Tesla Model S 85 D Goes 550 Miles On a Single Charge — But We’d Recommend You Don’t Try it

How far can a Tesla Model S 85D travel on a single charge? When we’re asked by readers to answer that particular question, we usually preface any figure with the well-known disclaimer “your mileage may vary,” because while the EPA may quote the fuel economy of a particular vehicle as being x miles per gallon or y miles per charge, the real-world figures for any one car depend on a lot of different things.

With that disclaimer out of the way, we then usually quote the official EPA figure of 270 miles per charge, reiterating that it’s possible to run out of charge in far less if you drive hard, and extend the range beyond 270 miles by ten or twenty miles if you drive carefully enough.

The Tesla Model S has the longest-range of any production electric car -- but there's no need to push it further.

The Tesla Model S has the longest-range of any production electric car — but there’s no need to push it further.

But one Tesla Model S 85D owner by the name of Casey Spencer has just managed to break the record for the number of miles driven by a Tesla Model S 85D on a single charge by covering an astonishing 550 miles without running flat. That’s more than twice the vehicle’s rated range, representing an overall fuel economy of 140 watt-hours per mile (7.14 miles per kilowatt-hour).

It’s an astonishing and amazing feat which breaks the previous long-distance Model S range record set by YouTuber Bjørn Nyland by nearly 100 miles. Yet while we’d like to congratulate Spencer on his achievement, we’d like to recommend that readers don’t try to emulate his example.

Driving a car with that kind of fuel efficiency is well beyond the normal limits of what’s possible in everyday traffic — and pushes the person attempting it into some pretty uncomfortable situations.

We’ll explain. In order to get a fuel economy or range that’s more than double the official EPA estimate, you need to completely change the way you drive the car. Smooth, gentle driving will reward you with better fuel economy than aggressive, spirited driving. The speed you drive at will influence your car’s fuel economy too, as will the car’s overall state of repair, its tire pressure, the prevailing road conditions and even the weather. In short, driving on a clean, clear road on a temperate day at a moderate speed will yield better economy than driving fast along a hilly road on a cold, wet, night.

We've driven 600 miles in a day in a Tesla Model S with two drivers + Supercharges -- and that was tough.

We’ve driven 600 miles in a day in a Tesla Model S with two drivers + Supercharges — and that was tough.

Because the U.S. EPA fuel economy figures are weighted to be far more representative of real-world traffic patterns than they once were, most drivers today will find that when conditions are perfect they’ll manage a fuel economy or range per charge that is close to or equal to the EPA estimate. Those who are well-versed in the addictive and complex sport of hypermiling — a series of advanced driving techniques focusing on using as little fuel as possible —  may find that they can exceed EPA estimates by as much as ten percent.

For Spencer’s attempt to succeed, he was forced to go to the extremes of hypermiling, driving at speeds averaging just 20 miles per hour. In addition, his carefully-chosen route was split into three different segments designed specifically with range-extension in mind.

The first part included driving early in the morning on a mainly downhill stretch of road, minimizing energy used for climate control due to the early hours. The second, carried out during daylight hours, was the most challenging, with Spencer forced to use battery-powered fans inside the cabin to keep himself cool and thereby reduce and drain on his car’s traction battery pack caused by having the climate control on.

The final leg — again during the hours of darkness — took advantage of the usual nightly tailwinds in his area to bring him back over the finish line.

If that little lot isn’t enough to make you nervous about the trip, perhaps the time scales involved are. Spencer says he spent around 26 hours behind the wheel, with just a box of granola bars to keep him going.

As you can see, this monumental record took a lot of preparation to succeed, as well as some physical and we presume mental exhaustion. Here at Transport Evolved, we’re glad that someone has chosen to prove the point that a vehicle’s range and fuel economy really does depend on the individual behind the wheel — but we can’t condone the behavior for others to mimic.

That said, this incredible attempt can teach us how to be more fuel efficient.

That said, this incredible attempt can teach us how to be more fuel efficient.

For a start, driving for 26 hours is something we’d advise you never try. Indeed, professional drivers such as truckers in both Europe and the U.S. are limited on average to no more than 11 hours of time behind the wheel every day, with at least ten hours of rest in every 24-hour period.

Beyond that, reaction times slow, driver judgement can become impaired, and accidents become increasingly more likely. Even with a co-driver on board, we suggest most able, competent drivers would start to flag after ten or twelve hours of travel.

Because of all of the above reasons, we think very few people will manage to get their electric car to travel further — and we hope no-one tries unless they happen to be doing so on a carefully-prepared closed course.

It does prove one thing we’re glad of though: that we’re all capable of extending our vehicle’s range and fuel efficiency if we get behind the wheel with the right mindset.

[Hat Tip: Brian Henderson]


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