Durability of the Model S

Durability of the Model S

I commute 50,000 miles a year (highway driving) and in 5 years (only loan I could get), I will easily have 250,000+ miles. Now, I've done the math on the fuel savings (minus electricity costs), but what about wear & tear? I'm looking for the perfect commuter vehicle and the 300 mile option is the only one I would get (90 miles each way 5 days a week).

What normally would need to be replaced in 250,000 miles? Drive motors? Bushings? Heck, I do much of my maintenance now, but wouldn't touch the Model S. If I can ever get one, I know I'll drive it till it drops. Kinda sad in a way though because when I start out it is a beautiful car, then in 5 years, yuck!

Please advise.


ckessel | February 7, 2011

Sounds like a great question for Tesla engineers. Given the modularity of the engine, I wouldn't be shocked if after 5 years you could completely swap out the engine and battery and be left in pretty good shape. There isn't much else to wear out except the shocks/suspension, which have fairly standard replaceable parts I'd imagine.

Brian H | February 7, 2011

Oooo, I betcha they'd love to track your usage! Definitely talk to the 'gineers. You sound like the perfect Beta tester!

Brian H | February 7, 2011

P.S. I think you can believe the 260 rating, for the earlier battery; that's 80 more than 90+90!

Crawdaddy_in_DC | February 8, 2011

Brian H, thanks for the comeback...I actually test software for a living and would love a crack at a beta Model S! They could GPS me and take all my data. Yes, I did think of of the 260 battery config, but in DC traffic I'd rather have the extra watts to get me to the home 20. I'm drooling over the S big time.

Engineers...whatcha got to say on the 250K what needs replaced query (other than what Brian H mentioned)?

Crawdaddy quiet...

Crawdaddy_in_DC | February 8, 2011

...yes, it was ckessel that mentioned the shocks/struts...I have not replaced any in my last 3 Subaru commuters.

now Crawdaddy quiet...

Volker.Berlin | February 8, 2011

"Yes, I did think of of the 260 battery config, but in DC traffic I'd rather have the extra watts to get me to the home 20."

We are all so used to ICE thinking... ;-) Mind you: With an electric car, you only consume energy when you actually move. And very contrary to what we take for normal after decades of ICE driving, the energy consumption is almost linear with speed, i.e., in slow traffic you actually *save* miles.

Granted, frequent acceleration due to stop-and-go traffic is worse than just cruising slowly, but it is still not as bad as going fast. Aerodynamic resistance increases with speed by the square, and that's about the only thing that has considerable impact on the energy consumption in an electric car.

With ICEs, it is so fundamentally different because they have only a very small bandwidth of rotational speed where they can work efficiently. When idling, they have 0.0 mpg and still burn fuel! It's the same reason why you need to shift gears in an ICE, but do not need more than one gear (plus reverse) in an electric vehicle.

Maybe someone else can point to an article or blog with some nice curves and graphs comparing efficiency of ICE vs. EV at different speeds/RPM.

Vawlkus | February 8, 2011

In theory, the only thing you'd need to possibly replace is the battery itself. Not a lotta wear and tear issues with an electric drivetrain.

I suppose there is the obvious, tires will definitely not last that long, your brakes MIGHT need to be replaced at that point (but probably not)......... nothing else really springs to mind in all honesty.

VolkerP | February 8, 2011

Hi Crawdaddy,

I have a photovoltaic array on my roof. The DC/AC inverter has an expected lifetime of 5 years. Capacitors and IGBTs wear out. I expect the TESLA PEM to have similar issues. These parts can be engineered towards a specific life time. I expect TESLA to design the PEM to outlast your battery, of course.

Other candidates in the Model S are electric power steering, A/C (compressor unit, leakages), door handles. I encountered severe electric problems after a few years, even in premium cars: central locking, window actuator.

Minor point: The TESLA Roadster owner's manual advices to exchange the coolant fluid every four years.

With an ICE, I get the feeling that my car "ages" along with the engine - helping to say good bye at the end of that car life. The prospected longevity of Model S will be a complete new problem for me :-)

Ramon123 | February 8, 2011

That's always been the great thing about electrics - very few parts and really low maintenance. The shocks/struts are off-the-shelf, if you watched Rawlinson's walkthru. I think the calipers are too, but they last a really long time and can be rebuilt.
Modern EV electric motors don't usually use brushes, but generally speaking, rebuilding an electric motor costs practically nothing compared to an ICE engine. And you saw how simple it would be to replace. A piece of cake. There is a very simple tranny - nothing more than a gear reduction, no clutches, etc. Electrical wiring, as you know from your house, will easily outlast any vehicle.
The wheel bearings are probably the sealed type - just like any other car. Inverters generally last 20 years or more. Suspension parts will be like any other vehicle and many may also be off the shelf. Radiators usually last over 15 years. Fluid replacement intervals probably similar to what you're used to. Don't be skittish about working on your Model S just because it's electric. Buy a shop manual after you get the car - it will tell you exactly how to disable the battery pack so you can't possibly get shocked.

Crawdaddy_in_DC | February 9, 2011

Excellent feedback from Volker EU#P1, Vawlkus, VolkerP, & Ramon123. Yes, I was thinking 300 (more is better), but also I live on top of a mountain in Northern Virginia so after the long commute...I need the power to get to the top. Just more options to consider.

I did consider normal wear & tear, tires/brakes, but fully understanding the components under the hood will take me some time. Thanks for making me think.

I will monitor this thread for additional considerations. I feel that this will be my perfect commuter! Time to prep for driving now...yawn. Thanks to all.


eberhard | February 9, 2011

to go to the top, you have calculate about 5-6kWh per 1000 meter in high, depending on weight.
Maintenance is low, no vibrations etc. from the engine. As bigger the batterie as long it will last. calculate 500-600 times of Range. More partly depletions is better then less full depletion.

CarolD | February 9, 2011

A current event on batteries in the news...

if it turns out these batteries are better than currently used array, I hope Tesla is a flexible enough company to incorporate them or any other new improved battery designs into the Model S!

One can only hope.

Mike_ModelS_P457 | February 9, 2011

@Volker I'm very surprised to hear you say your PV inverters have a five year lifespan. Most inverters have at least a 15 year warranty. I have two SunnyBoy inverters (42 panel, 10.2 kWh system) which are four years old and still working as well as they did on day one.

I expect the Tesla inverter will be similarly durable, and likely easily replaced / services.

dsm363 | February 9, 2011

Crawdaddy_in_DC: Do you have a place to charge at work? That's a very long commute. Assuming they have the J1772 plug on the Model S, I think getting a 30A charger at your destination shouldn't be too tough.

VolkerP | February 9, 2011


I have a replacement warranty for all of my PV inverters that runs 5 years. All three are SMA SunnyBoy models. One installed 2005 was replaced 2007 and one out of two installed in 2008 was replaced the very same year. They get repaired and are used for other warranty replacement jobs. Error messages mentioned IGBT failures.
For PC mainboard voltage converters, it is well known that the electrolytic capacitors wear out due to charge/discharge cycles plus thermal stress. ASUS engineers them to live just above the usual PC lifetime of 4-5 years. I don't know if the TESLA PEM contains capacitors and of what type. Wouldn't prop open the PEM even if I had a Roadster, of course...

Brian H | February 13, 2011

The mileage achieved in stop-go traffic is spectacular. It's almost ideal territory with the regen. The only use you'll have for brakes is to stop "creep" at the lights.
When Volker says "save" miles, he means the on-board miles-remaining calculator will sometimes start to climb when you're in city traffic, as the averages etc. change in the computer.
As for hill-climbing, you'll probably find it has a comparatively small impact; how high is the mountain?
Unfortunately, you'll be fully charged on the way down, so won't gain much from regen to offset the climb! I suppose you could deliberately under-charge the battery to leave "space" for the descent, though. ;)

Timo | February 13, 2011

What extra you lose in climbing hill compared to flat road is almost directly gravitational potential energy car gains during climbing IE U=mgh. Very straightforward calculation, gives energy in joules if you use SI units. It is surprisingly small number even for heavy vehicle. Then you gain energy going downhill, making EV an excellent hill/mountain vehicle.

Another benefit is that electric engine doesn't use air, so altitude doesn't affect performance. Also there is enough torque in the engine to lift the car straight up vertically if there just were enough traction.

Electric drivetrain is superior to ICE in every way, except price and refill speed.

Crawdaddy_in_DC | February 13, 2011

dsm363: No, is a corporate parking lot and they would not appreciate stealing their power...musn't take from the grid for which is meant for the servers and lights to shine!

Brian H: Thanks for the Volker point. 80% is cruising unless traffic, and most return trips have a different PM route due to traffic (I like predictability over surprise with traffic). The PM route has more signals and is 45 MPH max until I hit the highway. I'm 1,800 feet up which is not too bad. Overall, my commute differs with my wake-up for every minute I'm late on departure, it means 2 min late on arrival. I do think the 260 would be best, but with 300 and (many half-discharges and less full discharges) might be best.

Timo: I'd love to gain energy doing down...heck that is where I loose brake pad lining! Thanks for the feedback. I also want to one day get wind generation setup at the home-20. I've got plenty of wind up here.

My only point is to imagine the unknown durability cost. Will I have to take it to the Tesla "Mr. Lectric-Wrench" very often? It certainly makes one wonder. VolkerP mentioned thermal stress...and when would that happen the most...cruising @70 or 10 miles of red/black traffic? Would my music blasting increase the thermal stress? What if I had the AC cranking? I know my cigar would not come into play.

I know nothing about the electric drive train and thank all those who reply and contribute to this thread.

Crawdaddy quiet...

Brian H | February 14, 2011

You'll never take it to Tesla Lectric-Wrench. The Service Rangers come to you. At home.

I saw another estimate of 1kwh/1000' elevation; IAC, it's trivial. As is the AC etc. Such a small % you'll have a hard time noticing.

Note that for the downhill regen, it won't work if the battery is already full, which is what my quip about under-charging overnight to give the regen somewhere to go was all about. I suspect you'll lose [note sp.] so little brake lining it'll be hard to detect if you do allow battery "slack" in the mornings for the output to fill.

AFAIK, the entire electric drive train and mgmt system is temperature-controlled; it's a major design strategy and feature of Tesla to maximize lifespan and performance. Comparisons to laptops etc. are just not on.

Crawdaddy_in_DC | February 14, 2011

Brian H: Thanks...I get it now and your correct. After a full overnight charge, I will be headed down the mtn in less the .5 mile, so the regen won't apply in that case. I appreciate your insight. I certainly hope the Service Rangers don't charge by the mile. I'm 75 miles from the 1050 K Street N.W. Washington DC showroom! Now, when the Model S has thousands of customers, they will need a major Service Ranger fleet.

ggr | February 14, 2011

The battery regeneration only cuts out when fully charged *in range mode*. If the car is charged in standard mode, it will do regen; you would be hard pressed to be high enough to run out of the 10% of extra charging capacity. If you actually need to use range mode for your daily commute, I would be worried about battery life.


Timo | February 14, 2011

From U=mgh 1kwh / 1000' is for car that weights 1223kg. Because Roadster weights 1235kg that's pretty much exact figure in all practical purposes.

I wonder how much Model S weights. Because its battery pack is part of the chassis, it probably weights less in comparison than Roadster battery pack, but it is bigger car with aluminum, not carbon fiber structure. Question is how much of that weight difference is compensated by better design.

Vawlkus | February 15, 2011

Thermal cutoff has only really been done at the race track, doing a couple of battery packs worth of trips around the oval at max speed (120 mph if I remember correctly). The Roadster wasn't designed with that in mind, but I think they're incorporating some upgrades into the Model S so that it will be better able to handle that specific situation.

Funnily enough, a slower route with multiple stops is where an electric shines. The slower the overall speed, the further you get on one charge. It's highway speeds for long periods that drain a battery pack the fastest.

Samuel H. | February 15, 2011


I'm so glad that you are considering a Model S! Have you spoken to any Tesla representatives about your desire? If not, get in contact with them. I can't wait until I can test drive a Roadster! I have been spreading the word about electric cars in Tucson, AZ. My reward is a 0-60 launch in under four seconds sometime this summer.

AC, heater, radio, and GPS do not significantly affect the range of a Tesla. You might lose 2-3 miles per hundred with them on. Big deal. That's how much you lose with a gas car.
Why are people worried about saving money? If you wan't the Model S and can afford it, get it. Why compare it to another car and try to see how much money you can "save" by not getting it? The cheap diesel car that people constantly compare to EVs is not quiet, does not promote national security, does not drive as well, is not as efficient, cannot be driven using renewable resources, doesn't look as cool, does not have as much cargo space, spews emissions, and ties you to the gas pump. BY THE WAY, DIESEL COSTS MORE THAN GAS EVERYWHERE! Right now, diesel costs $3.50 a gal. in Tucson. We have some of the lowest prices of everything here-houses, food, cars, utilities, gas, you name it. Other places are nibbling on the $4 dollar mark for a gallon of diesel.
Although a small efficient car would "save" you money, the Model S is a much better car. Also, buying an EV helps bring the electric future that much closer. It's a statement that EVs are better, and they are! I just can't wait for my own.

Anyway, congrats on your decision to go electric Crawdaddy.

Timo | February 15, 2011


Not true. In here 95E gas costs about 1.5 eur, 98E 1.55 eur and diesel 1.3 eur. (number before gas is octane)

William13 | February 15, 2011

Other than cost of diesel, which is a tax and refinery capacity issue, I think that Samuel H is correct. More to the point of the thread, the durability of the Tesla and other well built pure electric vehicles should surpass that of ICE except for a need to replace the battery. Unfortunately the jury will be out for at least 6 or 7 years on the current design. I hope that Tesla is still in business and able to sell 600 mile battery pack by then. The high durability of the current Roadster's power train with a much less complex design versus ICE and the aluminum frame speak to a very high durability. The seats and style will wear out before the car.