What about 520+ miles of range?

Just four days ahead of a debut event for the refreshed Model S lineup and high-performance Model S Plaid model, Tesla has abruptly canceled plans for the top Plaid+ version.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, CEO Elon Musk announced the cancellation, and added that the Plaid “is just so good.” 

The Plaid might be so good, but it takes only a quick scan of the rest of the specs to wonder whether it’s as good without 520 miles of range? 

The Plaid+, as it was suggested up until recently, was due to offer the same (or better) 1.99-second 0-60 mph acceleration from a tri-motor layout, as well as potentially better dynamic performance. But the range had been its key differentiating point. 

Musk had previously suggested that the top-of-the-line model was due to share some of its engineering with the second-generation Roadster, was originally due in late 2021; recently Tesla indicated the Plaid+ was delayed to mid-2022. The Plaid+ was due to use Tesla’s next-generation 4680-format cells, while the rest of the Model S (including the Plaid) continue to use their current 18650 format. 

New Tesla Roadster

New Tesla Roadster

Tesla had offered the Plaid+ to early reservation-holders for $149,000. The Model S Plaid starts at $121,190. 

“What we are seeing is that once you have a range above 420 miles, more range doesn’t really matter,” said Musk to the Tesla fan site Elektrek. “There are essentially zero trips above 400 miles where the driver doesn’t need to stop for restroom, food, coffee, etc., anyway.”

That might be true, but in the very cold winter weather, at U.S. highway speeds, it’s not unusual to see more than 30% less than the EPA rating in an EV—Tesla included. 

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid+

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid+

Unless Musk is pulling a clever media maneuver and perhaps making every Plaid a Plaid+, Tesla effectively cedes the upper reaches of driving range to fellow California automaker Lucid, which maintains that it will top an EPA-rated 500 miles for at least one version of its Air electric luxury sedan. 

Whether this is a hiccup with a new battery format, an act of saving face for what would have been a world-first range number, or as Musk rationalizes and suggests, truly a decision to purge a vehicle that’s redundant, there’s almost certainly more to this story. It’s likely going to be an interesting week.  

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