Tesla recently confirmed that the base version of the Model 3 will be able to travel over 215 miles on a single charge with a battery pack “smaller than 60 kWh”. The relatively small battery capacity makes it clear that the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance is crucial to achieving the range, much like it is for the Model S and X, even with their higher capacity battery packs.
It became clear that Tesla knows the importance of aerodynamics after both the Model S and X achieved the lowest drag coefficient (Cd) in their respective segments. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he expects the Model 3 to achieve an incredibly low 0.21 Cd, which should be enough to make the Model 3 the most aerodynamic mass production car ever made.
Tesla is said to use Exa’s digital simulation tools to design its vehicles and Exa’s Vice President of Ground Transportation Applications, Ales Alajbegovic, shared his thoughts on the Model 3’s aero innovations.
Ales explains on what he bases his analysis:
“Tesla uses Exa’s PowerFLOW digital simulation software in-house to design its cars. We don’t see the process, but by analyzing the cars that Musk unveiled at the end of March, we can see where Tesla has innovated.”
Firstly, the engineer highlights Tesla’s new wheel designs unveiled with the Model 3. Musk said that Tesla worked hard on the new designs and that they are not only for the unveiling, and that they should make it to production. Alajbegovic commented:
“The differing turbine-blade styling not only comes across as fresh and appealing, but it also directs the flow of the air under the body of the car to reduce drag.
That’s smart. Tesla could have used an active aero solution that closed the vanes on the wheels at speed, but they chose not to. In fact, it appears there are no active aero devices on the Model 3, which reduces the cost of making it.”
Like the Model X’s and the new updated Model S’ front fascia, the Model 3 also has a grille-less design. Ales explains the aerodynamic features of the front-end design of the Model 3 and its air curtains:
“Here only the shape remains. A more wedged front end, such as used by rear-engined Porsches, might well be more desirable aerodynamically, but Tesla could be using the grille shape with its rounded edges to control the air flow over the top or round the sides of the car.
The Model 3 also employs air curtains in the lower fender that exit ahead of the front tires to provide a drag-reducing air stream over the wheels, while helping the flow transition smoothly around the sides of the vehicle. The underbody is likely to be flat and smooth, ending with a rear diffuser to control the air coming from under the car.”
To illustrate the importance of aerodynamics, Ales estimates that by reducing the Model S drag figure from 0.32 to 0.24, Tesla managed to increase the range of the car by about 50 miles.
Elon Musk said that Tesla’s design and aerodynamic teams are still working on the details of the Model 3 and things could change, but it would be truly impressive if they can achieve a 0.21 Cd. It would prove Tesla able to consistently (or at least on 3 separate and consecutive occasions) achieve record-breaking low drag coefficients, while still delivering compelling designs.
Featured Image: Beautiful pictures of a Tesla Model 3 prototype in the Marin Headlands [Gallery] – with permission courtesy of Joseph Neuman.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.
“Ales estimates that by reducing the Model S drag figure from 0.32 to 0.24, Tesla managed to increase the range of the car by about 50 miles.”
What the article do not mention is that Total Resistance of the air is Drag Coefficient *multiplied* by Vehicles Front Area. Model 3 is smaller (narrower) than S, and that helps also.
Where’s that header photo from? Haven’t seen it before. Did Tesla post new photos?
My bad. I forgot to add a featured image not: http://viptest.electrek.co/2016/04/27/tesla-model-3-prototype-pictures/
Not sure how I missed that one. Thanks!
I believe someone shot that photo privately and have made it publicly available. The story I read is the photographer was out on a motorcycle ride and came across the Model 3 mule being driven in Marin County. He managed to take a couple of – very good, obviously – shots.
Even though a cd of 0,21 would currently be the benchmark for production cars, I wouldn’t call it “truly impressive”. The Mercedes CLA already has an cd of 0,22. The Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA from last years IAA has a claimed cd of 0,19. The VW XL1 concept, which is a completely different and innovative approach to car design has a cd of 0,186.
But as Joona Kallio already mentioned the total front area also plays a huge role in overall drag. In that category I am a bit dissapointed in Tesla. I think they could have taken advantage of not needing a gearbox ect. and build a narrower car. But let’s see what the future will bring 😉
Mercedes claimed that it would be the most aerodynamic production vehicle on sale with a Cd=0.23, beating the previous most-aerodynamic, the Tesla Model S (0.24). The CLA 180 CDI Blue Efficiency was claimed to be even more aerodynamic with a Cd=0.22. However, independent measurement by Car And Driver Magazine in May 2014 bore out Tesla’s claim by exactly confirming a drag coefficient of Cd=0.24, while putting Mercedes’ claim into question by measuring the CLA at Cd=0.30.
 “Aero Comparo! Tesla Model S vs Volt, Prius, Leaf, Mercedes CLA”. YouTube. 6 June 2014.
Musk also said it will seat five adults comfortably. Having no drive shaft or exhaust system helps since the floor is flat, but making the car narrower would hurt. If the car didn’t meet the basic goals, it wouldn’t be an option. Beating a 200 mile range with an entry level battery is another goal, and that one appears to have been met. Improving that goal by not meeting goal one isn’t an answer. It’s a disqualification.
All gas powered front wheel drive cars have flat floors, and they don’t have a giant battery under them.
If they went back to bench seats they could seat six. 🙂
The wheels are the same on both sides of the car in the photos. So the vanes on the wheels in the top photo would ‘pull’ air out and the photo below they would push air under while going forward. Is there really a designed cross wind under the car?
Do you realize that the 2 photos are different cars, right? Top is Model 3, bottom photo is Model S
This is ridiculously irrelevant. The range mentioned is highway, low speed (55MPH) driving range, which, on today’s Interstates, does not exist.
Few Tesla Model 3 cars will be cruising down the Interstates (especially at the low speeds Tesla uses for determining range) – they will be driving around town, and driving around town means that aero means far less than weight, which predominates. Example : the Elio: 82MPG on highway, 50MPG around town. Judging by the Model S claims and Tesla’s penchant for ridicuolously misleading claims about their products (cost , driving range, cost to operate),
if Elon claims 200 driving range, expect around town to be roughly 150 and on the Interstates even less, unless one risks life and limb by driving 20 miles under the speed limit. Tesla has always delievered vehicles that cost more than claimed, have a shorter driving range than claimed, are NOT cost efficient vehicles in any respects, and are so ridiculously complicated that none will still be on the road beyond ten years, in my opinion. Musk has ruined the repuatation of electric cars as simple, reliable, potentially cost eficinet machines (when battery prices become affordable). Musk isn’t doing electric cars any favors – only millionaires can afford them
Curious where you got your information. I have a Model X and it gets remarkably close to its listed mileage. Also, the mileage listed is for travel at 65 mph, not 55, and around town, it generally gets even better mileage, due to lack of aerodynamic resistance and regenerative braking.
I wonder if you really believe what you said here. Tesla is not doing anything differently in marketing than others do. And 10 years from now, I hope we will see fewer gas stations along the roads.
Nobody drives around town for 200 miles. Range starts to matter when you’re driving on the highway.
Oh, by the way — because of regenerative braking, Teslas get very good mileage around town.