Electric vehicles are destined to become the future of transportation in the United States, and no company is doing more for the industry than Tesla Motors. The company has been leading the electric vehicle market with a focus on innovation and high-quality products. While their vehicles have some of the higher price tags in the electric vehicle market, they also feature high-capacity batteries, premium components, enhanced safety features, and strong performance.
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 with a goal of accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and electric vehicles. The company’s first all-electric car, the Tesla Roadster, was in production from 2008 to 2012. The Roadster paved the way for the company’s current success—it was the first mass-produced car to run exclusively on lithium-ion battery cells, as well as the first all-electric vehicle capable of a 200+ mile range.
Since then, the company has released multiple variations of the Tesla EV: the Model S in 2012, the Model X in 2015, the Model 3 in 2017, and the Model Y in 2020. Each model fills a different role in the electric vehicle market: sedans, crossover vehicles, and SUVs are all available. Future plans include a second generation Roadster, the Cybertruck (a pickup truck with futuristic stylings), a semi-trailer truck, a minibus, and an all-terrain vehicle. The Tesla EVs in current production each have a few variations that we will explore below.
Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S is the company’s flagship electric vehicle. It was first introduced in June 2012, but has received updates and refreshes over the past decade. The Model S was the top-selling electric vehicle of 2015 and 2016, but this record was supplanted by the more economical Model 3.
There are currently two variations on the Model S: Long Range and Plaid.
Model S Long Range: This model features 405 miles of EPA estimated range, along with a 3.1 second 0-60 mph time and top speeds of 155 mph. The vehicle has an AWD Dual Motor, 5 seats, and 28 cubic feet of cargo space. The Model S Long Range has a price tag of $94,990.
Model S Plaid: The Plaid edition adds luxurious features to the regular Model S. The vehicle still sports 28 cubic feet of cargo space and 5 seats, but that’s where the similarities end. With an AWD Tri Motor, the Model S Plaid is capable of 200 mph tops speeds and a 0-60 mph time of 1.99s (an impressive achievement for any vehicle, but especially for electric cars). The Model S Plaid has an estimated single-charge range of 396 miles and is priced at $129,990.
Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 is the most affordable electric vehicle in the company’s lineup. The car is a midsize four-door sedan and has the least amount of cargo space out of the four Tesla models currently available.
By 2021, the Model 3 became the first all-electric vehicle to sell over 1 million units and currently holds the record for top selling plug-in electric vehicle.
There are three different versions of the Model 3: Standard Range Plus, Long Range, and Performance.
Model 3 Standard Range Plus: This model from Tesla Motors is their most modestly priced electric car at $43,990. The RWD vehicle has 5 seats, 23 cubic feet of cargo space, and a 140mph top speed. With an EPA estimated range of 262 miles, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus is the perfect Tesla for in-town driving.
Model 3 Long Range: The Model 3 Long Range adds a few quality of life features at only a small price increase over the standard model ($49,990). The 353 mile EPA estimated range allows owners to travel further and charge less frequently. The Long Range swaps the RWD for an AWD Dual Motor system, capable of 145 top speeds and a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds.
Model 3 Performance: The Model 3 Performance continues with the same formula—23 cubic feet of cargo space and 5 seats—but adds more power for a premium ride. The AWD Dual Motor is capable of 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds and top speeds of 162mph. The Model 3 Performance features an estimated range of 315 miles and is priced at $57,990.
Tesla Model X
The Tesla Model X is a midsize luxury crossover. Being over twice the price of a standard Model 3, the X packs in luxury features not found in the other electric vehicles. One of the most notable changes is the falcon-wing rear doors that open upwards instead of out. The Model X has a panoramic windshield and full self-driving capabilities (which will gradually become available with future software updates).
The Model X is built on the same platform as the Model S, but the X is larger and adds around 10% to the overall weight. It has the largest cargo capacity (88 cu. ft.) of any Tesla electric vehicle.
There are two versions of the Model X currently available: Long Range and Plaid.
Model X Long Range: This Tesla takes electric vehicles to the next level. Over 88 cubic feet of cargo space is available—over 3 times that of the Model 3. With 7 seats and 360 miles of EPA estimated range, this is the perfect family electric vehicle. The AWD Dual Motor is still powerful enough to boast 155 mph top speeds and a 3.8s 0-60 mph time, even with the added weight that comes with a larger vehicle. The Model X Long Range is priced at $104,990.
Model X Plaid: The Plaid edition of the Model X keeps many of the same features—7 seats and 88 cubic feet of cargo space—but adds an AWD Tri Motor for even better driving performance. This premium electric vehicle can hit top speeds of 163 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 2.5 seconds. The Model X Plaid has an estimated range of 340 miles and has a purchase price of $119,990.
Tesla Model Y
The Tesla Model Y sits somewhere between the Model 3 and Model X—it features the extra cargo space and seats of the X, but at nearly half the cost, making it more accessible for the average family. It is classified as a compact crossover utility vehicle.
There are two editions of the Model Y: Long Range and Performance.
Model Y Long Range: This electric vehicle serves the function of a family vehicle, featuring 76 cubic feet of cargo space, 7 seats, and 326 miles of EPA estimated range. The AWD Dual Motor performs modestly, with a 4.8 second 0-60 mph time and a 135 mph top speed. The Model Y Long Range is priced at $56,990.
Model Y Performance: This model from Tesla Motors ditches the two rear seats for added power and functionality. The estimated range is slightly lower (303 miles), but the AWD Dual Motor can reach top speeds of 155 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds. The Model Y Performance will set you back $61,990.
Tesla EV Features
Tesla EVs may have higher price tags than most other electric cars, but this is due to the enhanced performance and premium features that come standard in every vehicle. Their autopilot and self-driving capabilities are the first of their kind, and entertainment features like streaming services and web browsing add modern touches to the vehicles.
Tesla cars currently feature an assistive-driving system that allows the electric vehicles to steer, brake, and accelerate in their lanes, as well as park themselves. Using a suite of 8 cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, the autopilot system takes in vast amounts of data that, according to Tesla, gives the car more situational awareness than any human can possess. Their Hardware 3 computer runs the Tesla neural net, which is effectively the ‘brain’ of the autopilot system.
The current Tesla autopilot functionality still requires constant driver supervision. The company plans on releasing software updates in the future to transition into full self-driving electric cars, although this still may be years away from reality. Regulatory and technological hurdles still stand in the way of full self-driving vehicles.
Tesla electric vehicles with the MCU2 processor (2018 models or later) have the ability to run Caraoke, the company’s proprietary version of karaoke. The software displays lyrics on the car’s screen and gives passengers the option of playing a song with or without the vocal track.
Caraoke can be used while the car is in motion and is designed to not obstruct any information that the driver may need. The song list is provided by StingRay, a popular karaoke company, which means that all of your favorite sing-along songs should be present. Caraoke requires the Premium Connectivity subscription (currently $9.99 per month).
Entertainment streaming services are available to Premium Connectivity subscribers. This includes music streaming like Spotify and Slacker, all supplied through the car’s internal data connection (no phone or hotspot needed). In addition, video streaming services—including Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube—are accessible while the car is parked.
These services will still function without the Premium Connectivity subscription, but you must be connected to Wi-Fi or a hotspot.
Tesla electric vehicles feature an internet browser, allowing you and your passengers to stay connected while traveling (although the vehicle must be parked). If you have the Premium Connectivity subscription, the internet browser can be accessed from anywhere. Otherwise, the car would need to be connected to Wi-Fi or a hotspot.
Adaptive Suspension (formerly referred to as Smart Air Suspension in past Tesla EV models) allows drivers to adjust the softness or firmness of their ride based on environmental conditions. For example, if you’re driving down a gravel road, you may choose to soften up the ride. In addition, you can change the clearance height as needed, allowing the vehicle to traverse steep driveways, deep snow, or large speed bumps.
Tesla vehicles feature a Sentry Mode to help deter potential threats and break-ins. To enable Sentry Mode, car owners can use the voice commands “Keep Tesla Safe” or “Keep Summer Safe” which are references to the animated TV show Rick and Morty. While enabled, Sentry Mode will alert passersby that the camera system is recording all activity. If a break-in occurs, the alarm will sound, the car’s audio system will play music at maximum volume, and the entire incident will be recorded.
In a nod to the guitar amplifiers featured in This Is Spinal Tap, the air conditioning and volume settings in a Tesla go to 11.
By pushing the appropriate button on the dashboard screen, your Tesla vehicle can enter romance mode—a roaring fireplace populates the center screen, the seat heaters engage, and soulful, sultry music begins to play.
Tesla and the Future of Renewable Energy
For the past decade, Tesla Motors has been at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution. Not only are they one of the top manufacturers of electric vehicles, but they are also pioneers in the solar power sphere with their Solar Roof and Powerwall products.
For people looking to make sustainable switches in their life, purchasing a Tesla EV is a great option. To add to the ‘green’ factor of their electric vehicle, many Tesla owners choose to use solar power or other renewable energy when they have the option. In states like Texas and California, consumers are able to choose their own energy providers, including companies that only provide electricity from renewable energy sources like Rhythm.