Skip to main content

Why Tesla's Cars Cannot Run 0-60 MPH Under 2 Seconds - Engineering Explained

A new video explains why in both theory and in practical testing, Tesla cars won't have the capability to accelerate from zero miles per hour to 60 miles per hour. Is this the latest example of Tesla stretching the truth in its marketing?


When Tesla announced it would sell a new Model 3 car for $35,000 it got tons of press. This despite the fact that the company didn't actually sell a car for $35,000 when the claim was made. For quite a while we all hemmed and hawed about the claim, and if you paid $35,000 and not a penny more than that for a new Tesla, good for you. As far as we know, the price was always above $35,000 when Tesla's delivery fee was included. Maybe we are wrong.

And maybe Elektrek was wrong to accuse Tesla of "bait and switch" marketing over Autopilot. And maybe the Tesla forum members accusing Tesla of shady marketing tactics are wrong, and heck, maybe Teslarati was wrong too to have accused Tesla of "Bait and Switch." Or maybe not.

In any case, Tesla's latest dubious marketing claim is that its upcoming cars will accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in under 2 seconds. You can see the claim if you visit the public Tesla website and select Model S Plaid. It is repeated in many places as you navigate the site. Sometimes with an asterisk to indicate the claim has a catch, other times, Tesla drops the asterisk.

Engineering Explained is a pro-Tesla Youtube channel with about 3 million subscribers whose owner drives a Tesla and has made quite a few pretty fawning Tesla videos, including road trip type videos showing off Tesla's impressive abilities. Lately though, he seems to have soured on Tesla and this latest video is a "debunk the myth" type of video.

What Is a 0-60 MPH Run?
The engineer in the video walks us through two things using math and also real-world examples. First, Tesla is applying a "rollout" to its claim. As the video explains, a 0-60 MPH with a rollout is meaningfully different from a true 0-60 MPH time. Tesla is applying an NHRA racing definition to a road car to help make it look more capable. The second part of the video goes into detail on why the 0-60 MPH barrier has been hard for manufacturers to break so far. It should be noted that Tesla hasn't actually demonstrated a car accelerating from 0-60 MPH. It would be relatively easy to do so. Just find a place to make the run, time it, and show the results. But no. Instead we get a claim and an asterisk. Sort of like the Autopilot marketing claim, and the $35K car claim.

Our Take
Having driven many supercars on and off track that can accelerate in under 4 seconds to 60 MPH, let us say a few things. First, you can't feel tenths of a second differences in acceleration. Second, on public roadways, it is illegal in most places to do an acceleration run like this. The citation is usually called "Show of Speed," "Racing," or simply, "Driving to Endanger." Third, Tesla isn't even building or delivering the cars for which it makes these claims. The Model S and Model X have been out of production for months. Why not make the claim after the cars are actually real? That would be so old-fashioned we guess.

Perhaps Tesla will create a car that can break this performance barrier. It will be interesting to see. Either way, qualifying the claim with fine print (sometimes) seems pretty shady in this vehicle tester's opinion. Watch the video and let us know what you think in the comments below.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


Byron Blue (not verified)    May 7, 2021 - 2:11PM

This author has no basis in fact for the dirty journalism inflicted here upon Tesla. If he really knew anything about the Tesla company and the announcements of Elon Musk, CEO, he would know the shut-down of production of Models S & X is due to chip shortages all car makers suffer from. Those are just revised and will be marketed near the end of the year, or sooner, as planned. My Model 3 does 0 < 60 in less than 4 seconds due to the power boost, also, the performance model will do it in 3.2 seconds! The standard Model S will do it in about 2.8 seconds, so the Plaid Model S with considerably more power should easily do it in under 2 secs as demonstrated in development. Yes, all his arguments against speed are valid, but have nothing to do with actual performance. His fantasied speculations are "dirty" as is his intent to mislead the reader!

John Goreham    May 7, 2021 - 2:47PM

In reply to by Byron Blue (not verified)

Does this story someplace say why Tesla ceased production of the Model X and S? Here is what Tesla says regarding the Model X and Model S shutdowns: "The new Model S and Model X have also been exceptionally well received, with the new equipment installed and tested in Q1 and we are in the early stages of ramping production." You can read more about Tesla's refresh to the Model X and S at the link shown in the story.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    May 9, 2021 - 4:47AM

If you change 0-60MPH measurements to be more accurate NOW then all comparisons against decades of magazine testing from the past are no longer comparable. This is like Gross HP figures, which were so often manipulated by car manufacturers and marketers that the SAE decided to adopt a new standard of power that took accessories into account. The SAE chose to use net hp ratings, which measures engine power at the flywheel, but is still not counting drivetrain losses. More accurate readings of usable HP are measured on a dyno at the wheels. But nobody wants to show lower performance or economy numbers, even if they are more accurate. Most automakers list and advertise 0-60 performance with the 1-foot rollout, without an asterisk. And ultimately acceleration is similar to gas mileage and EV range in the fact that driver skill, road and weather conditions and other factors can greatly change the test result numbers. Most people who are interested in acceleration numbers are really looking to see how a given car compares against other high performance cars, raced side by side. And having the quickest mass production car at any price is more important to most car enthusiasts than an asterisk.