Life With Tesla Model S: Battery Upgrade From 60 kWh To 85 kWh

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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A recent 1,200-mile East Coast road trip in my 2013 Tesla Model S electric car proved to be something of a turning point in my view of the car. 

Fitted with the smaller 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, my car's EPA range of 208 miles was not quite enough to make it between Superchargers--Tesla's proprietary ultra-fast DC charging stations--at normal Interstate speeds in cold weather.

So I faced a Hobson's choice.

I could extend the car's range by driving 60 mph in the slow lane, with the heat off, or loiter in the customer lounges of Nissan dealers along the way, while my car picked up the extra few miles it needed courtesy of their slower Level 2 charging stations.

Neither alternative turned out to be much fun.

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

Tesla Motors - Model S lithium-ion battery pack

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Fate smiles

And it was my first experience of buyer's remorse.

Not for buying a Model S--not at all--but for not ponying up the extra $8,000 to specify the larger 85-kWh version of the Model S, withan EPA range of 265 miles, which could have covered the distances between Superchargers with ease.

As I wrote at the time:  "Damn. Coulda, woulda, shoulda got the 85."

Well, it now appears that Fate has smiled upon me. In an example of exquisite timing, I received an unexpected end-of-year financial windfall. And my tax guy strongly recommended that I spend some of it before December 31.

Three upgrade options

Yes, sir! Anything you say, sir!

The way I saw it, there were three possible ways to upgrade my 60-kWh car to an 85-kWh version.

  • Swap out the 60-kWh battery in my car for a new 85-kWh battery
  • Trade in my car for a new 85-kWh model
  • Trade in my car for a similarly-equipped used 85-kWh Model S, of roughly the  same age/mileage as mine.

Battery swap: "We don't do that"

I'd seen the Tesla video of its prototype 90-second automated battery swapping system, which may or may not become a commercial reality one of these days.

But would Tesla do a one-time permanent battery upgrade for a customer?

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