Model 3. Source: Tesla
Model 3. Source: Tesla

Move over Hyundai Ioniq, the Tesla Model 3 is now considered the most efficient vehicle out of all vehicles sold in the US, with new efficiency figures for 2020 published on the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) fuel economy website.

The new figures list the miles per gallon electric equivalent (MPGe) for the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+) as 141 MPGe.

The new figure for the $US39,490 “2020” Tesla Model 3 SR+ (which starts at $A67,900 in Australia) beats that of the all-electric 2020 Hyundai Ioniq, which comes in at 133MPGe, and is an improvement on its 2019 score of the same.

What this means is that the Tesla Model 3 SR+ can drive the equivalent of 141 miles on the amount of energy in a gallon of fuel, using the EPA’s formula of 33.7kWh of energy equivalent per gallon.

In metric terms, this equates to 60 kilometres driven on the amount of energy in a litre of fuel.

That’s 8 times more efficient than the average Australian vehicle which does just under 7.5 kilometres per litre.

All this with zero, zip, zilch carbon, NOx and particle tailpipe emissions.

The new figures have been released just weeks since Tesla updated the driving range of the Tesla Model 3 SR+ from 240 miles (386km) to 250 miles (402km) – the same boost was not seen in Australia as we still use the outdated NEDC rating despite the fact that it exaggerates driving range and is only useful as a comparison tool with other EVs.

Source: fueleconomy.gov
Source: fueleconomy.gov

How has Tesla done it? It almost certainly hasn’t been from a battery upgrade, although the company has been making moves to diversify its battery supplies apparently with a global deal reportedly in the wings with Chinese EV maker CATL so that it is not wholly reliant upon Panasonic.

Neither is the improvement in efficiency due to the reason behind the Model S increase in driving range that we reported on in April, when Tesla reworked the Model 3 permanent magnet rear wheel drive unit to replace the Model S front axle drive unit resulting in a range increase of up to 600km.

It is in fact thanks to the 2019.36.1 upgrade that began rolling out in the first days on November, so that not only next year’s vehicles but ALL Model 3s receive a 6% boost in range and power.

This was first flagged by Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk in the company’s Q3 earnings call, when he said that, “There’s going to be an OTA (over-the-air) that will improve the power of S and X and 3 improved firmware – coming in a few weeks, it should be in the order of 5% power improvement due to improved firmware.”

The 36.1 software upgrade consists of optimised power control, but Musk also attributed some improvement to the addition of one-pedal driving.

“There’s also the single pedal driving that will improve the range as well,” he said.

What this refers to is that Tesla has added a “Hold” mode to the previously available Creep and Roll stopping modes for a true one-pedal driving experience that continues to use regenerative braking even when driving at low speeds.

As per release notes from the 36.1 upgrade which was rolled out in the first days of November:

“When HOLD is selected, your vehicle continues to use regenerative braking after decelerating to a low speed, and applies Vehicle Hold after coming to a complete stop. The HOLD setting maximizes range and reduces brake wear by continuing to provide regenerative braking at speeds lower than approximately 5 mph (8 km/h).”

Thanks to these updates, the Model 3’s greatest improvement is in the city (it now has a rating of 148 MPGe compared to the previous 140 MPGe), although there has also been a substantial improvement on the highway (where it used to do 124 MPGe it now does 132 MPGe).

It’s not the best news for Hyundai, which has just released its 2020 Hyundai Ioniq with boosted range, now giving 273km driving range according to the EPA website (it is rated for 311km driving range using the NEDC system).

However ,while we know that the battery in the Hyundai Ioniq has been upgraded to achieve the improved range, it would appear that it has taken a blow on the chin for efficiency, as well as the increased charging speed which we noted in late October.

The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq is now less efficient than the 2019 Ioniq according to the EPA website, able to drive 3 kilometres less than the 2019 model which was rated at 136 MPGe.

This is a shame, because as far as electric vehicles go, the Ioniq is one of the more affordable out there (in Australia it is one of the few that starts at under $A50,000).

Final note, if you are going to check out the Australian equivalent of the EPA fuel economy website, you would go to the Green Vehicle Guide. However, it is still awaiting updates for 2020 Models, and does not directly compare fossil fuel efficiency to kWH usage.

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