Elon Musk, the electric-car wunderkind behind Tesla Motors, has vague-tweeted a promise to “end range anxiety,” the auto-existential fear of running out of juice in a battery-powered car and having nowhere to recharge it.
Musk took to Twitter yesterday to say he’d reveal all during a press conference on Thursday in which he’ll outline how the latest over-the-air software update for the Model S will, apparently, eliminate the thing that stands in the way of electric vehicle ownership for so many drivers. Musk’s pronouncement is a bold one and we’re eager to see what he’s come up with, but also prepared to be underwhelmed.
Software updates are a common part of the modern car ownership experience, and are used by manufacturers to change how the navigation system displays points of interest, or alter an automatic transmission’s shift pattern, for example. Tesla is unique in delivering these updates wirelessly; other manufacturers’ updates require a visit to the dealer, where a technician installs updates much as you might update the operating system on a laptop computer.
Speculation we’ve seen around the forthcoming Model S update includes an energy-saving drive mode (the opposite of the P85D’s “insane” mode, perhaps?), or a more sophisticated battery control program. Maybe the new software will include a “green” driving coach program that encourages efficient behaviour behind the wheel, but that sounds like buzzkill in what really is a sport sedan, and it certainly wouldn’t eliminate range anxiety. Whatever this mysterious update entails, there’s only so much Tesla could do to extend the Model S’ range without upgrading hardware, so we’re very curious what Musk has up his sleeve—and, of course, that’s exactly what he wants.
What would really do away with range anxiety is the adoption of industry-wide EV battery standards that would allow drivers to stop at regularly-located battery stations and swap out a depleted battery with a charged one, and simply pay for the electricity. But that’s a long way off, even as Musk has already promised such interchangeability for Model S owners. Stay tuned; we’ll have more on this story after Musk’s press conference last this week.