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Tesla ending Model S range anxiety

In a tweet this morning, Tesla founder Elon Musk promised a new over-the-air software update would "end range anxiety" for the entire Model S fleet.

2015 Tesla Model S P85D
Elon Musk promises a software update that will end range anxiety in the entire Model S fleet. Josh Miller/CNET


In a typically vague tweet this morning, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced that a new over-the-air software update, that will affect all Model S cars on the road, will alleviate range anxiety. The tweet noted a press conference for Thursday morning to clarify the news.

On a semifrequent basis, Tesla has sent software updates to existing Model S cars over the built-in 3G data connection, adding and refining features. In the past, these software updates have given the cars a "Creep" mode, making them behave more like traditional automatic transmission cars in traffic, and added traffic avoidance to navigation.

Musk's tweet about ending range anxiety could mean a number of things, from refining the low-battery warning system to actually increasing the car's EPA range.

The Model S uses software algorithhms to control power output from the battery. Josh Miller/CNET

Currently, the Model S' cabin electronics will show the driver a warning if the battery is getting low. The navigation system includes a database of charging stations. Tesla may have refined this system to better help drivers find charging stations, but an improvement such as that would probably not warrant a press conference.

From the company's early days, its engineers have worked to refine the car's battery pack, which is made up of many small lithium ion cells. It seems likely that new software for the battery pack's power control could eke out more range. Musk's promise to end range anxiety would suggest a very significant improvement.

If the announcement concerns an outright range improvement, Tesla will likely have verified it with EPA testing procedures.

Thursday's press conference may also concern new service plans or battery swapping, but the tweet's reference to an over-the-air software update suggests refinements or new features in the actual car.

A Tesla spokesperson would only confirm that full details will be available on Thursday morning, 9 am Pacific Time.

2015 Tesla Model S 4dr Sdn RWD 60 kWh Battery