuel economy.

For those interested in both fuel economy and all-electric range, the Tesla Model S 85D is the logical choice, offering 100 MPGe versus the 101 MPGe of the 70. But unless you really do need the super-fast acceleration and higher top speed of the P85D, we think one thing is pretty certain.

The Tesla Model S 70D and Tesla Model S 85D are the smartest choice for an everyday buyer wanting a Model S.

Do you agree? Are you a Model S owner looking forward to swapping your current car for a more efficient model? Do you think you’ll notice in the real world? Or are there more important reasons to trade in for a newer model?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • vdiv

    My 2012 Volt was rated at 93 MPGe. That went up for 2013-2015 models to 98 MPGe. The new second gen. 2016 Volt is (expected to be) rated at 102 MPGe. So the larger and heavier 70D is as efficient as the new Volt?! Of course at this point in the MPGe scale those differences are rather minute and subject to measurement fluctuations due to many factors that cannot be precisely controlled.

    • GoingKnightly

      Either way, it’s a helluva lot better than any ICE car on the road today. Or Hybrids, for that matter. I’ll happily accept either one of these in my driveway. Steps in the right direction, that’s for sure. 🙂

    • Joe Viocoe

      A PHEV has to haul around an ICE, a Tesla has to haul around a big battery.
      The Volt doesn’t have as good of a drag coefficient as Tesla.

      • vdiv

        The Volt regardless of what it is hauling is close to a thousand pounds lighter than the Model S. Also the drag coefficient is only one component determining the drag, the other is the area so in terms of drag they are pretty close.

    • Haggy

      There are a few factors to consider here. You could consider weight and drag, hauling around an ICE and so forth, but there are a few numbers that are more important. For one thing, you have to look at the total capacity of the battery with respect to that MPGe rating. That won’t directly give you your total range on a charge, but that range is a real world factor. The other real world factor is cost. If you want more MPGe and it’s not to extend your range, cost is just about all that’s left. An appropriate formula would take the difference in MPGe for the cars, the cost per KWh, the number of miles driven over the ownership period, the cost of the Model S, and the cost of the Volt. If the first three factors give you a dollar amount greater than the fourth factor minus the fifth factor, then the MPGe figure makes a real world difference. Otherwise, you’ve saved so much money with the Volt that it’s irrelevant if the Model S has a marginally higher MPGe rating.

      One other possible factor is the effect on charge time. All other things being equal, the more remaining charge, the less time it takes to charge. But there are so many other factors that affect charge that it’s hardly relevant. The Model S will charge faster with a supercharger or an HPWC, not because of the extra MPGe and remaining battery life, but because of charging technology.

      I figure that for a typical driver whose annual mileage is in the high normal range, and who lives in an area with relatively high rates per KwH, it could make a difference of $46/year. For many drivers it will be far less, and for somebody in Hawaii it could be double that. That’s just a ballpark figure, but if I am off by a few hundred percent, it’s could be less of a factor than which floor mats you order or whether you opt for an upgraded sound system or leather seats. It certainly won’t come close to being a reason to pick one car over the other.

  • William Jones

    I have a 85 – one of the 2012 models … got about 53K on the odometer. I like it as it is one of the first off the production line, and it has some little quirks. But I have been toying with getting a P85D … just can’t justify the cost. I still get (realtime) 196 miles per charge (that is busting 75-79mph down I45 to Houston) and 250+ at 55/60mph, so I am happy with the battery longevity. It is somewhat a risk for me to change and incur that cost, when I have a proven item. We will see …

  • QKodiak

    A full sized frunk and RWD are two good reasons to get the regular 85kWh version. I’d get a fully-loaded 85D with its 270-mile range because you can never have too much range. Then I would take it to a paint shop and paint it British Racing Green.

    • Joe Viocoe

      How much do you really lose from the frunk?

      • jeffsongster

        The back chunk of the Frunk is gone… replaced by a motor.

      • Haggy

        You lose enough that a large suitcase would no longer fit. So far, it would have meant that two trips to/from the airport with four other occupants and enough luggage for an international trip wouldn’t have happened in that car. It also means that at some point I will probably need tire chains for the occasional ski trip. It costs far less to pay chain installers each time than to buy the AWD, and savings in energy would never make up for it.

        But the biggest reason I didn’t get the D was that it was announced a couple of weeks after I took delivery. I was fortunate enough to get the autopilot hardware before it was announced, missed the D, and can’t say to this day whether I would have gotten that option had it existed. Either way I’d give up something. So far, losing the frunk space would have been a real world loss. In the long term I have no idea.

  • Haggy

    As with many other things, “you can’t have it both ways” applies here too. You can get maximum energy efficiency or maximum acceleration, but not both. A person can drive a P85D gently and get more range by never pushing it above 80 Kw, and a person can drive an 85D aggressively, pushing the needle up past 160. The gauge in the center of the speedometer can be set to display ideal range or rated range. Neither might be relevant to any given driver. In real life, electric bills tend to be low enough that drivers aren’t trying to time how fast to get to the next light so that the car won’t waste energy accelerating unnecessarily. It would be virtually impossible for a person to trade in an older model for a “more energy efficient” one and ever make back the cost of the trade in.

    On the other hand, if you look at the pre-owned vehicles on Tesla’s website, you won’t find many new ones with autopilot or P85D versions if any at all. Most of these cars were traded in for a P85D or a newer version with autopilot or both.

    That doesn’t mean that Tesla owners don’t want to save money. A person who bought the car and used to spend $75/week in gasoline but now spends $40/month in electricity might have expected to save $15K over the term of the car loan, not to mention $10K in tax incentives. That person might have anticipated keeping the car another five years beyond when the loan is paid off and saving another $15K. All that savings disappears with a trade in. Cost savings comes with long term ownership, and is a savings relative to something in the car’s class or at least something that’s a serious alternate purchase consideration.

    You also have to consider that the 70D can do 0-60 in 5.2 seconds as opposed to the 2WD 85, which can do it in 5.4. So a person who moved from an “old” 85 to a 70D but drove more aggressively to take advantage of that acceleration wouldn’t save a penny.

    • Joe Viocoe

      Sometime, “just saving money” is too simplistic.

      Even when the upper middle class has money to burn on fancy toys… they do still care about WHERE that money goes. Does it burn up in an unsustainable paradigm of burning fossil fuels, or does it go to an innovative American company looking to change the world?

    • Rikaishi Rikashi

      The Model S was never designed to save you money. It’s a stepping-stone to the mass-produced cars which will eventually be much cheaper to buy, run and maintain then an ICE.

      Money saved on energy costs is realistically assessed on the website when you purchase the car, so customers can immediately see that it is a deal-sweetener, but definitely not the main reason to buy a Tesla. It’s the icing, not the cake.

      Remember that ICE manufacturing currently has an economy of scale that is 3 orders of magnitude greater then EVs. That gives them an overwhelming advantage, and the fact that EVs are even in the same ball-park on price says a lot about how a fair comparison will pan out.

      The market will have the final say on this, just give it time.

      • Haggy

        What you are saying is partly true but you can’t underestimate the savings as a factor. A person shopping for cars in the $50K range isn’t likely to decide that he might as well spend double. With gas prices where they were a year ago, the price after all incentives put the monthly costs for my projected loan on par with what loan payments and gasoline purchases would have been on a much cheaper ICE vehicle. So the price got me into the showroom, I was able to justify getting the basic car, and it did end up costing far more than that once all options were added. But if not for the money savings, I never would have gotten the car because getting me to see it was a necessary step. I couldn’t justify an ICE vehicle in the same price range. It was the tax incentives that were the necessary step for me to decide that buying the car was viable, and that got me into the showroom. The cost of ownership savings justified the ongoing cost. It’s not that I couldn’t afford the car without the savings. It’s that I wouldn’t have been looking for it.

        I don’t realistically expect to save money over the life of ownership compared to what an economy car would have cost. I tend to keep cars for many years and my total cost of ownership could realistically end up lower than it would have been on a possible cheaper alternative. With dropping gas prices, my projections might have proven wrong, but it’s the case that the alternative might have ended up cheaper than anticipated, and not that the Tesla ended up costing more. If anything, I’m surprised at how little effect they have had on my monthly electric bills. If gas prices go up again in the next decade, the savings will be bigger.

        A more fundamental issue is that if I took the same numbers I used at the time, but used them for a hypothetical $35K car with $10K in tax incentives, and I wouldn’t have been able to justify spending $15K on an ICE car. With some lengths of ownership that represent actual lengths of ownership for past cars of mine, the hypothetical Tesla would have worked out to be cheaper than a free new ICE car. We are years away from any of this, and the tax incentives and gas prices could be anywhere. But I expect the savings as a percentage to be a huge factor.

        • Rikaishi Rikashi

          Fair enough. Although it must be noted that the Nissan Leaf is in basically the same financial situation as you describe with the Model 3, and its sales are good for an EV but not what you would call spectacular.

          Better styling, capability, and that rich-person’s-thing appeal that has been cultivated by the Model S will make all the difference.

          • Haggy

            Exactly. It will be far easier for people to accept a Tesla Model 3 than it would be for people to accept a luxury Leaf. If Tesla had taken the traditional route, they would have started out with what people dislike about EVs and made subtle improvements, but concentrated on affordability. I don’t like bashing other makes of cars, but I saw something such as the Prius, when it came out, as something that people might be willing to overpay for, with an understanding that it would save money in the long run. Tesla starts out in the right price range for a car in its class. People might see the cost of ownership savings as a way of justifying spending so much for the car, but that’s not the same as rationalizing overpaying for a car and getting the money back later. Instead it’s a way of rationalizing getting a better and more expensive car.

            Nissan already had this problem when they wanted to start off small and then come out with something in the “luxury” class. Their solution was to create a new division. They still have that going for them. People might not accept an upscale Leaf, but they might be fine with a Lexus EV that competes with the Model 3.

          • rarnedsoum

            The problem with the LEAF, that many who do not own one knows, is that soon after 18 months, your range will drop from about 90 miles/charge when new, to about 60, very crippling for most LEAF buyers.

            Then Nissan will refuse to honor any part of their 8 year battery warranty, and will recommend you sell the LEAF, and go back to ICE, if 60 miles is not going to meet your commuting needs.


          • Rikaishi Rikashi

            So people who bought a 2007 Leaf and drove it heavily in hot weather noticed slightly more then a 5% drop in battery performance per year?

            That’s a whole lot of nothing. 5%/year is expected, battery performance has doubled since those were produced, and I’m quite sure that the Leaf has seen some design improvements as well.

  • jeffsongster

    Those are the two I am debating over… and over… still hoping that they will update the Model S85D to an S95D or so… when the model X arrives as they want to have more options for that with its increased weight. Would really be cool if they released a new Aero wheel and aftermarket outer video rear view mirrors to increase range. I wouldn’t even mind if they released software that lets me govern the top speed of the car. I’d be happy with 8 secs to 60MPH… that just isn’t what appeals to me about their cars. A mega range version fully optimized to boost it even higher would be cool.

    • Rikaishi Rikashi

      I think the top performance of the car is normally locked in the way you desire. Thus the “insane mode” option which shamelessly guzzles amps.

    • Haggy

      If you are seriously looking into getting the car, keep in mind that range anxiety is mostly in the mind of non owners. If you charge your smartphone each night and somebody came out with a battery that would make it possible to go three days without charging, you might still plug it in each night so you start with a full charge, but the three days would be a big improvement. If somebody then came along with a five day battery, you might realize that you’d never see the difference.

      It’s mostly like that with the Model S. For day to day driving, based on the number of miles the average American drives annually, it could go 3-4 days between charges, but plugging it in each evening takes a few seconds, and starting off with a full charge means no range anxiety. For long trips, which are the ones where you’d start with a full tank of gas and refill the same day with an ICE car, you will need to stop at superchargers. But on a trip such as one from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, assuming you are going to stop for lunch anyway, you’d probably still stop just as many times on the trip with a 350 mile battery. It would take less time to charge, and that might work out to half the time it takes to have your meal rather than the whole time.

      I’m not saying it would never make a difference. It would be nice to have that flexibility on longer trips. But for a person who doesn’t typically drive a few hundred miles a day, and perhaps takes a couple of long trips per year at most, not counting ones by airplane, it’s much better to have the car now than to realize later what you missed out on while waiting.

      The big problem now is timing. If you have a properly planned trip, the charging on the road isn’t an issue. That’s especially true if you stay at a hotel with a destination charger. But if you plan it wrong, hit the road on the way back with a partial charge, end up at superchargers at times that don’t correspond with meals but take meal breaks at other times, it could add an hour to 90 minutes to a six hour trip. That’s assuming you need an initial charge on the road and a mostly full one part way there. A bigger battery still wouldn’t help, and the key would be making sure you could start the day with a full charge.

      It’s the day to day usage and never having to stop to add gasoline or charge the car that’s the real savings. You plug it in when you get home, and it starts on its own that night or whenever you schedule it, and there’s nothing more to think about.

      • jeffsongster

        Completely agree… My main issue is that of future proofing. Getting a car that replaces my 7 seat Ford FLEX as completely as possible and then some. I know the Tesla will do this. It just makes sense to wait till the Model X is fully spec’d out publicly to make the best jumping off choice.

    • Haggy

      By the way, there is already software to govern the top speed and the acceleration, but you could do it on your own simply by driving in a way that keeps your speed down and you don’t floor it all the time. The software is the valet mode setting, and it limits the top speed and gives you 0-60 in something probably in the 8 second neighborhood. I haven’t timed it.

      • jeffsongster

        Yes that is the right idea… but I need to be able to loan out my car to a crazed teen driver and know that it will not have anything close to super car traits until they are ready for it. I know how to hyper mile… do it all the time in my LEAFs. But since the cars are software controlled it would be nice to be able to govern them and lock down top speed and such.

        • Haggy

          The top speed in valet mode is 70 mph. 0-60 is apparently around 10 seconds, but I can’t find an official time. The thing to show to a teenage driver is the Tesla app. Show him.her how you can see the car’s exact position down to what lane it’s in, how fast it’s going, and even how hard the accelerator is being pressed, all in real time. Having a graph of a trip on your computer would be even better. Using Visible Tesla (not an Tesla application but uses the API) you can have a Google map that shows the exact route that was taken on any trip you monitored, and that lets you click on any part of the route and see at that particular spot what the speed was. You can also produce a graph of the route where one line shows the speed, so you can look for peaks and drops, and I think it will show the power used at any moment, and even things like elevation. The point is that you can show your teen that you will have an exact record down to what parking space was used, how long the car was there, how fast it was driven on local streets, how fast it was driven on the highway, etc.

          I know a lot of people would never let a teen drive a Model S and think it’s spoiling them. My thought is that it’s up to the individual, but if you want a car that’s the safest in crash tests and that also has collision avoidance features, it’s a good choice. My teenage son got to drive a Model S exactly once and with me in the passenger seat. Needless to say he was quite careful.

  • jnffarrell1

    More important than the efficient electric motors is the speed of light sensor feedback and control of each wheel. While mechanical linkages can do no better than the speed of steel (30,000 feet per second) controls on individual electric wheels are monitored at the speed of light (300,000,000 meters per second). Even allowing for computer, time the control loop can be closed thousands of times faster than mechanical linkages and 10,000 times faster than the blink of an eye. Humans, even race car drivers, are unsafe compared to the traction control of all wheel drive Teslas.

  • huggabledespot

    “That’s because each motor is responsible for driving two wheels each,
    halving the work required of each motor and allowing it to operate more
    efficiently than a single motor being asked to do twice the work.”

    Yes, but also the front motor has a different gear reatio doesn’t it? A single gear is good for simplicity, but bad for efficiency. Electric motors break gearboxes. Having 2 motors means you can keep the simple and reliable fixed gear, but have 2 gear ratios for the car. That’s right isn’t it?