back to article Musk: 'Tesla's electric Model S cars will be less crap soon. I PROMISE'

Billionaire biz baron Elon Musk has promised Tesla's Model S customers that the electric cars will shortly receive a software update "to end range anxiety". The Register has previously reported that 'leccy motor fans fear being stranded in the middle of nowhere without juice. As our own Vulture at the Wheel Simon Rockman …

  1. Mark 85

    Most folks in the US have seemed to become dependent on the little light that comes on for "low fuel".. I guess they can't read or trust the gas gauge. I'm wondering if Tesla has come up with a software fix to do a "low electricity" light? Or maybe just a small trailer full of D-cells for the reserve?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      You make fun, but the reality is that on many used American cars, you really CAN'T trust the gas gauge. The more miles, the less you can trust it.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        @ecofeco is American car build quality so poor?

        I've only driven European and Japanese cars over the last 30 and I've never had one with a dodgy fuel guage, even my 18 year old BMW M535i or my old rust bucket Mini Metro.

    2. Nate Amsden


      Of course the problem is more location/quantity of charging stations. It's rare on my road trips(western U.S.) that I'm more than 30 miles away from a gas station at any given time. When I drive at night I have more range anxiety though even with gas, knowing that some gas stations aren't open during really late hours. Was very close to running out of gas one night several years ago because I couldn't find an open gas station(~1-2 AM), eventually found one (it wasn't the brand of gas I wanted to use, I don't recall the brand but didn't have any choice if I wanted gas at that moment). I aim not to get under 60(bare minimum) miles of range when driving late at night before refueling(road trips anyway).

      When around home though I often drive my car to the bones(gas gauge stops telling me how many miles are left), I've been told this isn't a great idea to do but I do it anyway, I don't plan to have this car much past the warranty(75k miles), I got it because it's fun not because I want it to last forever or give me wonderful miles per gallon. I can't imagine not having a car after this that doesn't have torque vectoring all wheel drive (or turbo w/direct injection though these two are pretty common now)

      1. DesktopGuy

        Re: locations

        I'm hoping their solution to "end range anxiety" are really long extension cords!

        Another thing, Americans and gas stations when it's clearly a liquid.

        PS: Yes I know gas is short for Gasoline, but come on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: locations

          PS: Yes I know gas is short for Gasoline, but come on.

          Must get confusing when they need to buy real gas (LPG or CNG)…

          1. cd

            Re: locations

            Gets really confusing when we offer Brits a lift, when they don't own a building to put it in.

          2. Spiracle

            Re: locations

            Must get confusing when they need to buy real gas (LPG or CNG)…

            Especially as the 'L' in 'LPG' stands for 'Liquified'.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: locations

              Must get confusing when they need to buy real gas (LPG or CNG)…

              Especially as the 'L' in 'LPG' stands for 'Liquified'.

              True, but that's because of how compressed the gas is. Let it out of the bottle at room temperature and it soon returns to being a gas.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. JassMan

      @Mark 85

      I've always wondered why they don't have a backup power unit comprising a small "A" frame trailer with a single castor wheel and a small diesel generator which you could buy or rent when you are going on holiday. The advantage of an "A" frame trailer is that anyone can reverse them without struggling to remember the complicated method of steering a normal trailer, and also the 2 legs could carry the power so that you don't need a separate power cable. Control signals to stop and start the generator, switch on brake lights and indicators etc could also be injected as HF pulses onto one leg meaning that there is nothing to plug in.

      1. Vic

        Re: @Mark 85

        anyone can reverse them without struggling to remember the complicated method of steering a normal trailer


        You grab the bottom of the steering wheel, and move your hand in whichever direction you want the trailer to go...


    4. DropBear

      My guess? Simply some sort of announcement of imminent nationwide deployment of charging stations every mile or so....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Probably right - a tie-in with the other power networks so you can charge you Tesla for free at a Tesla station or one of the public charging stations. I think technically you can now but it's only free at a Tesla owned station.

  2. MrT

    Instead of...

    ...the optional third row of seats, fitment of a couple of child-sized hamster wheels and dynamos. And there are three seats in the second row that could have pedals fitted - a good backup in the old Sinclair C5.

    Not possible OTA though, so it's probably just a change to the range calculations... unless it's a pop-up advisory to return to the dealer for free fitment of child-sized hamster wheels etc.

    1. Cliff

      Make more effort...


  3. BongoJoe


    Let's hope that they're not producting this patch.

  4. bazza Silver badge

    Hmmm, seems difficult to think what could be done. If they make the range indicator more 'reassuring', isn't that just going to result in people actually getting stuck in the middle of nowhere?

    Fundamentally Tesla cannot address the real concern for anyone thinking of taking on a longish journey in their car. With a petrol or diesel, you just fill up in moments almost anywhere you like. It takes real talent to stop by the side of the road having run out. But with an electric car you cannot fill up; you have to get to your destination and wait several hours for the car to recharge. If that destination is a long way away you have no margin for error. Extra traffic, a diversion, all sorts of unexpected eventualities that you cannot control can change your electricity usage. There's not many who would relish the hassle of dealing with the consequences.

    1. Malmesbury

      The Tesla supercharger stations can "fill up" at a rate of 170 miles of range in 30 minutes - though topping off if you are at 80% charge will be slower.

      Interestingly, electric cars become more efficient the slower you drive. Extra traffic would actually extend your range....

      1. Adam 1

        >Interestingly, electric cars become more efficient the slower you drive.

        According to physics, that rather applies to anything moving through anything:


        The velocity above is squared, so you double your speed relative to the air, it quadruples the energy required to overcome air resistance.

        Where your point makes (more) sense is that there is a minimum amount of fuel needed to keep the motor turning over at low speed or idle, and this fuel is not achieving useful distance as it would at cruising speed. Of course it requires you to ignore things like headlights, air conditioners, CD players, brake lights and all the other goodies whose fuel requirements are not necessarily a function of the speed you are travelling.

        On the original point, a detour will require more energy than you planned. Range anxiety is not so much caused by the km per charge, but the time to recharge. If my petrol light comes on 50km from home, I will fill up even though I know I would probably make it. That is because we are talking about a 5 minute inconvenience. If it meant waiting another 30 minutes, I am far more likely to risk it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Detours can take less energy: it depends on the comparable distance, speed, terrain and flow of the detour. People don't drive on motorways to save fuel, they do it to save time and (especially if it's a least-cost-to-builder network like the UK) it's not the shortest route it's it's not the shortest cost sometimes the slower route is shorter or more efficient. The fastest way for me to get to work adds about 10% distance, higher speed and more hills, compared with the shortest and most efficient route.

          Motors have much more linear efficiency than engines, and BEVs are single-geared, and have regenerative braking. Their energy usage patterns are way different to internal combustion engine vehicles.

          If you're 50km from home in a Tesla and need to recharge then it's very likely that you could have taken action in advance to deal with that. That's the same principle as you should expect from the coming Tesla update. Here's a constant speed v range graph from Tesla:

        2. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge


          In an electric car, surely you'd be perfectly happy to be on the "reserve tank" when you roll down your drive, because then you plug the car in and when you get up in the morning it is fully charged.

          It isn't like the petrol car & petrol station. There is nothing to "risk" about getting home nearly empty. Unless maybe you get a lot of power cuts?

          As regards all the sundry items like headlights and CD players, they are nearly inconsequential in power use compared to moving the car. Since 100 horsepower = 74.570 kW, in the average Tesla sized car even running a 3kW fan heater would barely make a dent if you were driving at high rev motorway speeds - it would be less than 5% more fuel used. And I'm fairly sure the Tesla uses a lot less (non-motive) electric than that, even with everything on and turned up to 11!

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            perfectly happy to be on the "reserve tank"

            A long time ago the VW beetle had no fuel gauge, let alone a low fuel light. There was a small reserve tank and a switch. Beetle coughs and slows, switch to reserve and find a petrol station in the next 20 miles or so. Not so much use on todays motorways, or try leaving Nelson for Greymouth - "No fuel for 150km"

      2. bazza Silver badge

        "Interestingly, electric cars become more efficient the slower you drive. Extra traffic would actually extend your range...."

        Not if you have the air conditioning switched on...

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Or the heating. Petrol and diesel cars take waste heat from the engine, but electric cars presumably require actual electric powered heaters which will drain the battery.

          1. jzlondon

            Yes, but barely. Power required to heat the cabin is tiny compared to the power required to push the car along.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In the Leaf at 20C on the flat, you get 6.3mi/kWh @ 35mph and 3.3mi/kWh @ 70mph.

          Which implies that to travel 70mi@35mph would take 2 hours and use 11.11kWh.

          70mi@70mph would take 1 hour and use 21.21kWh.

          If you have an in-car air conditioner that uses 10.10kW I suggest that you replace it.

          Being stuck in a traffic jam would be bad, but just for low-speed traffic, the air-conditioner really isn't a consideration.

          Heating is really more of a consideration, although real attempts at BEVs have heat pumps which reduces the amount of power used to heat the car in all but the most severe cold, and, so I've read, really heat the car well.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            It'd be 4x the energy required assuming everything else runs at the same efficiency. Remember k = 1/2mv^2

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What can they do? Remove uncertainty, which is the source of "range anxiety".

      Tesla's been working on advanced energy/range calculation for quite some time and it's believed that when they did a coast-to-coast US run they were using a beta. It was hoped that they'd already have released this by now, but as always it was late. A recent software update improved the range calculation by taking terrain into account. Advanced calculation needs to add real-time weather and traffic.

      You want to get to your destination as fast as possible. BEVs are somewhat range-limited and although Tesla Superchargers can charge up to 120kW, it's still relatively time-consuming, and it can only charge at that speed when the battery's around 10% full, with the charging rate gradually tapering as the battery fills up. The fast rate of charge nearer to empty still means that to minimize travel time you typically want to travel at higher speed and deplete your battery as much as possible, but the problem is that there aren't chargers every few miles so you really don't want to make a mistake. The more accurate the prediction, the more confident you can be about trying to empty your battery, the less you need to hedge, the less work you need to do to adjust to remaining range.

      But, how fast to travel depends on whether higher speed (higher energy) travel would cover the gap to the next Supercharger. Plus, every Supercharger stop means a diversion off the highway, with the amount of diversion depending on the location (Tesla prefers locations close to the highway, but that's not always possible), and that diversion adds time. Also, a twist to the Supercharger design is that each Supercharger box can supply 120kW but it serves a pair of stalls on a first-come-first-better-served basis, so if you would arrive with all the "first" slots taken up charging will take longer. So, sometimes it might be better to drive more slowly to skip a Supercharger, or simply to arrive later with more energy because you're probably not going to be able to charge at maximum rate.

      As for the idea that "If that destination is a long way away you have no margin for error" in an electric car, these are Teslas we're talking about. They have larger batteries, with rated ranges over 200 miles on the EPA (and not just on the New European Dream Cycle), and Tesla is building their Supercharger network with spacing that allows for crappy conditions.

      While there's nothing that can be done right now to make long-distance travel _as fast as_ in a petrol/diesel car, more accurate energy-use prediction can help reduce average travel time. Since BEVs' ability to be refueled at home make everyday driving _more_ convenient, so the more you narrow the gap on longer trips, the more the overall balance of convenience shifts to plug-ins.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        "While there's nothing that can be done right now to make long-distance travel _as fast as_ in a petrol/diesel car, more accurate energy-use prediction can help reduce average travel time. Since BEVs' ability to be refueled at home make everyday driving _more_ convenient, so the more you narrow the gap on longer trips, the more the overall balance of convenience shifts to plug-ins."

        Right, but if you ever need to do a long journey you'll be taking a different car. No one is going to do a 500 mile journey in a vehicle if it means stopping for a few hours every 150 - 200 miles. For most people that means owning another car. And if you have a 'spare' car that you're not using every day then there's not much point, environmentally speaking, in having the battery powered car.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          For most people that means owning another car. And if you have a 'spare' car that you're not using every day then there's not much point, environmentally speaking, in having the battery powered car

          Those are what are known as "rental cars".

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Those are what are known as "rental cars".

            That model only works while most people don't have electric cars. If the majority of cars were plug-in electric the demand for IC rental cars would be unmanageable. There would be massive over-demand for rentals every holiday weekend, for example, but there would be limited supply, since hardly anyone would want to buy them. Maintaining a rental parc would no longer be cost effective.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tesla have already demonstrated a battery swap system - drive up - battery automatically gets swapped for a fully charged one - drive off. Probably quicker than filling up with petrol / diesel. That gets rid of the hassle.

          They just need to add more charging stations to the network. People love to quote these 500 mile per day journeys but that's about 8+ hours sold driving at full motorway speeds. There can't be many people that do that and if they could do a battery swap out rather than recharge it's possible.

          1. petur

            Yes, there's a video that shows two Tesla's driving in for battery swap while one car was standing at the pump...

            But they failed when they then told the swapped battery was on loan, and you had to come back to the same point to swap it back with your own battery.

        3. John Robson Silver badge

          Stopping on a journey

          Is highly recommended. It allows your brain to rest, and your kids to go to the loo.

          I take a fairly regular 300 mile journey, and that gets split in two, with over an hour in the gap - because we take lunch/dinner as part of the journey.

          Far more relaxing, much nicer for the kids and I'm properly alert for the second half of the journey.

          1. Jerry Masterson

            Re: Stopping on a journey

            Have you ever been tested for narcolepsy?

            Seriously, needing over an hour to recover from two hours of driving doesn't sound right. My wife would divorce me and the kids would get out and take a bus if I dragged out a trip like that. Stopping for a half hour every four or five of driving is more normal. Our vacations typically take us 1500 miles in a little over a day and a half. And that includes a nice night at a hotel.

        4. JRowland

          To be fair to Tesla, that's not quite the situation for Model S owners in the UK today - unless they live in Scotland.

          At any road legal speed, the 85kwh models will run for at least three hours' driving from a full charge. If it stops at a supercharger station, it gets another 170 miles of range in about 30 minutes.

          (As an aside, you should be stopping by three hours anyway - unless you are some kind of robotic being immune to fatigue. The DfT recommends a 15 minute break every 2 hours for us mere humans.)

          There's actually a lot more supercharger stations in the UK than there were even a few months ago - over 20 sites now. There aren't many places south of the Scottish border still inaccessible via superchargers. The network has some way to go, but Tesla have two years to work on it while they get the Model 3 ready. This might actually work...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            At any road legal speed, the 85kwh models will run for at least three hours' driving from a full charge.

            So even if you drive like a nun, you can't go more than about an hour & a bit from home unless you're sure you can charge up before you turn round for home?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Fundamentally Tesla cannot address the real concern for anyone thinking of taking on a longish journey in their car. With a petrol or diesel, you just fill up in moments almost anywhere you like."

      Well they could expand their network of charging stations substantially, they could offer a mobile 'emergency' charging service with a van containing a generator, they could link in with other electric car charging stations and they can start installing the battery replacement service they have demo'd (they can swap a battery quicker than you can fill a car with fuel).

      Perhaps they might do a deal with someone like Tesco to add charging points at all stores - that would effectively cover the UK very quickly!

      It's not a matter of if - it's a matter of when - yes if I tried to drive anywhere in the UK today in a Telsa I would have range anxiety as there are not (yet) sufficient charging points.

    4. martinusher Silver badge

      Not quite that bad

      >you have to get to your destination and wait several hours for the car to recharge

      It takes about a half-hour to fully charge a Tesla at one of their charging stations. There are a number of these in California at present, the goal is to provide 100,000.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy to do

    Tesla knows where the charging stations are, so the car can also know. Combined with the car's position, and the amount of battery left, it could display a screen that shows all the charging stations that are within a safe reach at the current battery level, and notify the driver if they are in danger of being 'stranded' (i.e. having less safe range than the distance to the nearest station)

    If you have a destination programmed in, or based on the highway you're on or the general direction you're traveling it could alert you as you approach each charging station how far the next ones are and warn you if you're approaching the 'last chance' charging station.

    1. JLV

      Re: Easy to do

      Reasonable assumption.

      Maybe you could also tweak the car to go into 'economy mode' (while giving the driver the option to override) in order to ensure safe arrival at the recharging station. Things like powering down anything not strictly necessary, limiting top speed to a maximum efficiency speed envelope.

      Bit like my phone does, though I figure there are less non-essential options to optimize significantly, asides from the speed. i.e. the bulk of the work is moving the car forward which is kinda the point.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy to do

        You'd need a shortish warning period for that...I'd hate for a speed limiter to cut in half-way through overtaking.

    2. David Kelly 2

      Re: Easy to do

      I have owned a Model S 85 for 15 months and believe it does just that. It knows all Superchargers and if one sets a destination where charge will be 8% or less it tells you just how close it thinks you are cutting things.

      The only thing Tesla could do to reduce my "range anxiety" would be to build the Superchargers which were promised "by the end of 2014." Had to drive the diesel 1100 miles this week for lack of those Superchargers.

      The Model S's "fuel gauge" is pretty darn accurate, I guess. Have never driven until it stops. But when it says 200 miles is available then 100 miles later its pretty close to displaying the expected 100 miles remaining.

  6. King Jack

    Perpetual motion

    They'll just supply a mini windmill which you hang out of the window when the battery gets low.

    1. DropBear

      Re: Perpetual motion

      ...or, you know, a built-in emergency sail in each Tesla...

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Perpetual motion

        built-in emergency sail

        Tacking down the M1? I've seen those drivers...

  7. goldcd

    I think this update is for me.

    I have an ancient hydro-carbon burning car - but I have range anxiety.

    I walk to work (hence the ancient car, my wife stole), but like to drive occasionally.

    Today I got in, 100 mile drive ahead of me, and the fuel guage was at 1/8.


    OK, so it was immediately pointed out that there are many places selling petrol between and where we wanted to go - but I didn't feel placated. Seemingly we'd magically come across a filling station...

    ... well we did, by chance, we could stil all have been left stranded by the road and devoured by the locals for all my wife cares..

    ..This Tesla update feel like something that would appeal to me.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: I think this update is for me.

      The update... for your car or your wife???????

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The dash will display a hypnotic-state-inducing pattern so the driver will remain calm.

    1. DiViDeD

      Re: Hypnotism

      A bit like a combination of Clippy and Eddie, your shipboard computer:

      "Hi there! You appear to be driving over a cliff. Would you like me to play some calming music to help you relax?"

      1. Long John Brass

        Re: Hypnotism

        <Calm computer voice>

        Your avalable music choices are

        1 - Killed by death (Motorhead)

        2 - Don't fear the reaper (Blue Öyster Cult)

        </Calm computer voice>




        <Calm computer voice>

        Playing .... crazy frog

        </Calm computer voice>

  9. JRowland

    Probably not a range improvement as such

    I'd guess this is the promised improvements to navigation: Automatic routing via charge stations (perhaps even with live status updates) for long journeys, and more accurate range estimation - accounting for weather, traffic, elevation etc.

    The much-vaunted (and somewhat underwhelming) "torque sleep" feature is already released and only affects the dual motor vehicles, not the whole fleet.

    I seriously doubt much more efficiency can be had from their PEM tech - which they've been improving for nearly a decade now - with just a software update. Besides cycling the batteries harder (which could be a really bad idea), I'm not expecting any major range improvement without hardware changes.

  10. samlebon2306

    I guess Prozac would help with this kind of anxiety. 10mg would be enough, but it would make you lose your long distance sex drive.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple solution

    Every week Elon ships a bottle of Prozac to all Tesla customer. The real solution may be in pure lithium batteries that might show in the next five or so years.

  12. noominy.noom

    Trip length is relative

    I find it instructional to see how people talk about trip length in different forums. In some of the comments above a two hour stint is considered long five hours total is common. I am in the U.S. and travel frequently, most commonly by auto. Four hours between breaks is regular. I do a max of twenty hours in one day, though I am getting older and haven't done that in the last couple of years. Everything is just further apart. I live in the midwest and going to any store other than a grocery store is 80 to 90 miles round trip. We don't think twice about doing it after work on any night of the week. Of course, we don't like to waste fuel so we will attempt to wait until we need more than one or two things so we don't go multiple nights a week. But there are other things that happen, such as kids sports, etc. that have similar distances so several times a week we will be making trips that are hour and a half to two hours round trip.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: Trip length is relative

      All I can say to that is, have you considered looking at mail order? I hear you can shop on the internet these days too.

      (I say this as someone in the UK who lives too far away to get pizza or almost anything else delivered to home)

    2. johnnybee

      Re: Trip length is relative

      "The difference between America and England is that Americans think 100 years is a long time, while the English think 100 miles is a long way." --Earle Hitchner

  13. chemnerd

    Golf Outing Anyone ?

    My golf outing is a 560 mile slightly greater than 8 h drive. The trip uses almost all of Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania which is non-supercharged. I would never make a round trip from the last supercharger in Ohio. Even if I could afford a Tesla I couldn't make the same trip, I did in my Ford Fiesta last year.

  14. JRowland

    Seems I called it

    Range Assurance and Trip Planner.

    The much-requested Valet Mode has also appeared, along with a couple of new driver aids for cars with the Autopilot hardware and a relaxed speed limiter for the P85D.

    The news release is already up at

  15. TM2015

    It's all very well having the chargers, but how many are there at each location?

    The biggest problem with the charging stations is that if there are say 2 plug in points, and both are already in use, you've got potentially up to half an hour to wait before you can even plug in. People at a petrol pump will be there for a few minutes, so if there's a queue it's never too long to wait. But with EV points, it's a LONG wait.

    And as for ones in supermarkets, car parks etc, it's not uncommon in our part of the UK (SW) to find that people have just parked in the dedicated charging space, thus rendering it useless just because it was a bit closer to the supermarket door than any other space. A bit like people abusing parent spaces or disabled spaces, these EV spaces get abused as well.

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