What a Difference a Wheel Makes

How did dubs influence the Model S?

What a Difference a Wheel Makes

I don't want to pull up to a light and park next to a car that's identical to mine.  I found a Bay Area shop that was well-reviewed and, total bonus, nearby.  After a few conversations with them, along with trolling images through Google and reading subs at Reddit I had an idea of what I want to do with my car.

As it turns out, the shop is quite busy, primarily with Teslas, and so all my work was scheduled weeks and months out depending on the work.  Anything worth doing is worth the wait, I guess.  Here's where we are today...

The first visit would be tint at 50% on 'five windows', which equates to everything but the windshield.  Surprisingly, some people DO tint the windshield, which strikes me as odd.  It's big-time illegal, too - then again, so are the driver and passenger at the level I did them, but just barely.

At the same time they were going to pull the wheels, give me some loaners, and paint my 19" turbines satin black, then swap them back when my wheels were done.  For whatever reason I decided that, for only slightly more out of pocket, I wanted to step up to 20" wheels and go with slightly larger rears (stagger).  Why?  I honestly don't know - but I don't care much either; they look great!  Getting there...

The Model S comes with two wheel options: 19" or 21".  I've read a lot about ride quality and with the profile of a 21" the tire is so thin that bent rims become a possibility from harsh bumps.  Opting for the 20" was a compromise and another way to be unique.  The design is similar to factory turbines, but different ever-so-subtly, and I love them.

Back on topic (pardon the digression), I knew that the efficiency of my car would be less than it was with the factory wheels, but it shouldn't have changed much.  The Model S bases its 'rated' wh/mi (watt-hours per mile) at 300, and for my 75D that works out to 250 rated miles at 100% charge.  That's with either 19" or 21".

What I quickly discovered, however, was I was struggling to hit that magic 300 wh/mi after the new wheels went on.  How you drive the car influences this, just as it does MPG in a conventional gas/diesel vehicle - you just don't notice because range anxiety isn't a thing when there's a gas station on every other street corner.  Lead foot?   Low efficiency.  High speed?  Low efficiency.  Start/stop?  Low efficiency.  Electric vehicles are especially bad with short drives, as the climate control is all electric (duh) so you see wretchedly poor numbers with things like 2 mile trips to the store, etc.  Like, 600+ wh/mi, and I've seen as high as 1,000.  So I drove like a granny to see how well I could do.  Best so far: 350 wh/mi and that was driving 25 miles to work at 70 on smart cruise.

It was when I pulled into the parking garage that something struck me, and I think it's the key to this change in efficiency I'm writing about.  You know how tight turns in parking garages can generate squeals from the tire akin to driving too fast, even though you're moving at a relative snail's pace?  I don't get those any more.  It's the tires, not the wheels that changed.

The car came with Continentals designed specifically for Tesla.  The new tires are Michelin sports.  The original tires, like everything else in the Tesla, were built for efficiency, whereas the Michelins are designed for grip.  That difference, especially in city driving, is notable to the point that it potentially reduced my car's range from 250 (rated) to 190 miles if 400 wh/mi was the best I could do.  Could I ever really hit the rated number?  No, not really, so I think I've realistically gone from 325 wh/mi to 375 (more freeway, less city), meaning I moved from a range of 230 to 200.   I'm doing my first EV road trip tomorrow.  It's 250 miles round trip, so not feasible without charging.  Let's see how things go on a sustained freeway cruise.  Perhaps I'll write a trip review after, but no promises.

Meanwhile, beware the sneakers you put on your EV if you have range anxiety.