When Elon Musk tweets, the world notices. He famously tweeted before the reveal of the Model S P85D that it was “About time to unveil the D.” That blurb and accompanying cryptic photo sent people into a speculative frenzy as they imagined all sorts of crazy things Musk had cooked up, including probably an all-electric mechanical dinosaur useful for tearing through rush hour traffic on the I-5 in Southern California.
This time Elon is promising to cure the big bad wolf that constantly plagues Tesla and all electric cars: range anxiety. People start to break into a cold sweat as they think about owning an EV and running out of charge in the middle of nowhere, or even in the middle of the city. After all, you can’t really carry electricity back to the car in a small plastic container like you can with gasoline, although such an idea would be a great new business venture.
The big announcement that’s promised for Thursday has nothing to do with carrying electricity to a stranded Tesla. Musk said everything will be solved with an over-the-air software update that will be applied to all versions of the Model S. Considering that range anxiety is largely a state of mind, and last time I checked Tesla owners aren’t all cyborgs, how exactly a software update will fix everything isn’t entirely clear.
Even if the update means the Model S will have a range of 400 miles, or 480 if you don’t run the air conditioning, it still won’t cure range anxiety. Right now the Model S boasts the best electric range in the industry, with top-of-the-line models going as far on a charge as some gasoline-powered vehicles go on a full tank.
The simple fact is that gas stations are everywhere, while electric vehicle chargers are still few. There are multiple possibilities about how software could help ease the problem, but flat-out ending range anxiety is a tall order. After all, there are still people who have airbag or seatbelt anxiety, showing that human psychology is tough thing to conquer.