Life With Tesla Model S: Battery Upgrade From 60 kWh To 85 kWh Page 3


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

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

Yes, they could, in fact, swap out my 60-kWh battery for an 85-kWh pack. And they could do it next week. The cost would be about $18,000.

My first question: Will this swap give me the full 85-kWh configuration, with its more powerful motor and slightly better performance?

Yes, I was assured, I'd get that added kick. The motor and inverter systems in the two models are physically identical, I was told, but 60-kWh cars are software-limited to 302 horsepower, against 362 hp for 85-kWh cars. Why? The smaller battery isn't safely able to deliver the necessary current to provide 362 hp.

A software tweak would boost my motor's output to 362 hp, and cut my 0-to-60-mph time from 5.9 to 5.4 seconds. Top speed would also increase by 5 mph, to 125 mph.

Money, money, money

Money, money, money

Cost breakdown

The cost breakdown looked like this: Price of the new battery was $44,564.  The trade-in value of my old battery was $29,681--a number arrived at by discounting its new list price of $37,102 by a 20-percent "restocking" fee. 

I had hoped that the trade-in value of my old battery would be prorated for its actual use--10 months and 11,000 miles out of its guaranteed life of eight years and 125,000 miles. This would have amounted to about a 10-percent "restocking fee" rather than the actual 20 percent

But Tesla needs to make a profit on this transaction; I understand that.

The net cost to me of the new battery was $14,883. Adding five hours of labor ($600), minor parts ($125), the battery shipping cost ($1,520), and sales tax ($1,257) brought the grand total to $18,386.

I thought long and hard: Should I do this?

I remember my thought process from a year ago, while debating whether to buy the 60-kWh or 85-kWh battery. How often, I asked, would I have a trip that was more than 208 miles but less than 265? Not very often, I'd answered.

Turns out I was wrong. But still, 18 grand is a lot of money for a little peace of mind.

In the end, I justified the expense to myself (and my wife) the same way I originally justified the $10,000 step up from the now-defunct 40-kWh Model S to the 60-kWh version: I'll get a good portion of that extra cost back in added value when I eventually sell or trade in the car.

2013 Tesla Model S P85 service loaner vehicle [photo: David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S P85 service loaner vehicle [photo: David Noland]

Quick and easy

The installation itself was routine. I dropped the car off on a Friday, and drove home in a P85+ loaner.

(Unfortunately, I couldn't have any real fun with this top-of-the-line loaner. At 25 degrees, its 21-inch high-performance tires were so hard and traction-free that even modest power broke the rear tires loose on dry pavement; I can only imagine how bad they'd be on snow or ice.)

The battery swap, as well as a headlight upgrade, was done by Saturday morning; Tesla delivered the car back to me on Monday.

While it's fun to look at my Rated Range indicator and see 230 instead of 180, it may be months before I'll actually utilize my extra 50 or 60 miles of range. But that's okay.

I'm now, finally, equipped as well as I can be to navigate the Great Northeast Supercharger Desert--my home for the foreseeable future.

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