Tesla D is more revolutionary than you think

Tesla’s mysterious D has been revealed and it is cool. Elon Musk introduced the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version of Model S at a theatrical event at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (where SpaceX is headquartered). Musk didn’t just show a slide of the goodies – a huge robot arm lifted up a Model S chassis and turned it sideways on, so the audience could get a good look at the new and improved powertrain.

Tesla Model S D

Reports of the new features are all over the media, but as usual, the mainstream press has no idea of the true significance of this. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal – Model S has added AWD capability, which is handy in wintry climates, and also a few autonomy/safety features, which other luxury models already have.


To understand why D is not only a huge improvement to Model S, but a revolution that will reverberate through the auto industry, watch the official Tesla video above, and pay close attention to what Musk says:

“The thing that makes this…better than AWD in the past is because you can dynamically shift the power from front to rear at the millisecond level. So you can quickly adjust torque, more than is possible with a mechanically linked system. All AWD systems out there are mechanically linked with a shaft, so it’s like the equivalent of analog, whereas this is a digital system. A system like this is inherently able to achieve better road holding. We were able to improve almost everything about the car.”

While AWD systems on legacy vehicles generally reduce the gas mileage, Tesla’s system improves efficiency. According to Tesla, the Model S 85D version has 295 miles of range at 65 mph, compared to 261 miles for the ordinary S.

The big D also makes a speedy car even speedier. The most powerful P85D version can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Total power is 691 hp, apparently the second-highest of any four-door vehicle in the world (exceeded only by the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat’s 707 hp). Top speed is 155 mph. “It’s like taking off from a carrier deck…like having your own personal rollercoaster,” said Musk. The Iron Man claims there will be three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Insane.

The D package costs an additional $4,000 for the 60 and 85 kWh versions, and an additional $13,100 for the P85 version (which has a more powerful front motor). Deliveries of the P85D will start in December, with the 60D and 85D to follow in February.

Tesla Model S Autopilot

But wait, there’s more! The “something else” that Musk promised is a suite of Autopilot features. These are enabled by four hardware systems, which are now being built into all Teslas (they cannot be retrofitted to older cars): radar, camera, ultrasonic sonar, integrated with GPS navigation and real-time traffic information.

The new Model S features will steer back into its lane if it drifts out, and brake if it detects an impending collision. It will also warn drivers when they exceed the prevailing speed limit, and automatically change lanes when the turn signal is activated. Tesla says “it will take several months for all Autopilot features to be completed and uploaded to the cars,” and additional features are promised for the future.

Now that the hardware is there, fully autonomous driving could theoretically be added via remote software updates, although the company says on its blog that driverless cars are “still years away from becoming a reality.”

However, Tesla teases some driverless functionality as “exciting long term possibilities.” Musk says that Model S could soon park itself, and also come to you when summoned, even using your online calendar to determine where and when you need it. However, he cautioned that some of these features could only be used “on private property” for the moment.

Tesla Model S Autopilot 2

The Tech package with Autopilot costs an additional $4,250.


(Updated 10/11/14 1:00 PM EDT to include information from Tesla’s recent blog post. A previous version of this article implied that self-parking features would be included in the initial release of Autopilot. Tesla’s blog post clarifies this timeline, stating that a self-parking Model S is a long term possibility.)

Sources: Tesla, AP, USA TodayGreen Car Reports

  • brian_gilbert

    Could be read as saying that it is ‘Driverless’ now on private property. Is it?

    • ned_plimpton

      That’s a good point. Tesla should of used that as the headline. I think they botched this announcement. Proven by the stock dropping today.

      These are some of the most advanced features ever available on a car… and the stock is dropping?!

      • Zephyr

        It’s called speculation. The price was bid up in advance of the announcement, and then it corrected a bit afterward. Your surprise indicates you were under the delusion that markets are rational things… hehe 🙂

        • ned_plimpton

          If the market was rational, TSLA would be no where near as high as it is based on the fundamentals of the company. It’s all speculation, tis my point.

          I guess I was really trying to say that I don’t think Tesla should have encouraged the internet and the media to guess what the announcement would be. Because the consensus seemed to be disappointment after the announcement happened. Even though the Auto-pilot and AWD functions are totally freaking awesome. They will never live up to speculation of the internet.

          Although, perhaps all the per-announcement hype is worth a bit of post-announcement disappoint? That’s a calculation they vey well might of made…

  • Vaughn Patania

    impressive. but could also be seen as a wealthy person providing slick pricey toys for fellow “environmentally aware” wealthy persons. where is the EV everyman’s auto? the EV for the rest of us..?

    • brian_gilbert

      Take a Nissan Leaf. This has far fewer components than an ICE car so when economical and mass-produced it will be cheaper. Make all the inessentials optional to get the price down further, there are a lot of them like keyless entry. Replace the battery with one that can be flash-charged such as a supercap. Make the battery range optional to keep the minimum price down. Now it can be flash-charged in 15 seconds, the same as the viable busses, as follows:-

      BYD say Electric busses viable now because they can be recharged during stops.


      Share charging points with trucks and busses and I think we are there.

      • dogphlap dogphlap

        Super caps for EVs have too low an energy density and are to expensive to replace batteries (at least until someone comes up with an order of magnitude improvement in one or both of those limitations). Best regards.

        • Benjamin Nead

          Not sure, but I think Brian might be talking about the 12V lead acid battery, doghlap. These are still under the hoods of EVs like the Leaf and i-MiEV . . . essentially there to run 12V accessories.

          True that supercaps – as marvelous as they are – currently aren’t up to the task of replacing the big lithium ion traction battery.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            Hi Benjamin, I had not thought of the 12V lead acid but I can see no advantage in going to super capacitors even then (other than maybe weight and longevity, the rapid charge and discharge times would be of no advantage as far as I can see). I have wondered why Tesla retained the lead acid 12V when a Lithium based 12V battery would have been lighter and would have occupied less space. Maybe in some legislations it is mandated. Best regards.

          • brian_gilbert

            I read that the lead-acid battery exists in the Tesla because its characteristics make it more suitable for the frequent storing and discharge of regenerative braking energy. Sadly I did not record the source so I accept I may be wrong.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            I can’t say that is wrong because I don’t know but it makes no sense to me seeing as the regen energy goes to the Li-ion pack in the Tesla (not the lead acid). What I did read somewhere was that super capacitors have been employed (not on Teslas though) to store regen energy because they can handle huge charge and discharge currents (but only for a short time since they will not be that large in terms of energy storage capacity and you must not over-voltage them).
            Best regards.

          • brian_gilbert

            I give up on my belief that brake regen energy goes to the lead-acid battery. It will teach me to stick to data supported by known sources. However supercaps are stated to be capable of 30 to 40% of lithium ion here..
            Supercap has reached 30 to 40% of lithium-ion

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            Thank you for the link.
            It could well be the future but for now they are not there yet and even the best hybrid supercapacitors have less than half the energy density of Li-ion batteries (and at five times the cost of the already expensive merely super capacitors). But the advantages of no gradual loss of capacity over time and much higher discharge and recharge currents are so tempting I’m sure work will continue in the area and maybe they will take over from Li-ion batteries at some future date. We all hope so.

            I’m not sure if you are aware of it but when Elon Musk started his PHD study (he only lasted two days before leaving to start a software company) the subject of his PHD was to be the study of super capacitors for electric vehicles. If they ever make it main stream it could be via Tesla Motors. Best regards.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            Hi brian_gilbert again,
            when I did the sums I was as kind to super capacitors as I could be except for one thing I neglected to factor in. That is while capacitors are happy to fully charge and discharge for an enormous number of cycles Li-ion are not. For maximum battery life Tesla suggest not exceeding 80% charge on a regular basis and you are not permitted to get near to a fully flat battery so 6kWh of super capacitors would give a bit more than the 30 miles you would get from a quarter of a Leaf battery. Still a long way from viable but not as bad as I originally calculated. Best regards.

          • brian_gilbert

            Thanks. I have asked Maxwell for their view on practicality and price.. They are the sort of company that would be asked to quote by Nissan. An outside chance that they will respond but I am giving it a try.

          • Daniel Flöjt

            Mazda are using capacitors on it’s new models with the i-ELOOP tech in combination with the SKYACTIVE engines and i-stop function. Giving the car a 10% less fuel consumption. That equals to the load that the car is putting on the generator to supply the cars electronics, so it’s a “small” double capacitor system Mazda use to keep the cost down to have a 12-25 volt regeneration each time you lift your foot of the gas pedal.

          • Anthony

            Lead is cheap, old tech, low tech. no cell-by-cell management electronics needed = reliable. You need four Li cells for a nominally 12V battery, so four cells plus four channels of BMS electronics to keep the smoke from being released.
            Realize too that the 12V low-Volatge system must be isolated, very isolated from the HIGH Voltage traction circuit for safety. The Lead battery gives auto mechanics a recognizable unit that can be replaced off the shelf from any small town in the developed or developing world.

        • brian_gilbert

          Just how much more expensive is a flashcap battery than a lithium-ion?
          With flash charging in 15 seconds the current Leaf’s 124 mile range would be needlessly high for mamy users who only need 30 miles. So the lowest option for the capacity of the flashcap battery can be reduced to a quarter of the existing battery. Those short range users won’t mind extra 15 second stops so the smallest option for the flashcap could be even less.

          • dogphlap dogphlap

            I don’t know what flashcaps are but I did some quick serches and you can get 5000F 2.7V super capacitors from China for $150 each (I’ll ignore the $6 shipping).

            The Leaf traction battery is 24kWh but you would be happy with a quarter of that i.e. 6kWh. Those super capacitors will store a maximum of 5Wh each so you will need 1185 of them to store the 6kWh and they will cost a total of $177,777.80 (although you would get some discount for quantity so maybe $100,000.00 as a wild guess). These capacitors are 63mm diameter x 150mm long so they would occupy 0.7m^3 so a cube with 0.9m sides or 3’x3’x3′ (a cubic yard).

            So the capacitor pack costs the same as a nice Tesla Model S and it will only get you 30 miles. On top of that it takes up a fair bit of room. You also need to pay for the fancy electronics to get usable voltage from the pack (you need this because unlike a Li-ion battery the voltage of each capacitor is not near constant as it is discharged but steadily falls from 2.7 to 0V, you won’t be able to recover the last 1/2V or more but I have assumed you could). I have no numbers for the weight of this capacitor pack but I’d guess it would not be too bad (capacitors are not that heavy). Super capacitors may yet replace Li-ion but they have a long way to go before that can happen.

            How I calculated the energy stored in each capacitor:
            Energy in Joules = 1/2(V^2 x C)

            = 2.7×2.7×5000/2 = 18225J
            to convert to Wh multiply by 0.00027777778 = 5Wh (roughly).

            Best regards.

          • brian_gilbert

            My mistake. For flashcaps read supercaps.

    • dogphlap dogphlap

      Tesla say they hope to release the Model 3 in 2017 (my money would be on late 2018) at a cost of $35,000.
      GM say they will have a $30,000 200 mile range EV in a couple of years if I remember correctly.
      The Nissan Leaf has come down in price so much that people are now leasing this car for the same payment cost as they are saving on gasoline (some would say that that means you can get a new car effectively for free).
      It’s still early days for modern EVs and the first steps are always expensive toys.
      Best regards.

    • Zephyr

      This information has only been public for about eight years, so I don’t blame you for not knowing it:

      • Vaughn Patania

        “shrug” Just expressing my frustration that the latest reveal from Tesla is yet again a vehicle too pricey for most of the motoring public. I’m aware of Musk’s Master Plan. Just wondering if it’ll be another 8 or so years catering to the supercar crowd before the average commuter has a chance to drive an electric vehicle that looks and feels purpose designed to take on ICE cars in the “everyday” sector of the market.

  • vperl

    I want my X. Now

  • brian_gilbert

    Supercaps the way to go?
    As discussed below it seems that the lead acid battery is only used to to handle charge and discharge arising from regenerative braking. Lithium-ion battery life is known to be reduced by frequent charging and discharging.
    So a switch to supercap allows the lead-acid battery to be dispensed with. The size of the supercap does not need to be increased significantly at the same time as the braking energy energy is mostly recovered.
    And having dispensed with the weight of the lead-acid battery we again reduce the supercap capacity needed for a given range.

  • C. Alvin Scott

    Great car this is the future but as someone has commented, for those above rich. For the vast majority, it will be second use or lessor models.

    The free recharge has certainly improved the sales of the Tesla S, but who is paying for this since nothing is free?

    All the discussions center on batteries and I have to admit that I see this as short sighted, in view of the fact that hydrogen is the future.

    I have a concept for a H2 Rotary engine to power a generator which will be lighter than a Fuel Cell and can be judged as being lower cost to manufacture than a present small three cylinder petrol range extender engine. This will on theory alone, provide 3 to 4 times the efficiency of said petrol engine. Since the Volt is reputed to be good for 140 to the gallon so it is possible to be in excess of 500 mpg.(equivalent)

    In addition to the exceptional engine I am on record and way before the date of this as having 4 wd EV and using the ABS sensors as a means of providing electronic differential and two or four wheel drive as and when required. However I also have something else which I intend and I will not make public,
    which will increase the range even further.

    I have offered GM to be included in the protoyping and development as the systems and controls will be the same or very little change.

    I did write to Tesla many moons ago and again since, so for all the hype of inclusive collaboration there is no link with innovation which would undermine his pure electric ethos.

    It is clear that H2 is the answer to onboard storage of energy for vehicles. I accept that there is a loss of energy in conversion to hydrogen, however if that electricity is generated from renewable energy sources and it is free to use electricity, then it does not add cost to the hydrogen.

    Onsite personal generation of electricity, low-voltage. my own system uses batteries as storage for household, with a systematic charge and recharge approach. The electrolytic gasses represent a low-volume source of hydrogen, part for the house, but mainly for the personal vehicle. UK Patent 2010
    The cost of the installation and the vehicle will be in the region of £50,000 to £60,000 with free to use electricity and free to use H2 the saving from not having to pay the normal electricity, gas and vehicle fuel will cover the cost of paying for the change to hydrogen and leave some spare for the consumer.

    No this is not a luxury limo, or super sport, it is intended to be a Multi Purpose Vehicle to meet the requirements of a family, extended range rather than speeds over 100 mph with a 0 to 60 in 5 sec would beat plenty of petrol cars with a title sports car.

    With Mr Musk’s supposed collaboration, another company might see the advantage of an all in system, where the cost of a car, the fuel and the household energy is part of one leaseholder system. This would effectively make use of the savings from normal out goings to fund the cost of the installation and the car allowing most householders to change to hydrogen electric and be better off financially.

    I think that will beat the Tesla free electricity to recharge.

    Buy outright £60,000, FREE Electricity and FREE vehicle fuel. Leasehold, contract to go OffGrid and for a 10 or 20 year deal with new car every three years. Consumers may choose a lower entry by a pre-used refurbished vehicle much as now but the vehicles will be refurbished by the company and guaranteed by the company at what ever level. (A vehicle with all major parts being rotational will have an extended life without problems, 500,000 or more.)

    The Company would move to the circular economy, with income on the same lines as an energy company and all the income from the used car market as well. This covers the depreciation factor as the cars would be refurbished and batteries recycled, but since the batteries would be used for initial movement and reverse the battery pack will be smaller.

    Watch the space Tesla.
    Or you may consider collaboration.
    Best Regards
    Al Scott

    • neroden

      “The free recharge has certainly improved the sales of the Tesla S, but who is paying for this since nothing is free?”
      Investors and early car buyers (buying the expensive, for-the-rich Model S and Roadster) are paying for the high costs of construction of the Supercharger sites. That high premium is going to capital expenses like this.

      The electricity itself is close enough to free as makes no difference — electricity is cheap, and with solar panels going up over all the sites, it’s getting cheaper.

      “All the discussions center on batteries and I have to admit that I see
      this as short sighted, in view of the fact that hydrogen is the future.”
      Magical thinking. Hydrogen isn’t a fuel and it isn’t an energy storage method. Electricity and solid-state tech are the future.

  • Stuart51

    “While AWD systems on legacy vehicles generally reduce the gas mileage, Tesla’s system improves efficiency”
    This was also reported for original Audi Quattro / 1984 – apparently less distortion of the tyre for a given vehicle power through 4 wheels instead of 2 translates to reduced rolling resistance.
    But Elon, you need a better diff – I have a Noµ LSD capable of 0 – 100 % torque transfer.
    Also, a very economical EV driveline for your coming $30,000 EV.

  • http://jpwhitehome.wordpress.com JP White

    Tesla seems to be given the accolade for inventing a new type of AWD.

    Both Mercedes and Mitsubishi have produced dual electric motor AWD drive systems for some time now. There maybe others I am unaware of. Torque vectoring has been applied before.

    Glad to see Tesla implementing it, but let’s not give them the honor of invention.