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EPA-Rated Range Vs Real-World Range Test of 2021 Tesla Model 3 at 70 MPH

The first question anyone asks about any electric vehicle is its range. After all, considering the longer charging time as compared to fueling time in combustion vehicles, you need to know how frequently you need to take breaks. Over the years, companies have improved the range of their electric vehicles. However, the company-announced range figures are often too optimistic.

EPA-rated figures for electric vehicle ranges are normally considered as the standard in the United States. In Europe, there is the less-strict WLTP test, which ends up rating vehicles at slightly higher ranges. Still, all these tests are carried out at certain atmospheric as well as driving conditions. While driving in the real world, the vehicles end up giving a lesser range.

Many YouTubers try to test out their vehicles in different ways, and one of the most popular of these is the 70-mph highway range test. The driver activates the driver-assist system in his/her electric vehicle, which allows them to drive at a constant speed of 70 mph (113 kph). They then compare the results of the range they get with the EPA-rated figures. One such YouTuber, Tom Moloughney, tested his 2021 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Long Range on a highway near New Jersey.

Initial Conditions

Tom previously owned a 2019 Model 3 Long Range model. He had carried out a similar 70-mph highway range test on that car, and now, he decided to do the same with the refreshed version of the Model 3 from this year.

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The plan was to start from a Supercharger near the highway. He charged his vehicle up to 100% and planned a route that would bring him back to the Supercharger by the time his car hit 0%. The battery temperature was also brought to the optimal range to get maximum efficiency. The ambient temperature at the beginning was around 70°F (21°C).

He got onto the New Jersey Turnpike and activated Autopilot to keep a constant speed of 71 mph (114 kph). Now there is a catch. Tom has a lot of experience driving Tesla vehicles. There is a very small error in Tesla’s speedometer. If you tell Autopilot to stay at a constant speed of 70 mph, it actually drives at 69 mph. So, to eliminate this error, he set the speed to be 71 mph.

Tom put the vehicle into Chill mode, which is the economical (energy-efficient) mode for Model 3. He also had his air conditioning on at 68°F (20°C) with a fan speed of 2. Now, this takes a few miles (2 or 3 at the most) from the final range, but it is better than getting cooked for 5 hours.

Talking About EPA-Rated Range and Real-World Range

According to the EPA-rated test, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range variant gives a range of 353 miles (568 km). However, this is normally a combination of highway driving and city driving. For the Model 3 Long Range, the city driving range is 369.5 miles (595 km), while on the highway, it comes down to 333.8 miles (537 km). So, for a 70-mph highway range test, the last figure is your goal. Tom said the same – the vehicle should get close to the 333.8-mile mark.

Electric vehicles normally get better range in the city than on the highway. This is because the constant braking in city driving conditions activates the regenerative braking system. This harvests some of the kinetic energy during braking and sends it back to the battery, thus improving efficiency.

The Actual Test

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Tom had four checkpoints in the test. He checked the distance traveled and approximate energy efficiency at 75%, 50%, 25%, and 0% state of charge (SoC) of the battery. The idea was to track and analyze the range estimates and understand if there are any patterns.

First Checkpoint

At 75% SoC, the Model 3 had traveled 75.3 miles (121 km) while using 25% of the battery capacity. So, the car should go a little more than 300 miles (483 km). Tom said the atmospheric conditions were also affecting the energy efficiency at that time. The temperature was 86°F (30°C) and wind speed was 10 mph (16 kph), which affects the range. As a result, Tom’s car was consuming energy at a rate of 249 Wh/mile.

Second Checkpoint

The efficiency got worse during the second quarter of the trip. When Tom crossed the 50% mark, the car had traveled only 148.3 miles (239 km). At this rate, the car would only go 296 miles (478 km), which is significantly less than the EPA-rated highway range of 333.8 miles. In Tom’s test on the 2019 model, the car had gone 289 miles (465 km), just less than the EPA-rated figure of 297 miles (479 km) on the highway.

The good news was that the energy consumption had reduced as compared to the first checkpoint. It was now 244 Wh/mile.

Third Checkpoint

The third quarter was where things started picking up for Tom. He managed to get the energy consumption down to 234 Wh/mile. The wind direction changed and ended up assisting the vehicle. The temperature also dropped to 82°F (29°C). Tom had to change the route because of the high traffic on the original path. He still managed to find an alternative path that reached the Supercharger while covering the same distance.

At the 25% mark, he had traveled 230.1 miles (370 km).

Final Checkpoint

Frighteningly for Tom, the vehicle reached the 0% mark of the battery capacity when he was still 5 miles (8 km) out from the Supercharger. Fortunately for him, Tesla always has some buffer in battery capacity. This means your car can go roughly 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) even after hitting 0%. So, adding these miles to the initial total, he managed a total of 310 miles (500 km) for the entirety of the trip. This is still 24 miles (39 km) less than the EPA-rated range. However, for a vehicle traveling at a near-constant speed of 70 mph, this is actually good. He got a final energy consumption rate of 234 Wh/mile, which is roughly 4.27 miles/kWh.

Final Remarks

Tom said that 310 miles were the highest he has managed in a 70-mph highway range test. He had done a similar test on the Ford Mustang Mach-E previously. He got an energy efficiency of 3.3 miles/kWh. So, in comparison, Model 3’s 4.27 miles/kWh seems quite impressive. Of course, you can argue the difference between a crossover SUV and a sedan, but a difference of around 1 mile/kWh is significant.

You can watch the entire video here:

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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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