By Marc Amblard, Founder & Managing Director, Orsay Consulting
Tesla’s early start, its focus on EVs and its vertical integration has given the Silicon Valley-based OEM a significant advance in terms of the overall energy efficiency of its vehicles. This becomes obvious as we compare Model S, X or 3 with the battery EVs (BEVs) the competition is introducing now.
The latter have a lot of catching up to do, especially as Tesla continues to update the software of its fleets over the air (OTA) and to introduce technical upgrades. A few months ago, the range of new Model S and Model X went up by about 10%, seemingly without any extra battery capacity — certainly no badge change. The gap in overall energy efficiency, as measured in terms kWh/100km/ton (WLTP) or mi/kWh*ton (EPA) is very significant, ranging from 10% to 40%. Incumbent OEMs will take years to absorb it.
I computed and mapped out the energy efficiency of BEVs currently on the European and US markets, using total battery capacity (kWH) rather than useable capacity as it more relevant when assessing vehicle cost and weight — the gap between the two is typically 5-10%. Depending on the market, I used either the WLTP and EPA numbers as well as average vehicle gross vehicle weight. Tesla’s Model S, X and 3 were used as a benchmark as they offer the highest efficiency and they are available in both regions.
Tesla’s current range reaches 7.6 kWh/100km/ton in Europe and 7.9 mi/kWh*ton in the USA, with ranges going all the way to 610 km (WLTP) and 370 mi (EPA) for Model S Extended Range. Incumbents below are ranked according to how their energy efficiency measures vs. Tesla’s.
Daimler’s new EQC is he next best performer, though 11% behind Tesla — no EPA range has been announced yet. Daimler has made significant progress vs. the B200e, which 40% worth than our benchmark.
Hyundai-Kia has quickly built a range of BEVs. Today, Ioniq, Kona and Niro on average lag our benchmark by 17-19% depending on the region.
When introduced in late 2017, Jaguar’s i-Pace was the first of the new wave of BEVs. Its performance is 18% behind Tesla’s in Europe and 30% behind in the USA.
Chevrolet was an EV pioneer with EV1 back in 1996, back then it achieved 3.5 mi/kWh*ton! First introduced in 2017, the current and the 2020 Bolt EV obtains an efficiency 20% lower than the benchmark.
Nissan was an EV leader when they introduce Leaf 1 in 2010. Unfortunately, they have not kept up with their battery and powertrain tech. Leaf 2 (60 kWh) lags our benchmark by 20% (EPA) to 24% (WLTP).
Renault uses a different technology than its Alliance partner Nissan on Zoe, a purpose built EV first introduced in 2012. The current version (52 kWh) stands 24% behind Tesla. Too bad investment in technology was not sustained.
According to the information available, Rivian’s R1T and R1S — to be introduced in 2020 — perform 24% worse than Tesla (135 kWh version) based on figures announced by the company (no EPA range available).
Peugeot and its sister brand Opel, achieve a similar performance respectively with e-208 and Corsa-e, with an energy efficiency about 30% below Tesla’s.
Audi does not do well here. Its recently introduced e-Tron achieves 25 to 33% worse energy efficiency than our benchmark. It appears the company has been too cautious. Among other things, only 84 of the 95 kWh of the battery pack is useable.
Porsche is apparently using a similar approach than its sister company Audi. The brand new Taycan’s energy efficiency is 25% to 32% worse than Tesla.
The clear laggards of this ranking are BMW i3 and Fiat 500e — both introduced in 2013 and upgraded since — which are respectively 33-38% and 40% behind Tesla, and Smart Electric (60% worse) Drive, which is likely handicapped by its relative small weight.
Why is Tesla so much ahead of the pack in overall energy efficiency?
First comes their experience: 17 years developing BEVs and over 700k vehicles on the road. They are highly vertically integrated, which enables full system optimization. Tesla designs and manufactures their battery packs (cells produced by Panasonic), motors, power electronics, battery management system and powertrain control software. And we should not forget Tesla’s proprietary charging network.
As a result, Tesla’s energy efficiency results from superior power electronics (inverter, converter, powertrain control), battery pack (e.g. dynamic cooling) and motors. The most recent Model S and X use a combination of induction motor to drive the rear wheels (best power delivery for acceleration phase) and permanent magnet motor on the front wheels (best for efficiency).
In addition, Tesla continuously improves its energy efficiency. According to Electrek, each kWh generates 3% extra range every year on average. Another article by the same media outlet compares Tesla Model S, Audi e-Tron and Jaguar i-Pace in real driving conditions. The British SUV here performs even worse than e-Tron, which in turn does not look any better than Model X.
Tesla engineers ought to be proud of what they have achieved — and they are! Incumbents certainly have the resources to bring many BEVs to the market, but have yet to build the expertise in order to challenge Tesla. I would have expected German engineering to do better, but their first mass products very much lag. It will take a few year for established OEMs to close the 10 to 30% gap in overall energy efficiency.
Marc Amblard is the Founder & Managing Director of Orsay Consulting. Based in Silicon Valley and focused on the mobility transformation, Orsay Consulting provides startup and tech scouting as well as advisory services to corporates, and advises startups on product-market fit, go-to-market strategy, business development and partnerships. You will find more articles on the Mobility Revolution here.
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