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What Exactly Is The Battery Capacity of Tesla Model 3 LR? Is Tesla Intentionally Locking Batteries?

Tesla is giving its existing cars a lot of software updates, and some of these include range extensions. In November, Tesla had announced that the 2021 Model 3 would contain 82-kWh battery packs for the Long Range (LR) variant. This was an increase from the previous battery capacity of 79 kWh in the 2020 version.

Now, however, there are doubts being raised as to what is the exact confirmed figure of battery capacity. This comes after a YouTube channel, named “Tesla Killer“, did some research about this. According to the research, there are some discrepancies in the numbers Tesla is announcing/displaying.

Is Tesla Intentionally Locking Batteries?

The Backstory

Tesla had announced the new battery pack in November. This battery pack has a capacity of 82 kWh and is supposed to contain a different design. However, not all 2021 Model 3 LR vehicles contained this battery pack. Hence, Tesla rolled out a software update for all owners, and those with the older 77-kWh battery pack got a “range extension”. Tesla later clarified this, saying that it was just displaying the range to a more accurate figure.

Many people, who received this update, reported a range increase. One of those tweeted about this as well, and said his car’s range increased from 537 km to 551 km:

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What The Video Suggests

The earlier battery pack showed a battery capacity of 79 kWh, but in reality, the number would drop down to 77.5 kWh. For the 2021 version, however, they provided new battery packs with 82 kWh, and those with 77-kWh packs got improved range extension algorithms. All this resulted in the range of the 2021 Model 3 LR getting increased by 14 km.

In Europe, however, there are two battery options for the Model 3 LR – one manufactured by Panasonic, and one by LG Chem. The battery manufactured by LG Chem is supposedly a 77-kWh pack. That is, of course, on paper. Hence, the actual capacity of the LG-manufactured battery pack is around 74.5 kWh, as evidenced by the following image.

LG Chem 77-kWh battery of Tesla Model 3
The actual capacity of LG Chem 77-kWh battery is 74.5 kWh

Thus, there are three battery packs going to Europe from Fremont in the Model 3 LR – the older 79-kWh, the newer Panasonic-manufactured 82-kWh, and the LG-produced 77 kWh. The actual battery capacities for these three packs are 77.5 kWh, 80 kWh and 74.5 kWh. Here comes the interesting bit, though. People have posted the full-charge range of their vehicles, and we have images of the expected range on vehicles using the LG battery as well as the Panasonic battery.

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LG Vs Panasonic Batteries Tesla
Comparison of range for the two battery packs

We can see that the range is almost the same for two packs whose capacities differ by 3 kWh. How can this be? Sure enough, if the battery capacity differs by 4%, then the range cannot be the same.

How Can We Verify This?

The most ideal solution would be to check the remaining capacity in the battery pack at 100%, and that’s what “Tesla Killer” did. And he found the battery capacity to be 75 kWh at 100%, and not 77.5 as it used to be in the older versions.

 Panasonic battery Tesla
The full-pack capacity of Panasonic battery (100% SoC)

The only reasonable explanation for this is that Tesla is “soft-locking” the battery capacity of the Panasonic batteries to match them with that of the LG battery. Something similar was reported by renowned Tesla owner/hacker.

Tesla Killer followed up with this, as well. The range for the 2020.44.10.1 update was 540 km (336 miles), while that for the same battery with the 2020.48.12 was 549 km (341 miles). So, Tesla is, in fact, controlling how much of the battery can be used by the owner. They have applied a software lock on the charging, allowing the owner to charge the battery only up to 75 kWh.

Our Opinion

Tesla never shows the actual battery capacity on the screens of their cars. It only shows the range estimate. But Tesla Killer took the effort to calculate it all and found the issue. It was definitely a conspiracy as to how two battery packs with different capacities, manufactured by different companies, can have the same range estimate for the same car.

But it seems like Tesla decided to lock the slightly bigger battery to match its capacity with the smaller one. They might not have imagined anyone really realising, as there is not a significant difference between the two. Of course, this is just a theory by Tesla Killer along with some proof.

Tesla is known to bring some changes or updates to their cars at the end of a quarter to boost sales. Of course, this is a case of meeting deadlines for the delivery of the new Model 3. They might have seen a delay in battery delivery from Panasonic and decided to buy some from LG. We cannot confirm anything till Tesla comments on this issue. And if they haven’t locked the battery, then they still have to explain the identical range estimates. How exactly do they explain having the same range estimate for two packs with different capacities remains to be seen.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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