Edmunds puts Tesla's range to the test

This undated photo by Edmunds shows five electric vehicles at a test track in the Mojave Desert, in California, undergoing testing for maximum range. (Scott Jacobs/Edmunds via AP)
This undated photo by Edmunds shows five electric vehicles at a test track in the Mojave Desert, in California, undergoing testing for maximum range. (Scott Jacobs/Edmunds via AP) (Edmunds)

Edmunds’ test team recently published the results of its real-world range testing for electric vehicles. Notably, every Tesla the team tested in 2020 came up short of matching the EPA’s range estimate. Almost all other EVs Edmunds tested met or exceeded those estimates.

That result, as you can likely guess, ruffled some feathers at Tesla headquarters.

A CHALLENGE FROM TESLA

The lackluster results prompted the automaker to reach out to the Edmunds test team. Tesla’s engineers disputed our figures and argued that by stopping our EV range tests at zero indicated miles, rather than pressing on until the battery died, we were underestimating their vehicles’ true range.

Tesla said its vehicles have a safety buffer that ensures drivers can keep going even when the indicated range displayed zero miles. And when you factored in this buffer, Tesla argued, it would allow their vehicles to match the EPA range estimates, which are typically measured when the battery is fully depleted.

It was a challenge we at Edmunds were up for, so we rented a 7.5-mile-long closed-course oval at an unaffiliated automaker’s proving ground in California’s Mojave Desert. This facility allowed us to safely drive five EVs until their battery power completely ran out. Tesla provided a Model 3 Long Range for us to test. We also brought along the Edmunds-owned Model 3 Standard Range Plus and Model Y Performance used in our original range testing, plus two non-Teslas for comparison purposes: a Ford Mustang Mach-E and an Volkswagen ID.4. These were also provided by their manufacturers.

THE TEST

Most in-car range meters factor in your recent driving habits when forecasting the remaining range. Edmunds’ editors needed to drive the vehicles in the same manner to normalize the range meters and provide a level playing field.