Electric Vehicles

Tesla becomes world's first company to have an EV with over 400 miles of range

The Model S is the flagship fo the Tesla lineup.

Photo courtesy of Tesla

The Tesla Model S Long Range Plus is now the first electric car with a 400-mile range. Four hundred miles is getting into what a normal car can do on a tank of fuel, and helps smash an important psychological barrier to electric car adoption.

I've driven a lot of electric vehicles (EV). I've reviewed just about everything Tesla makes, and I've never had any particular worries about "Range Anxiety" — that nagging feeling that EV owners supposedly have where they fret about just how far they can go before running out of electricity.

But it's something I constantly hear from potential EV buyers before they buy an EV, so it's a real obstacle to EV adoption. No matter how much EV-proponents bang on about how 99-point-whatever percent of people drive under 20 miles every day, folks will still say "but what if I want to drive to Grandma's house that's hundreds of miles away?"

There are two main ways to deal with this. One is an extensive high-speed charging network, to allow EV drivers to stop, stretch their legs and grab a Diet Coke while their car refuels itself — Tesla has done a bang-up job of this with its extensive Supercharger network, while other companies like Electrify America are doing a decent job playing catchup. The other is to build cars with longer and longer electric range, so they don't have to charge up in the first place.

That's what the 400-mile Tesla is all about, and it's been a bit of an adventure to get here. The first Tesla Model S could go an EPA-estimated 265-miles on a charge in 2012, which was still pretty good. That exceeds the (much cheaper) Chevy Bolt's 237 miles when it debuted in 2016, and Tesla has continued to extend the range of its cars thanks to more advanced battery tech, larger battery packs, and a few other nips and tucks like more aerodynamic wheels, tires with less rolling resistance, and more advanced motors.

The trek to an EPA-estimated 400-mile range has been a little confusing, though. During Tesla's quarterly earnings call at the beginning of May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted that the top range of the Model S was 391 miles — but claimed that EPA estimate was wrong.

"Actually... the real Model S range is 400 miles. But when we did the last EPA test, unfortunately, EPA had left the car door opened and the keys in the car — this is overnight. And so the car actually went into waiting-for-driver mode and lost 2% of its range. As a result, it had a 391 test," he explained.

2021 Tesla Model S The Tesla Model S is the largest of the company's sedans.Photo courtesy of Tesla

The EPA denied this claim, saying that it tested the vehicle properly and noting that it was happy to discuss technical issues with Tesla privately as it does with all automakers.

Well, it seems that Elon was right. Tesla announced in a blog post this week that the top-range Model S has an "official EPA-estimated range of 402 miles." Sure, that 11 mile-increase in range won't actually affect anyone who buys the thing — it has the same range regardless of what the EPA says, of course — but triumphing over that oh-so-important psychological barrier of 400-miles makes a difference. Probably.

It's also worth noting that few EVs even breaks the 300-mile barrier. The closest contenders (according to the EPA) are:

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is slated to have 300 miles of range as "a target" according to Ford.com.

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The 2021 Audi E-Tron is able to tow a modest amount.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Discussing electric vehicles (EVs) today is a funny thing, because the models people are most excited about haven't yet hit the market. That's even more true for EVs with towing capabilities, as electric pickup trucks won't start leaving factory assembly lines until mid-2021 at the absolute earliest, and most are months behind that ambitious timeline. Still, looking at what we can buy today, along with models that will soon be available, we can get a good feel for where the EV world stands on towing.

As we get closer to the end of 2021, we'll start to see even more electric vehicles with respectable towing capacities. GMC has been quiet on the capabilities of its Hummer EV, but its power numbers and size indicate that it'll be one to watch. Ford already towed a freight train with a prototype of its EV pickup, but again, no word on actual numbers. We also know that Chevrolet will roll out an electric pickup of its own, but don't count on seeing the Silverado name on the electrified model.

2022 GMC Hummer EV The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is expected to arrive late this year. Photo courtesy of GMC

It's important to remember that towing capacity is different than payload capacity, which deals with the weight of the vehicle itself, plus any fluids, passengers, and cargo. It's also good to note that most vehicles, even today's gas pickup trucks, need to be properly equipped before they're able to tow anything, trailer or otherwise. Many vehicles, such as the Tesla Model Y on our list, require a towing package, which adds a hitch and other hardware, as well as software patches to handle the strain that towing puts on the vehicle.

Don't get caught up in fancy range and torque numbers, because just like their gas counterparts, EVs will be nowhere near as efficient while pulling a trailer. There's some dispute over whether the outrageous torque claims from GMC and Tesla are real, or an engineering flim-flam meant to tempt an unknowing public.

If you're looking for an EV and need to tow, this is a decent time to be in the market, but the longer you can wait the more selection you'll have. Be prepared to open your wallet for an electric vehicle of any type, however, because most are currently more expensive than comparable gas models. No matter where you end up with your next towing rig, gas or electric, be sure you understand your vehicle's capabilities and your own skill before hitting the road.

Tesla Model Y

Tesla Model Y

Photo courtesy of Tesla

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
It may seem farfetched that an electric crossover could tow a trailer, but the three models on our list that you can actually walk out and buy today are crossovers. The all-wheel drive Model Y is rated at up to 3,500 pounds but must be equipped with a $1,200 tow package, which includes a high-strength steel tow bar with two-inch hitch receiver, a trailer harness with NA 7-pin standard connector, and a tow mode software package. That's on top of the Model yYs ability to carry up to seven people and blistering performance.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
Like its corporate cousin, Kia, Hyundai is set to debut a surprisingly capable small EV for 2022. The Ioniq 5 brings quirky forward-looking style to the table, along with a stout 3,500-pound tow rating. Hyundai says that the Ioniq 5 will sport a driving range of between 250 and 300 miles, and notes that it will be available with two powertrain options, one that can deliver 215 horsepower and a more powerful unit with 315 horsepower. The Hyundai offers a clean, futuristic cabin with two large driver-oriented screens, and will be available with semi-autonomous driving features.

Rivian R1T and R1S

Rivian R1S

Photo courtesy of Rivian

Towing Capacity: 11,000 pounds
Rivian captured everyone's attention with big investments from Ford, Amazon, and others, but it will also be one of the first companies to deliver an electric pickup truck when the first units land in late 2021. The R1T is a compelling electric truck with supercar acceleration, legitimate off-road chops, and the ability to tow up to 11,000 pounds, which puts it on par with some of the best full-size trucks available today. Making things even better for Rivian buyers, the company's R1S SUV will sport much of the same capability and a towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds.

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla Cybertruck Photo courtesy of Tesla

Towing Capacity: 14,000 pounds
The Cybertruck's unveiling press event was weird on a bunch of levels, from Elon Musk's theatrics to a broken window, of all things. But if any of the specs that were laid out at the event and soon after are true, the funky Tesla will be a revelation for people needing to tow heavy loads. Mixed in with a bunch of other eye-popping specs are the towing numbers. In its most basic configuration, Tesla says the traditional Cybertruck will be able to tow up to 7,500 pounds, but in its most capable configurations the truck is said to tow up to 14,000 pounds.

It's important to take a step back for a moment and note that nobody's actually driven or tested the Cybertruck and things could change drastically before it actually reaches the market.

Audi E-Tron Sportback

2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Towing Capacity: 4,000 pounds
Audi's electric offerings range from cushy premium crossovers to red-hot electric sports sedans, and some can tow an impressive amount. The E-Tron Sportback is one, and with the ability to tow up to 4,000 pounds, it can take the whole family, all of their gear, and pull a small trailer at the same time. On top of that, the Audi's interior is packed with upscale materials and useful tech.

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo XC40 Recharge side plug Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

Towing Capacity: 3,307 pounds
The funky XC40 crossover got an all-electric model a couple of years ago, and though it's small, the Recharge EV model can tow up to 3,307 pounds. The crossover's upright and slightly boxy shape give it excellent headroom inside, and the folding seats inside open up the storage area to a decent 47.39 cubic feet of cargo space. To sweeten the pot, Volvo offers the XC40 Recharge with several desirable feature, such as a panoramic sunroof, a large touchscreen infotainment system, and the latest advanced driver assistance tech.

Kia EV6

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
Despite its name being strikingly similar to a popular band from the 1990s, the Kia EV6 has some serious capability. When properly equipped, it can tow up to 3,500 pounds which is more than enough for a small boat or trailer. That's impressive for such a small vehicle, but the Kia offers more than that, with futuristic looks, an available long-range battery, and an open, airy cabin.

Volkswagen ID.4

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Towing Capacity: 2,200 pounds
The Volkswagen ID.4 isn't the most powerful vehicle on our list, but it's got just enough capability to get the job done for folks wanting to pull a small trailer or boat. The ID.4's tow rating of 2,200 pounds may not be all that impressive, but its price tag, upscale interior, and clever features make it a compelling choice among small electric crossovers. The ID.4 also gets a slew of advanced driver aids, many of which are standard, as well as a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation.

Polestar 2

2021 Polestar 2 Photo courtesy of Polestar

Towing Capacity: 2,000 pounds
The Polestar 2 lands just under VW ID.4 at the low end of the towing spectrum, with capability of pulling up to 2,000 pounds. Volvo's sub-brand offers plenty of other compelling features for the vehicle that more than make up for the slight lack of towing ability. Polestar says the 2 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, and notes that the vehicle is built with the goal of being as sustainable as possible in the areas of battery design and manufacturing.

Tesla Model X

2021 Tesla Model X Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds
Tesla's funky gullwing-doored crossover is weird, expensive, and surprisingly capable. When properly equipped, the Model X can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It's also blazingly quick, and in some configurations can reach 60 mph from a standstill in just 2.5 seconds. Teslas are also known for their technology, and the Model X is no different. It can be equipped with advanced driver assist systems and comes with one of the largest and most functional infotainment touchscreens on the market today.

Hyundai Kona Electric

2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Towing Capacity: 2,800 pounds
Hyundai's EV offerings are growing in number and sophistication, and no vehicle illustrates that point better than the Kona Electric. The tiny but mighty Hyundai Kona Electric is able to tow up to 2,800 pounds when properly equipped, and with an MSRP that lands well under $40,000, it brings a healthy dose of value to the table as well. Though the Kona isn't offered with all-wheel drive, its 201-horsepower electric motor is strong enough to propel it from zero to 60 mph in a little over six seconds.

Audi E-Tron

2021 Audi E-Tron

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Towing Capacity: 4,000 pounds
Another crossover. This time from a legacy European automaker with a catalog full of premium vehicles. The E-Tron is powered by twin electric motors with up to 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. On top of that, it's got a top speed of 124 mph and a cabin packed with upscale materials. Audi also says that the E-Tron is good to tow up to 4,000 pounds, which is plenty for a small trailer or boat.

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Subaru trademarked the Wilderness name long before the Outback Wilderness debuted.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

Subaru has sought to trademark the word 'Solterra' from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The filing is the type that comes when an automaker is about to announce a new product.

What could Subaru be cooking up? A quick look at Toyota will give you the answer. You see, Toyota and Subaru have an agreement to co-develop products together. That includes the Toyota GR 86, which is modified slightly and sold as the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota Prius Prime, which has donated its powertrain to the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.

A few weeks ago, Toyota revealed the bZ4X Concept, an all-electric SUV that will come to market as the bZ4X is the very near future. That concept is just the start of Toyota's electric future and they've detailed what to expect a little more fully via a news release and some trademark searching.

Toyota bZ4X Concept face front The Toyota bZ4X Concept is slightly smaller than the modern Subaru Forester but has about as much inteiror Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

It's been said all along that Subaru plans to make its own version of that vehicle, and for a long time it's been thought that it was going to be the Evoltis. But, and this is a big but, Evoltis sounds a little more like a concept name rather than a production name. Take 'Viziv'. That's the working name the automaker gave to its Ascent three-row SUV when it was creating it just a few years ago. 'Ascent' feels more in line with the 'Forester' and 'Crosstrek' nomenclature, no? The same for 'Solterra'.

Now there's the Solterra vs. Soltera debate. USPTO has the trademark filing listed under 'Soltera' but a simple click-through reveals that the mark request is actually for 'Solterra'. The double 'r' makes the most sense as Solterra would be the combination of Latin words: 'soltis' means sun and 'terra' means Earth. That fits perfectly with the Subaru company styling.

When reached out to for comment, Subaru replied, "We cannot comment."

Even if the Solterra name isn't used for the new EV, it is possible that we'll see it down the road on a trim level or new style of vehicle. As they say on Reels, stay tuned.

Subaru Solterra A trademark search reveals Solterra is in the process of being trademarked by Subaru.Photo courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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