EPA rates Tesla Model S for 89 MPGe, 265 mile range

Tesla-Motors-Model-S-sedanThe EPA released its ratings for the Tesla Model S electric sedans just as the first cars were being delivered to customers. The agency tested a Model S with the optional 85 kWh battery pack, rating it at 89 MPGe and saying the car could achieve a 265 mile range.

The 265 mile range is shorter than the 300 Tesla originally predicted (and still uses in promotional materials). However, the official EPA number matches the new estimate Tesla gave after the company found out that the Model S would be tested with the new five-cycle method. The current tests are more comprehensive than the old two-cycle; they include energy-sapping operations like cold starts, aggressive acceleration, and running with the air conditioning.

The EPA certified range may not be a round 300 miles, but it does give the Model S the longest range of any electric car currently in production. The Nissan Leaf, the only other car in the Tesla’s EPA size class, can go 73 miles on a full charge. The CODA sedan, Ford Focus Electric, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, are rated at 88, 76, and 62 miles, respectively.

The Model S’ 89 MPGe efficiency rating was not class-leading. It is the second least efficient fully-electric car currently on sale, only beating the CODA sedan. The current MPGe champ, at 112, is the Mitsubishi i. At $1.14 per 25 miles, the Tesla is the second most expense electric car to drive, in terms of energy costs.

The Tesla is also by far the most expense electric car currently on sale. The 85 kWh model with the 265 mile range starts at $77,400 (before federal tax credits), and can cost as much as $105,400 with options. The Leaf has a base price of $35,200. However, the Tesla is aimed at the higher end of the market, and offers more luxury and performance than any current fully-electric vehicle.

An alternative to the Model S’ all-electric powertrain is the extended-range electric vehicle. Cars like the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma have gasoline engines that are used to generate electricity. The Karma can travel 50 miles on electricity, and 300 miles on one tank of gas. The EPA rated it at 52 MPGe; the Volt is rated at 94.

The EPA did not test the two Model S base models, which have smaller battery packs and shorter ranges. Tesla sells the car with a 40 kWh battery pack and 160 mile range, or 60 kWh and a 230 mile range. The base Model s starts at $57,400 before applicable tax credits.

Tesla will deliver the first Model S sedans to customers on Friday, although one car has already been given to a Tesla board member. The company claims it has a waiting list of 10,000 orders. It hopes to sell 5,000 cars in 2012, and 20,000 in 2013.