We drove 1,600 km in a Tesla Model 3: it’s not the range that counts, but the efficiency

We drove exactly 1,608 kilometers aboard the least expensive Tesla Model 3, without ever fearing for autonomy. Why ? Because efficiency is there.

Autonomy is undoubtedly the first obstacle to the acquisition of a 100% electric car. And it’s completely legitimate: no one wants to end up with an empty battery in the middle of a journey. This is already the case with a telephone, which has become a vital object in our daily lives (this is not necessarily a good thing). When it is easy to anticipate a full tank of gas with a thermal vehicle, a 100% electric car requires a completely different organization, more focused on foresight.

Numerama was able to test the standard Tesla Model 3 – the one that recently increased in price – on long journeys, in March 2022. We drove from Lille to Strasbourg, more than 500 kilometers – while the car is technically not able to ensure such a course without connecting (510 kilometers, according to the WLTP cycle which does not reflect reality). Did we fear the breakdown? Not at all. Two reasons explain this assurance: the network of Superchargers, but above all the efficiency of the Model 3, that is to say its ability to use as little energy as possible when driving.

Tesla Model 3 (2022)
Tesla Model 3 (2022). // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

Forget autonomy, the real argument of a 100% electric car is its efficiency

Efficiency is essential, in the sense that it makes it possible to best optimize the energy capacity provided by a battery. This is a fairly exact science, without which manufacturers would make the following bet: install the largest battery possible, to obtain the greatest possible autonomy, taking into account the constraints of weight and size. Efficiency is obviously governed by a number of more or less controllable factors. There is the technological know-how of companies, which can design a less energy-consuming engine, for example. There are also the external conditions, the driving itself, the speed or the use of the comfort features.

The consumption of an electric car is expressed in kWh per 100 kilometres, i.e., concretely, the energy the vehicle needs to cover these 100 kilometres. For a thermal vehicle, we are talking about liters of fuel consumed. The pattern is the same: the lower the fuel or kWh consumption, the longer the car will be able to drive.

Players in the automotive market are obviously looking for multiple ways to improve efficiency, to avoid stupidly increasing the size of the battery. They can go through visible equipment (example: aerodynamic rims) or invisible (example: a heat pump, which recycles hot air for better management of the temperature of the passenger compartment). In short, there are levers to move efficiency in the right direction. On this point, Tesla is really one of the good students.

Tesla Model 3 (2022)
Tesla Model 3 (2022). // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

16.9 kWh per 100 kilometers

We drove for exactly 1,608 kilometers, consuming 272 kWh in all. This gives a consumption of 16.9 kWh per 100 kilometers. It’s an excellent result, especially since we mostly drove on the motorway without trying to save energy (we stayed at the maximum authorized speed). On expressways, keeping the car at a high speed — 130 km/h — consumes a lot of energy (it’s the same with fuel, by the way). In this exercise, the Model 3 was very comfortable.

Here are the details of some of our trips :

% battery starting % battery on arrival Kilometers Consumption (for 100 km)
Trip 1 100% 80% 72km 16.3kWh
Trip 2 100% 59% 139km 17.1 kWh
Trip 3 100% 88% 54km 12.5 kWh
Trip 4 87% 41% 141km 19.1 kWh
Route 5 100% 85% 55km 16.3kWh
Route 6 85% 38% 161km 16.7 kWh
Trip 7 98% 45% 171km 15.5 kWh
Route 8 90% 19% 241km 16.8 kWh
Trip 9 92% 51% 143km 16.8 kWh
Trip 10 90% 26% 234km 15.6 kWh

As you can see, we never exceeded a consumption of 20 kWh/100 km. For comparison, Volvo’s XC40 Recharge oscillated between 22 and 24 kWh for 100 kilometers during our test, while the Ford Mustang Mach-E was around 19/25 kWh. This shows how the Model 3 does better, while maintaining more than respectable road performance (0 to 100 km / h in 6.1 seconds).

You will also notice that we were able to travel more than 200 kilometers on the highway without stopping and, above all, without ever fearing not to arrive at our destination. Note also that Tesla offers the choice between displaying the percentage of remaining autonomy or the number of kilometers that the car can still travel. At no time did we favor the second, more anxiety-provoking option – another proof of the confidence placed in the Model 3. Especially since the trip planner integrated into the car’s GPS is super reliable and relevant (we go back its destination and it will itself define the load stops).

Admittedly, we took advantage of milder weather than in the middle of winter. Read: when temperatures are lower, consumption increases. But we are not in summer either.

Tesla Model 3 (2022)
Tesla Model 3 (2022). // Source: Maxime Claudel for Numerama

And how much does that cost ?

There are several ways to charge your Tesla:

  • At home, on a domestic outlet, with a cost that depends on your energy contract (about 15 cents per kWh);
  • On a terminal, with a cost that depends on the terminal.

Tesla has its own network of Superchargers, and it’s the preferred option when embarking on a long journey. The price per kWh depends on the location of the terminal integrated into the manufacturer’s network.

Here are the prices of the Superchargers we plugged into during our 1,000 miles:

  • Senlis, €0.46/kWh;
  • Namur, €0.39/kWh;
  • Metz, €0.46/kWh;
  • Achern, €0.46/kWh;
  • Arlon, €0.49/kWh;
  • Lille Lesquin, €0.46/kWh.

This gives an average of €0.45 per kWh. If we reduce this price to our consumption of 16.9 kWh, the 100 kilometers will have cost around €7.6. If we compare to a thermal sedan which consumes 8 liters of gasoline for 100 kilometers, the advantage is clearly in favor of the Model 3, even more when the prices at the pump soar (7.6 € against about fifteen euros for petrol). In short, on the highway, driving a Tesla halves the bill.

On arrival, it is less autonomy than efficiency, associated with a network of efficient Superchargers, which allows the Model 3 to ensure long journeys smoothly (including in its standard variant). This allows Tesla to no longer make autonomy an issue and Elon Musk to affirm that a Model S with 1,000 kilometers is useless.

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