The Tesla Model S luxury electric sedan will get an upgrade of its highest-capacity battery pack, from 85 to 90 kilowatt-hours, as well as a new optional high-performance mode called "Ludicrous" mode.
The news was announced today by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk during a press conference (and followed one hour later by an update on the rocketry efforts of SpaceX, which he also runs).
Musk called the upgrade "pretty awesome," as is his wont.
In "Ludicrous" mode in both P85D and new P90D variants--it's above "Insane" mode, to be clear--the new software will reduce 0-to-60-mph acceleration from the current level of 3.1 seconds to 2.8 seconds, Musk said.
Its quarter-mile time is cut to 10.9 seconds, and maximum acceleration will be 1.1g--or, as Musk noted, "faster than falling."
Tesla Model S P85D 'Insane' mode acceleration [frame capture from DragTimes video]Enlarge Photo
For the new performance mode, Musk described an "advanced smart fuse" for the battery that the company had developed, with its own electronics and its own very small lithium-ion battery.
The company also upgraded the main battery contacts from steel to a more advanced metal, resulting in a maximum power delivery from 1300 amps to 1500 amps.
Up to about 30 mph, the car is limited by the traction of its tires; above that, the limitation on acceleration becomes how much current can safely be drawn from the pack, with the performance improved by the increase to 1500 amps.
Musk called the new "Ludicrous" mode "an extension of Insane mode" past a speed of 30 mph.
Musk said no chassis or suspension changes were needed, noting that with the right tires, the car will corner at 1g--which, he said, "most people have no idea what that feels like."
The cell chemistry for the upgraded 90-kWh pack includes a new anode that adds silicon to the graphite, permitting the increase in performance.
Tesla expects roughly a 6 to 7 percent increase in EPA-rated range for the P90D version, roughly equivalent to the increase in energy capacity of the new pack.
The 90-kWh battery, with its increased range, will be a $3,000 upgrade over the cost of an equivalent Model S with the older 85-kWh pack.
The longest-distance model in the Tesla range will become the 90D Model S, which Musk said will get very close to a highway range of 300 miles when operating at a steady 65 miles per hour.
As far as any increase in sales due to the new version, Musk said, "I have no idea" in response to a journalist's question.
"We thought these would be pretty awesome, so we did it."
For the next six months, existing P85D owners can buy the new pack for just $5,000 plus labor costs for the installation (which vary from location to location).
Musk said the company is in the process of finishing the safety validation for the new larger battery to be retrofitted into the company's Roadster sports cars.
The first deliveries of that pack will probably be ready for field deliveries late next month, Musk said.
First delivered in June 2012, the Tesla Model S still offers--more than three year later--the highest range of any plug-in electric production car sold anywhere in the world.