Published on June 4th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Tesla Model S Aerodynamics Pretty Freakin’ Awesome

June 4th, 2014 by  

Is there anything that the Tesla Model S isn’t best at? From consumer safety to performance to comfort, the Model S is practically in a league of its own. Turns out Tesla Model S aerodynamics are also much better than you might expect from a car of its size and weight. Chris will provide more details on why:

Tesla Model S Wins Aerodynamics Comparison (via Gas 2.0)

Electric cars are offering car designers a whole new palette to paint upon, as they don’t require the same access to air that combustion engines do. In a recent comparison test by Car & Driver, the Tesla Model S was proven to have the lowest drag…

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • ssdajoker

    Hell yeah, go Tesla! Show Chevy how it’s done!

  • spec9

    Tesla is pretty much the only EV maker that really took aerodynamics very seriously. Yeah, the others did a few little modifications here and there to improve things. But Tesla build the entire car with a very aerodynamic design. And the aerodynamics are VERY IMPORTANT to be able to get a decent range while driving fast.

  • Bubba Nicholson

    The S won because the bar was already set so low. Four open wheel wells and a square back? We burn ten times the gas we would if all speedy vehicles were simply aerodynamic. The Model S has the aerodynamics of a cow.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The S is just about the most aerodynamic car in production. Only the Mercedes CLA and Volkswagen XL1 (if it is sold) are better.

      We could move to bananas on wheels, but I doubt the market is ready to accept those sorts of radical designs.

      • MewCat100 .

        Not true, there are and have been cars with lower cd values. The Mercedes S class is the same, the Mercedes CLA is lower, and there are a handful of other vehicles that are more aerodynamic. Hell, the EV1 was way below 0.24 at 0.195. There is nothing remarkable about achieving a 0.24, it’s old news and old tech. Mercedes, BMW, GM, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, and others have all designed cars with far lower Cd values, though many have not gone into production.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It would probably been helpful if you had read my comment. The part where I stated “in production”. And the part where I said that the CLA was lower.

          “the same” lower.

          You might want to take a look at drag coefficients for various produced and not-produced cars. The Tesla S is very close to the bottom of the list of cars actually produced. And it’s a much larger vehicle than the EV1 and other very low drag cars.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The Volkswagen XL1 (0.189 Cd) is a two-seater in which the occupants ride tandem rather than side by side.

            The external dimensions of the XL1 are 3.47 m (11.4 ft) long, 1.25 m (4.1 ft) wide and 1.10 m (3.6 ft) tall. It has 2.8 cu ft of storage space.

            The Tesla S is can seat up to 7 people (two children/smaller people in jump seats).

            The Tesla S is 196″ (16.3 ft) long, 86.2″ (7.2 ft) wide with mirrors extended, and 56.5″ (4.7 ft) high. It has 31.6 cu ft of storage space.

            Unless one takes the size of the vehicle into consideration a Cd to Cd comparison makes no sense.

          • MewCat100 .

            Okay Bob, I see your point. I was simply saying that the achievement of Tesla is nothing remarkable. It’s old hat and, frankly, makes little difference in terms of energy used. Energy used by a car is dependent on a number of things, but “road force” results from friction in the tires, brakes, wheel bearings, etc. in addition to aerodynamic measurements.

            The bottom line is that people make a big deal out of Cd and frontal area, but they make less difference than things like brakes, under-body construction, ride height, etc. Since Tesla was forced to raise its ride height to compensate for battery damage potential, it lost a bit of its advantage. The same is true of having to add battery guards underneath the car. I’d be interested to know which versions of this technology C&D tested.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Aerodynamics are extremely important at speed. IIRC 85% of the energy used by a car traveling at highway speed is used to combat air resistance.

            The Mercedes CLA is ranked at a sub-compact with a length of 182.3″, width of 70″ (without mirrors), and 56.6″ height. That’s a significantly smaller car and has only a slightly lower Cd.

            No one is saying that Tesla has created some amazing new standard for Cd, but that along with all their other achievements they’ve done extremely well in producing a very aerodynamic vehicle without have to sacrifice the comforts that many people want.

          • MewCat100 .

            Cd has little to do with the size of the car and more to do with shape, paint, etc. I’m not disagreeing with you RE: Tesla doing good work with the Model S, my point point was that it isn’t a great achievement. As to comfort, that’s another story entirely. The Tesla is lacking in many amenities that the MB has. The new 2014 S class, which is quite a bit longer and taller than the MS (though it is a bit narrower), has a Cd of 0.24 as well.

        • spec9

          The EV1 had a great Cd . . . but honestly, it was pretty ugly and it only seated two people.

          • Spencer Maynes

            Did no one read the article? Mercedes may claim that the CLA has a lower coefficient of drag, but it doesn’t. Car and Driver tests clearly show that the the Model S still has the lowest Cd of any car currently sold.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d say that there is an unresolved disagreement between Mercedes (who report a 0.23 Cd) and Car and Driver (who report a 0.30 Cd).

            Someone is wrong, it does not necessarily have to be Mercedes.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Hello Nissan, GM and Toyota,

    EVs and PHEVs don’t have to be ugly in order to be aerodynamic.

    Why don’t you see if you can make your next releases prettier than the S? Let’s generate more sales.

    • Bubba Nicholson

      So is the Hum and Hummer prettier, then?

      • Bob_Wallace

        That post makes no sense.

  • Pete Arnold

    Replace the mirrors with cameras and you get an extra 5% efficiency according to Tesla (With the Model X)… The regulations have to be changed though. Federally, all automobiles are required to have side mirrors.

    • spec9

      They really should change this law. Not only will it help EVs, it will save millions of gallons of gasoline.

  • Tom G.

    This article shows just how important aerodynamics are. And all this time we thought that driving a square box on 4 wheels was cool.

    Electric vehicles, carbon fiber construction, aerodynamics and less weight equals great mileage. That wasn’t a very difficult math problem was it, 🙂

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