Cars

Published on December 19th, 2015 | by Michael Barnard

83

Why Are Teslas Quicker Than Gas Cars?

December 19th, 2015 by  

According to Motor Trend’s recent test, the Tesla P90D with Ludicrous Mode hits 60 miles per hour in a shattering 2.6 seconds. This is absurdly quick, and there are only three currently produced street-legal cars which are quicker than a Tesla. Those cars are by Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari and would set you back $2.5 million USD to buy all three. It’s worth pointing out that only one of those cars doesn’t have electric drive train components as well.

So how does a heavy passenger sedan capable of seating 7 people beat all but the most exotic of modern sports cars?

There are 11 separate factors I’ve identified which contribute to the Tesla P90D being incredibly quick compared to internal combustion vehicles. Other Teslas share most of the characteristics, which is what makes them so blisteringly quick as well, just not quite as ludicrously so.

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 12.30.39 PM

It’s important to note that we are talking quick, not fast. Teslas get to 60 mph faster than any comparable car on the planet, but are limited to 155 miles per hour. That’s fast enough for me, but is exceeded by quite a large number of production cars.

Let’s step through the reasons for Tesla’s quickness one-by-one.

2013-Tesla-Model-S-motorTeslas use electric motors which create maximum torque — the tendency of force to rotate an object about an axis — at zero rotations per minute and continue to generate the same amount of torque at pretty much all RPM levels. Internal combustion engines by contrast have very low torque at the beginning and end of their torque curves and high torque at the centre of their torque curve. That’s why they need to be started out in a low gear and rapidly shifted upward as speed increases, to match the torque output to the speed of the car.

Return-Fuel-InjectionTeslas use electricity in batteries instead of physical fuel. Getting electrons from a battery to an electric motor is much faster than getting fuel from a gas tank to a piston. Electrons travel much faster along a wire than fuel does along a fuel line, and the electrons basically go straight to the place where they are needed, while the fuel goes through a fuel pump, then to a fuel injector, then is sprayed into a piston, and then is ignited, turning into force which drives the piston to finally create torque. At idle in an internal combustion car, there is already fuel traveling through the fuel line, gas pump, fuel injector, and igniting in the piston, but a lot more fuel is needed to accelerate.

chassis-motor-p85dTesla P90Ds use two electric motors which run at different gear ratios, one for the rear wheels and one for the front wheels. Outside of exotic sports cars, internal combustion cars have a single motor. Two motors mean that they get more torque to the wheels, which increases acceleration, and the different gear ratio allows better mixes to the wheels at different speeds, kind of like different gears in internal combustion cars. This gets into the fast vs quick point again. While the torque remains constant, more horsepower is required at higher speeds to maintain acceleration due to air resistance. Air resistance increases with the cube of velocity, so it gets harder rapidly to push the air aside to keep accelerating. Two motors enable the Tesla to keep pushing the air aside aggressively at higher speeds. For more on torque and horsepower, here’s a brief primer: Horsepower vs Torque.

main-qimg-a69447cd5dc3409a047fcc11d1eb950cSpeaking of horsepower, Tesla’s have a lot of it. The two motors in the Tesla P90D could pump out 762 horsepower between them. High horsepower keeps them moving forward as air resistance increases. And, like torque, the max power in a Tesla is available immediately, no waiting around as RPMs build, unlike internal combustion cars which have to build up the revs to get to a peak, then shift. Similar luxury sedans are running well under 650 horsepower. Poor internal combustion cars — they just can’t catch a break. The graph on the right is for one of those obsolete things. (Editor’s Note: Admittedly, there are limiting factors that keep the P90D from achieving the motors’ combined max horsepower, but the higher horsepower potential is still helpful.)

Teslas have all-wheel drive. This means that the available torque is spread among four sticky contact patches with the ground instead of just two. All else being equal, this means that they can deliver double the force to the ground without the tires spinning. That’s why muscle cars typically have very large rear wheels, to increase the size of the contact patch to achieve the same effect, and why top fuel dragsters have enormous wheels on the back and tiny wheels on the front.

tesla-model-s-p85-review-2014_59The quickest Teslas have 21″ wheels instead of the standard 19″ wheels. By definition, a 21″ wheel has more rubber on the ground than a 19″ wheel. As per the all-wheel drive point, this increases the contact patch with the ground, allowing greater force to be applied without spinning the tires.

Teslas have much better traction control than internal combustion cars because electric motors have extremely simple torque characteristics and can be controlled in much finer increments and much more quickly than internal combustion motors. Internal combustion cars are constantly changing how much torque is getting to the tires with every change in speed and have dramatic changes with every gear shift. By comparison, electric motors, as discussed earlier, give the same torque at every speed and don’t have gear boxes so avoid the dramatic surge which comes with shifting. And for the same reason that the acceleration is instant instead of delayed due to electrons getting to the motor much faster, changing the amount of electricity creating force is faster and more accurate as well.

To change the amount of force generated by an internal combustion motor, you have to tell the gas pump to change its physical pumping speed and orchestrate that with the fuel injectors so that they are delivering the right air fuel mixture into the piston, and orchestrate that with the timing to get the ignition exactly right. That all takes eons compared to adjusting the flow of electrons. It’s all still well under a second, but traction is a millisecond thing. The sensors which detect wheel slip are the same for Teslas vs internal combustion cars as far as I know, but the ability to respond to what they are saying is much quicker, kind of like reflexes vs conscious thinking.

Turn off the traction control on a Tesla and this is what happens:

Teslas have no gears and don’t need to shift. Internal combustion cars have to shift multiple times on the way to 60 mph. Each shift has a brief period of time when the gears are not engaged and accelerating. Shifting is necessary to try to keep the engine in the peak portion of the power band. Teslas and most sanely built electric vehicles don’t bother with gearing because it’s unnecessary. As such, the car doesn’t have any periods when it isn’t accelerating as fast as it can.

Power+SourceTeslas are heavy. This is paradoxical, but specifically, they are heavy in the right way with a very low centre of gravity, with the very heavy battery pack spread equally from the front axle to the rear axle of the car and slightly below the level of the axle. This means that the car pushes down on the contact patches equally and that the force on the front vs rear wheels changes less under acceleration under cars where the centre of gravity is higher. The electric motors are also much smaller than gas motors and mounted close to the level of the axles.

fall_13_sketches_keyInternal combustion engines and gas tanks, by comparison, are much bulkier and much higher above the axles, which causes the vectors of force to put a lot more pressure on the rear wheels during acceleration than for a Tesla. This is true for deceleration and cornering as well, which is why the Tesla performs exceptionally well for a car of its weight in those tests too. “The Physics of a Front-Wheel Drive Muscle Car” post from Wired includes a graphic showing the effect of a higher centre of gravity on a car, while the picture of the Tesla battery back shows how much lower the CoG of a Tesla will be.

Then there’s the Tesla hardware secret sauce. Tesla’s Insane Mode was one thing. They tweaked the power controller and added some neat micro-fuses to the power transfer from the battery to the motor so that they could push a lot more electricity from the battery to the motor. It’s kind of like putting a thicker gas hose between the gas tank and the engine of an internal combustion car; they get more fuel to the place it’s needed faster.

The Tesla Ludicrous Mode is something else again. First off, the P90D uses a more powerful rear motor than the P85D, which has merely Insane Mode. Second, Tesla upgraded the main pack contactor — a large switch controlled by electromagnets operating under software control — from steel to inconel, a high-tech alloy which resists heat from high amperage better. Basically, they took a limiting component to pushing lots of electrons faster and upgraded it to a component which wouldn’t melt as quickly.

Internal combustion cars have an awful lot more hardware secret sauce because getting enormous amounts of power safely out of exploding gasoline in metal cylinders is actually a lot harder.

Finally, there’s the Tesla software secret sauce. A little-known fact about Teslas is that they have been getting quicker via software releases as the engineers at Tesla figure out how to get more out of the power controller just by tweaking parameters, and existing customers have been benefiting by getting these tweaks in downloads. To quote a Tesla owner from the forums,

When I bought my 85D it was rated over 5 seconds. Software upgrade took it to 4.4s. More recent software upgrade apparently takes it to 4.2s. I’m amazed. What more do you want?

Like the hardware secret sauce, internal combustion engineers have been doing quite amazing things with software to get more out of cars. But they are starting from an inferior technology that was much more mature, so they aren’t getting as much or as quickly as Tesla does.

So, there you have it. Eleven reasons why the Tesla P90D is so absurdly quick compared to internal combustion cars, most of which aren’t available to the older technology. And some of these eleven reasons will be amplified in the upcoming Tesla Roadster, leading to my belief that it will hit 60 mph in 2 seconds or less.


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About the Author

For the past several years Michael has been analyzing and publishing reports and articles on decarbonization technologies, business models and policies. His pieces on electrical generation transformation and electrification of transportation have been published in CleanTechnica, Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, RenewEconomy, RenewablesInternational and Gizmag, as well as included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews with Mike have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on Quora.com, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He also has published a climate-fiction novel, Guangzhou Future Tense.



  • Brent Jatko

    Ummm…max torque from zero RPM, an inherent characteristic of electric traction?

  • Cocky_Clock

    LoL wut? A Model S cannot even do a single lap around the Nürburgring without going into limp mode. Its lap time is that of a Ford transit van.

    http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1093397_nrburgring-proves-too-much-for-tesla-model-s-video

  • Ivor O’Connor

    So many errors in this article. Nobody does fact checking anymore?

  • Mike

    “at zero rotations per minute and continue to generate the same amount of torque at pretty much all RPM levels. ” — Good lord cleantechnica.com — do you know how many mathematicians are rolling over in their respective graves right now? The P90D, which peaks at 532HP at the motor shaft (battery limited), cannot hold it’s 713 lb-ft of torque passed 35 mph, because that would require producing more than 532 horse power. Once the peak horsepower is hit, the torque decays exponentially.

    • Peter

      … and the power starts from 0 at 0 rpm in the Tesla as on other cars since power=torque x angular velocity. It then increases proportionaly to rpm until its maximum at which point torque decreases and power remains somewhat constant untill it starts to decrease too for reasons inherent to AC motors.

      • Mike

        Indeed. Based on my understanding of AC induction motors operating at more than 2x base speed, and the overall powertrain ratio in the tesla, I would guess at top speed the P90D can’t manage much over 350HP.

        • Which is why the front and rear motors are at different gear ratios. They have overlapping HP curves. Less need for gears when you have two separate motors, both of which are comparatively simple.

  • Steve Grinwis

    Holy pop culture physics batman….

  • OneHundredbyFifty

    Mike,
    Wow, I had not seen this latest accomplishment of 2.6 s for 0 – 60. That puts the acceleration at higher than that at which one falls under the force of gravity! My understanding is that drag racers can reach 4 gs so there is still headroom for improvement.

    A comment about torque. Torque will remain just below the threshold where the wheels will spin which is lower than the max that the motors are capable of delivering. This is the traction control at work.

    As soon as the speed gets high enough that the traction control is not needed, torque will decrease linearly as the speed increases. This is because Power = Torque x angular velocity. At the point where traction control cuts out, full power is being delivered to the wheels. Any faster and the power stays constant. As the velocity increases the torque must therefore decrease.

  • globi

    60 mph = 26.8 m/s. In order to reach that speed in 2 seconds you need to accelerate at 13.4 m/s^2 or 1.36 g, which is hardly feasible with road legal tires.
    Also, in order to accelerate even just a 1.8 ton car with 13.4 m/s^2 at a speed of 26.82 m/s you need at least 546 kW or 867 hp at the wheels (so close to 1000 hp motor) and this is ignoring air resistance and rolling friction (P=F*v=m*a*v=1800kg*13.4m/s^2*26.8m/s).

    • Martin

      What would the braking power need to be, to brake from 60 mph to 0 mph?
      What energy is expended?

      • Martin

        One other thought, for acceleration you do not need a seat belt, because you will be pressed into the seat.
        But for stopping,fast, if you do not have a seat belt on, you will find out about objects in motion, very painfully!

        • globi

          You still have the foot on the brake pedal and your hands on the steering wheel.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Acceleration is the same as acceleration, so the energy required would be the same.

        Let me put that another way. Accelerating in one direction is the same as accelerating in the exact opposite direction.

        Okay that’s not clear, is it?

        If you accelerate from rest (whatever rest is in your frame of reference) then to get back to rest you just do the exact opposite.

        Of course, it gets a lot more complex if you do this on the surface of a planet rather than in the vacuum of space, which is why I personally spend as little time on planet earth as possible.

      • globi

        The braking power needed would be slightly less because of air resistance and other frictional losses.
        Brakes can easily provide 1000 hp of braking power for a very short time (2 – 3 seconds).

      • OneHundredbyFifty

        These make globi’s point visually – look how fast the brakes approach white hot. Now think about how long it takes an electric stove to get to red hot. Lot o power being dissipated! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8HJmfYxgH0 Watch the front wheels on this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSaomFqdNr4

    • OneHundredbyFifty

      Is it illegal to make stickier tires or is there simply no demand for them? The numbers I have seen are that drag racers can get up to 4 gs. So it is possible to get stickier tires. I am guessing that they haven’t shown up because there has not been the demand for them.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Racing car drivers go around a track a few dozen times and then they stop to change tyres because their soft ones have worn out. And I really don’t see how this makes any sense at all. If they all just agreed to stick to a sensible speed limit, they could use harder, better wearing tyres, and save so much money.

        I guess it’s a coordination problem.

      • globi

        Of course stickier tires are available.
        You can for example buy these supersoft hillclimb slicks:
        http://www.michelinmotorsport.com/Tyres/Hillclimbing/Hillclimb/Slick
        They don’t even need any warm up, but they are done after 50 km.
        How many people would be willing to change tires every 50 km?

    • http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2015/06/17/electric-mustang-records-1-94-second-0-60-time-builder-sets-200-mph-goal/

      Give that a rear wheel drive Mustang managed it with an electric conversion, I suspect it will be possible with the right street legal tires on a Roadster. Summer sports tires only, of course.

      • globi

        This Mustang does have Hoosier slicks on the rear axle (they may be street legal but one wouldn’t want to daily drive them and they do need to be warmed up in order to stick):
        http://www.zombie222.com/gallery.html

    • Mike

      Given the dual motor nature of the newer Model S’ — how much relief do you think the front wheels provide in terms of road grip. In other words, do you think given 4 tires participating and a hot dry summer day you could find some normal-ish driving tires to get the job done?

      • globi

        The front wheels are definitely needed to be driven in order to reduce acceleration times. Since the car has a low center of gravity and the tires don’t provide too much grip, the weight on the front wheels may still be close to 30% at maximum acceleration. (Drag race cars have hardly any weight (if any) on the front axle during maximum acceleration, which is why they don’t need these wheels to be driven).

        Here are test results of extreme performance summer tires. These are tires which people may still barely accept on a daily basis: http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tests/chartDisplay.jsp?ttid=172
        Based on shortest stopping distance the maximum deceleration of the best performing tire is about 11 m/s^2 (1.1 g). (s=(vmax/2)*t and s=1/2*a*t^2 => a=(vmax/2)*s; need to use SI-units).
        So, anything better than 2.4 s (t=vmax/a) is not feasible on an untreated road surface and normal tires.

        • Mike

          Given that the front and rear traction can’t be EXACTLY the same, wouldn’t one of the two eclipse the other? (Either the acceleration or deceleration would be greater than the other, albeit the difference could be extremely small)

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’d think the car would be able to monitor the load on the two motors and adjust power to each accordingly.

          • globi

            The deceleration is usually higher because of drag (air resistance).

  • globi

    A car with an ICE doesn’t even run at 0 RPM. However, it does have clutch. Run it at 6000 rpm and drop the clutch and see what happens.

    • OneHundredbyFifty

      Drop it and the wheels will spin. The trick is to ride it so that the slip occurs in the clutch rather than tires to road surface. It is essentially human traction control.

      • globi

        The point was: Cars with ICEs can provide instant torque.
        The process is called launch control.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6DaP1kkH64

        • OneHundredbyFifty

          Like it. You can see when he shifts the gears (drops about midway through). Also, the tires scrunch up. Nice little physics lesson on torque and friction.

      • Mike

        Spot on. The coefficient of static friction is always higher than the coefficient of kinetic friction. The goal is to run the tires right up to the limit of slipping, and not a single RPM more.

  • BlackTalon53 .

    I am not so sure that a 21” wheel has “per definition” more rubber on the ground than a 19” wheel. AFAIK the number only refers to the diameter of the rim, not to that of the tire, which is identical for the rubbers on both rims. Otherwise the speedometer would be too slow for the larger tires and too fast for the smaller tires, as there is no way to program it it with the tire diamters. And there are quite a few owners who regularly switch between 21” summer wheels and 19” winter wheels.

    21” wheel have a lower side wall and thus provide more stability in fast corners and more responsive handling, that is the real difference. For drag racing the 19”ers might actually be a bit faster, because the rims are a lot lighter and reduce the rotating masses.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Well, by applying a simplified geometrical model to this problem I can see that the surface area of any circular object applied to a flat plane is infinitely small and so size is irrelevant and no tyre actually comes in contact with the road.

      Hmmm…. Maybe I simplified this problem a little too much?

      If we twerk model by taping it to our butts and…

      No wait… If we *tweak* this model by assuming that the bottom of the tyre gets swished flat by the weight of the car and the squished bit comes in contact with the road, then it doen’t matter if we assume that 1% or 5% or whatever percentage of the circumference of a tyre gets flattened, a 21 inch tyre will always have 10.5% more contact with the road because the circumference of a 21 inch tyre is 10.5% greater than a 19 inch tyre.

      • Raja Bob

        BlackTalon’s point was that while the diameter of the rims differ at 19″ and 21″. The outside circumference of the tires is the same.

        As for that bit in the article about the distance of the fuel tank from the point of combustion, hopefully he wasn’t serious about that. The fuel is under pressure and always present at the point of injection.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Do cars with 21″ rims require a higher level of tire pressure than 19″ rims?
          If so, seems like the smaller diameter rim/lower tire pressure would result in a bit more tire surface contact with the road.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Not typically no.

            The reason why the 21″ matters is entirely because of the high performance summer tires that are mounted to them, and nothing to do with the actual physical size…

        • Ronald Brakels

          Gosh darnnit! And Blacktalon even pointed that out in her comment. Somehow I just it it into my head that a 21 inch tyre would be bigger than a 19 inch tyre. Can’t imagine how that happened.

          Anyway, I’ll make a deal with the United States. If the US goes metric, I’ll start spelling tyre as t-i-r-e.

      • Matt

        If both 19 and 21 inch rims have the same total diameter, then we can say the side walls on the 19 have 2 inch more or rubber. It is this rubber portion that will flatten. Of course flatting the rubber takes NRG.

    • After all the back and forth it appear you are correct.

      But it’s also not a differentiator for acceleration compared to ICE cars which was kind of the point of the article. Good tires with appropriate contact patches for acceleration are available to both. Not that this excuses my mistake, but it does slightly mitigate the seriousness of it.

    • globi

      I would also argue that 21″ is mostly for show (large wheels look cool).
      As far as maximizing contact patch and acceleration is concerned, it would be more beneficial to run wider rims and tires with a lower aspect ratio (‘more balloony’).
      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/27/e6/9f/27e69f517f5069399faa4ff3f8c2021b.jpg

      Besides, the stickiest DOT-legal tires as example are only available up to 19″:
      http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?tireMake=Hoosier&tireModel=A7

      • neroden

        The 21″ rims are absurd; people who have them regularly trash their rims by running into road debris, curbs, etc. The 19″ rims are a little better. There’s a reason to have some sidewall on your tire…

  • MikeM

    Pssssst!

    “Air resistance increases with the cube of velocity”.

    Er . . . No it doesn’t. It varies as the square.
    It’s the power required to offset just air resistance which varies as the cube of velocity.

    • Egads. You are correct. A nuanced and useful correction. My point remains intact about pushing the air aside, but my understanding has improved. Thanks.

    • OneHundredbyFifty

      Source please, I think Mike was correct. However, whichever is true air resistance is a negligible factor when you have nearly 700 HP.

      • globi
        • OneHundredbyFifty

          Great, that clears it up, the force goes as the square of velocity and the power goes as the cube of velocity.

          • Frank

            I’d like to see that redone with a p90D ludicrous mode. They upped the horsepower.

          • Mike

            The P90D has trouble competing with cars at top speed for the following reasons:

            1) The weight
            2) It can only produce 532 HP, and HP is more important than torque at high speeds
            3) The use VFD ACIMs so the HP drops after 100 mph, at 155 mph the P90D can probably manage less than 350 HP.
            4) Only one speed.

      • Mike

        1) The P90D can’t produce 700HP, it can barely mange 530HP.
        2) The P90D uses VFDs, so the motor HP drops after 100 mph. At top speed, it can probably manage less than 300 HP.

  • Martin

    Lower center of gravity, much better road hugging.
    We have the acceleration hp and speed, but have not seen brake hp and time yet.
    I wonder what the time would be with not standard tires, would it be an improvement or not?

    • Steve Grinwis

      “Much better road hugging” …

      Compared to what? An M5 would absolutely destroy a P90D on a track.

      The Model S is a great car, but it’s not this ‘absolutely the best at everything’ that the fanboi-ism seems to think it is. It’s great at not burning gas, and accelerating in a straight line, but a proper sports car will definitely out-corner it.

      Which is why we need the next gen roadster to really start making those comparisons. The Model S is just too heavy to throw around corners with the kind of force you get out of a track spec Camaro, Boss Mustang, etc…

      • Mike

        I guess I am left wondering what competition a stock M5 would destroy the P90D in. Based on the published times for both vehicles stock, we know this isn’t the case for 0-60 or 1/4 mile. Obviously it will destroy the P90D in a weight competition, a ‘recharge’ competition, and a range competition.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Lateral acceleration is typically what his refers to. Made all the more worse by the fact that the Model S goes into limp mode when you thrash it around a track, because it over heats.

          And actually the BMW M5 appears to be a bad selection on my part. Let’s instead look at a Camaro Z/28.

          Skidpad on the Model S is about .86 G’s. SKid pad on a Z/28 is 1.08 G’s. That’s 25% faster cornering. On a sufficiently twisty track, the Camaro would pull away quickly, easily, and would never be seen again by the Model S.

          Which is fine. The Model S is a 7 seater 4800 lb behemoth, not a racing car.

          I just get annoyed when the uninformed make statements like ‘much better road hugging’.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps more comfortable around tight curves? Very low center of gravity would mean less body roll.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Low center of gravity only translates to low body roll if the chassis is equally as tight, and overall weight makes a big difference as well. I assure you sir, the chassis on a Z/28 is going to have less roll than a Model S.

          • Mike

            The problem is “road hugging” isn’t a technical term, there isn’t a good way to verify it. I could say the model S has much better “road hugging” than the Camaro Z-28 and be completely right — because it isn’t a measurable metric a priori. (In the same way I couldn’t successfully argue to you that vanilla is the ‘best’ flavor of ice cream) If people went around saying “much better lateral acceleration” then you would have a great argument — 27.5 vs 34.6

          • Steve Grinwis

            People do go around saying ‘much better lateral acceleration’, or alternatively, they report skidpad results, which is the same thing expressed with fewer words.

          • Mike

            Frankly I’ve never seen it. The plurality of articles and videos I have seen have never covered the S’ lateral acceleration. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t seem to by the primary messaging out there about the S. If we count up the number of articles and news stories about the S, how many of them are focused on the lateral acceleration? Perhaps in your circles, people ARE saying that, and you should correct them when they do. You should be careful about correcting people that use the phrasing ‘road hugging’ however, because ‘road hugging’ != lateral acceleration. Are people reporting incorrect skidpad results for the S?

          • Steve Grinwis

            Road hugging refers to lateral acceleration. That’s not up for debate. It’s a term that’s been used to discuss handling ability in the automotive press off and on for the better part of two decades.

            No one is talking about lateral acceleration with the S, it’s true. No one who knows anything about cars anyways.

            This is because it’s a 7 seater behemoth luxury sedan, not a sports car. And it handles fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, and really it handles better than it has any right too. Then eco-nerds get their hands on it and say things like ‘It’s got a lower center of gravity, because of all the batteries, so it’ll handle better than EVERYTHING! ZOMG!”

            And this annoys me. Because that’s not true.

          • Mike

            I would completely disagree that road hugging necessarily is equivalent to lateral acceleration, and I would also disagree that lay people use the term ‘road hugging’ to refer to later acceleration. (Because otherwise we wouldn’t need the phrase “road hugging” everyone could just say “lateral acceleration”)

            In the same way that when people say “wow that car is fast” — that doesn’t necessarily mean they are referring to 0-60 time. 0-60 time, refers to, 0-60 time. You can’t simply declare by fiat that an abstract term is exactly equivalent to a specific, scientifically measurable quantity. (Especially when said abstract term is being used by lay people that likely have no knowledge of the scientifically measurable quantity).

            Even if I granted that the automative industry experts declare that (“road hugging” == “lateral acceleration”) == True, that still doesn’t help you because you aren’t critiquing experts, you are critiquing lay people.

            If I can summarize your point:

            John says vanilla ice cream has the best flavor. You say that flavor is directly equivalent to volumetric sugar density of the ice cream. You declare that flavor has been used by ice cream experts in the past to mean volumetric sugar density. You declare that when John says flavor, he means exactly volumetric sugar density. You compare the volumetric sugar densities of various ice cream flavors and find that chocolate actually has a higher volumetric sugar density. You declare that John is wrong, because chocolate has a higher volumetric sugar density. You declare this is not up for debate.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Let me summarize your post:

            “I don’t like being wrong on the internet, so I’m going to argue semantics”

          • Mike

            I’ll take your ad hominem as an indication that you are bowing out of this discussion.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Bowing out? Certainly… I have no desire to talk to someone who only wants to argue semantics, and nothing else.

          • Mike

            But that is precisely what you are arguing Steve. You are arguing that when someone says “road hugging” they mean, necessarily, lateral acceleration. That argument is, by its very nature, semantic. I can only address the argument on the terms in which it began. Furthermore, it is an argument that leaves you with all your work ahead of you.

            No one would be tempted to argue that the Model S, stock, has the best lateral acceleration. Mostly because these numbers are, for the most part, readily available — so it is trivial to determine that it does not have the best lateral acceleration. So of course all people aren’t distilling “road hugging” down to “lateral acceleration”

        • Robert

          What about passing 70 mph to 90 or 100 mph? How would the M5 vs. Tesla compare there. That is what is most exciting for me on my BMW bike and what I exercise far more than 0-60 (which I rarely , if ever, exhibit purposefully.

          • Mike

            I’m not aware of of any track tests that exercise a vehicles passing ability in this speed range, and this would be illegal *almost* anywhere in the United States on public roads. That said — the P90D can hold peak horse power until about 90 mph, so you would probably be good until 90 mph. The P90D has about the same HP as a stock M5. It would also be illegal for the M5 driver to accelerate while being passed in most jurisdictions.

            Legality aside, you’re right about the P90D not being very effective above 100 mph. The lack of additional gears causes it to depart it’s peak HP band after 100 mph.

      • Not quite so much destroy from a roadholding perspective. 0.93 g for the M5 per Car and Driver vs 0.91 g for at least one Tesla tested. But that was the rear-wheel only P70, not the somewhat heavier dual drive cars which peaked at around 0.89 g depending on tire choice. Better definitely, but not in the destroy category.

        The professional driver who tried to flog the car around the Nurburgring indicated that the grip and handling were fantastic. What kills the Tesla at present isn’t the traction but the battery heat limitations. As Tesla wasn’t aiming at M5’s but at luxury sedans, I’m not particularly surprised or concerned that they don’t beat everything at everything.

        I’m looking forward to seeing what the top-upgraded Model III and the 2019 Roadster will do. And still won’t be particularly worried if they aren’t better than every ICE car in every circumstance. Electrics are the future of performance and personal transportation for a lot of reasons, and that future is pretty close now.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Ya, the M5 wasn’t actually as performant as I expected…Should have looked it up first, which is why I switched to a different car, like the Camaro Z/28, which absolutely will destroy the Tesla around a track, with almost 25% better lateral acceleration.

          I was merely trying to point out that while yes, lower center of gravity does help, Tesla has yet to produce a ‘best handling production car’, or even anything remotely close. Now, as you say, the Model 3 will be interesting, as will a renewed roadster. I expect that roadster to do unfathomable things, including in the handling category.

  • Martin

    0 to 60 in a little as 2.6 seconds, on dry paved roads, a good thing, stopping from 60 to 0, also much better than a average car, I think due to regen braking.
    But could anybody tell me, besides Germany and only on selected roads, is it legal to drive at 155 mph, 200 kph + ?
    Yes there production cars that can exceed 155 mph but legally where?

    • MikeM

      I would argue that Tesla’s over-the-top performance parameters like high acceleration and top speed were crucial to really getting the attention of people (like Auto magazine journalists, hot car/racing enthusiasts and then leaking out to the general public).

      Without that wake-up call we probably still would be listening to folks sniffing about electric golf carts, and “who on earth would want to drive one of those”. Huge credit due to Tesla!

      There is an enormous amount of inertia in elevating the public’s consciousness of new technologies that come slowly out of “nowhere”.
      (Yes, I know . . . iPhones blah, blah . .)

      Having said that, I think that the job has now been nicely done, finished.

      If I find the Model 3 follows the same sort of crazy-performance path, I will have strong reservations about it if it significantly impacts cost. (And I’m currently puttering about in a Leaf while waiting for my Model 3).
      All the M3 requires is notably better performance than its ICE rivals and it too will sell itself in the USA. More than that probably means more accidents for er . . well . . people like me.

      • For the Roadster I think they’ll be again leaping forward, as they’ve stated that they are going to introduce Maximum Plaid mode for it. For the Model III (M3 is a BMW, after), I suspect Ludicrous will be a pricy option, but I suspect all wheel drive might be optional as well. The base model will be coming in where Tesla has targeted it in terms of price, in other words, but there will be lots of factory performance upgrades available for people who just can’t get enough. If I actually buy a Model III (the only one I would consider as I don’t actually need a car at all), I’d be getting the all wheel drive option but that’s about it. It’s going to be awesome without bothering with extras. Heck, free Supercharger access for life might be an optional upgrade too, and I’d be modelling out whether I needed it or not.

        • MikeM

          Yes, you’re probably right on all counts.
          I too would would ask only for base model plus AWD (got used to/saved by it on our 10 y/o second string Subaru) and Supercharger access (payed or not), and hatch or lift back preferred.
          The rest, I more or less trust Tesla to get right.

      • Well said. Many people don’t adequately respect the huge cultural inertia that delays transitions to better technologies and ways of living. Habits of thought are not easily broken, particularly at a scale big enough to change consumer choices.

      • Frank

        I had a conversation just the other day with a couple of older guys talking about performance cars. I had to ask whether they had heard of Tesla. They did eventually find a way to poopoo it, but performance was off the table, in spite of the fact that they were talking about corvettes.

        My expectation with the mod 3, is that they will do the same thing they did with the mod S. Base model all the way up to really fast, with different pack sizes. I wonder if they will have a biodefense mode for cities with polution problems, of which there are many.

      • Mike

        This is a great point. I think the high performance numbers also help justify the ‘high end’ and ‘luxury’ aspects of the car. Even consumers that are extremely environmentally conscious aren’t likely to buy a $100k car without decent performance. The over the top performance really enhances the ‘cool factor’ of the car for people that don’t really care as much about the environmental aspect. My uncle, candidly speaking, gives ‘0 shits’ about the environment, but he purchased one of these cars for the high performance and ‘cool factor’ alone.

    • JamesWimberley

      SFIK the world total of roads on which you can both practically and legally drive at that speed consists of half the German autobahn network: the half you are less likely to be using, of course. Even there you could easily get into trouble: general rules of safe driving (visibility and braking distances) still apply. The right-hand lane will have trucks going at 60 mph, and cars pulling out to pass them at the standard 70-80 mph. I doubt if even professional racing drivers could average much more than 100 mph in real-life conditions.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Stopping distance has nothing to do with regenerative braking. Any modern car can brake obscenely hard. Stopping distance has more to do with the weight of the car, and the stickiness of the tires than anything else.

      For instance, the V6 Camaro stops shorter than the V8 Camaro, even though the V8 Camaro has an upgraded multi-piston braking system. Why? The V6 has the same sticky tires, and weighs less, and the added brakes don’t actually help, since we’re already limited by the tires…

      • neroden

        The way Tesla’s implemented regenerative braking, it reduces the *reaction time* by the human driver. As soon as you start pulling your foot off the accelerator, the car is braking. Can’t do that in a gasmobile with automatic transmission (you can in a stick shift, though).

    • Otis11

      There are a few roads in the US without speed limits… Mostly in Montana on the long sports between cities.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I wonder why the Montana Highway Patrol pulled me over and gave me a ticket a few years back? I was doing 75 in a 70.

        Recently the max has been raised to 80 for rural highways.

        • Otis11

          I didn’t say every road in Montana… But I know some of them don’t.

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