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New Tesla 'Range Anxiety' Software Is Just Like the Nissan LEAF

With much hype and a lot of fanfare, Tesla's Elon Musk announced a new software update that will "eliminate range anxiety." The software basically does what most other electric vehicles already do: estimates range based on certain factors and tells the driver how much battery they have left, in terms of miles.


As is their wont, Tesla Motors built up a lot of hype before rolling out their latest announcement, this time explaining how a simple software update will "eliminate range anxiety" in the Tesla Model S. The software, when you boil it down to brass tacks, does what the software in almost every other electric vehicle - like, say, the Nissan LEAF - has done for years. It estimates range based on driving habits and the amount of charge left in the battery. Read like that, it appears that what Elon Musk really did was make a big announcement that the Model S is now entering "EV 101" in its cockpit.

The truth is, it's a bit more complicated than that. Enough so that it's all in the details and the only people who will care about those details are software engineers and those who are probably already huge Tesla fans anyway. In other words, this update and the "range anxiety elimination" isn't really much of a sales point. Nor will it likely bring in new buyers for the Model S or upcoming Model X.

Why not?

Simple. Because range anxiety is not really a concern in a car that gets a minimum of 200 miles per charge anyway and that can be charged at any of a number of stations in about half an hour. In other words, folks, Elon Musk just pulled a U.S. Congress and fixed a problem that didn't really exist.

There are only two types of people who worry about range anxiety in an EV. The first is the type of person who would worry about the number of rivets used to build the Brooklyn Bridge and whether adding a few more would make it safer or more convenient. The other is the type of person who just needs excuses to rail on something they don't like, in this case either EVs in general or Tesla in particular.

Outside of the niche fanatics who think the entire world should be riding bicycles powered by pixie rays, if only the government and Big Oil would get out of the way, out here in the real world, people who talk about electric cars rarely mention range anxiety. For nearly every person on the planet who likes cars, talks about automobiles, or is in the market to buy one talks instead about the pros and cons of fuel economy, versatility, comfort, and so forth. For example, I live in Wyoming where seeing an EV is like seeing a camel - it doesn't happen. Not often. Yet I've talked to a cattle rancher, a nurse practitioner, and a car salesman - all of whom own electric cars. They own them because they see a benefit. None of them worried about range anxiety when they bought their vehicles. With a 200+-mile Model S, the concept seems even more ludicrous.

So there you have it. Tesla solved a problem that doesn't exist by issuing a software update that is basically doing what all other EVs already do. As comical as that sounds, and it is, we still should wonder if Musk in 2016 wouldn't be better than the apparent alternative non-problem fixers we'll have to choose from.


Seann (not verified)    March 21, 2015 - 3:50PM

you clearly have never driven a Leaf for any period of time. The estimate is derisively called the Guess-O-meter, as it is amazingly bad. It is common to see the estimate chanGe by a half dozen miles within a mile of leaving home on flat level ground, and the beginning estimates are goosed high to give eye popping high range estimate on the showroom floor. Even a well implemented algorithm is worth crowing about, as the Leaf crowd knows way too well what an annoyance a badly implemented one is to leave with.

mike w (not verified)    March 23, 2015 - 9:00PM

In reply to by Seann (not verified)

Yes Seann, The guess-o-meter in my 2011 Leaf is as you describe. In really cold weather say 3F the actual range is about 1/4 the indicated range. Turn on the heat and its about 1/5 the indicated range. In the spring and fall the range meter is off by almost exactly 2, Summer time with a/c usage it off by a factor of 3. Every time I go to the dealer and complain they charge up the battery and say the meter says 110 miles so what is your problem!!!! Nissan Leaf will never buy another one.

Colorado Leaf Owner (not verified)    October 15, 2015 - 7:28PM

In reply to by mike w (not verified)

2013 S reporting... I have never seen my leaf report 110 miles on the GoM!! At most I get 85-90 on a full charge. In the winter, with cabin heat, I'm lucky to get 30 miles out of it. It starts off indicating 85. I should just let it run out, call the Nissan road side, and bill Nissan for the miles the GoM said I had which I had to be towed for. Useless POS.

mike w (not verified)    March 21, 2015 - 7:43PM

Nice article Arron. I might agree with you on your point that a BEV owner that has a car with a 200 to 300 mile range may not suffer from "Range Anxiety" very often. I would suggest that you go to the InsideEV and/or Greencarreport web site and read a few articles about Tesla's software update. There you will see that the Nissan Leaf's navigation system and range meter does almost nothing that the new Tesla software update does.

Brian Claeys (not verified)    March 22, 2015 - 6:21PM

You left out an important part of this Tesla software update. It will also plan your route so you will not be far from a charging station on your trip. Extremely useful on longer trips where charging stations may not be plentiful. You don't mention that other electric cars can do this. By the way, there is a difference of planning your route and just noting charging stations on a map.