Tesla Motors revealed a facelifted Model S sedan last month, and while it talked about the new look and tech features, it also quietly did some battery-size voodoo. Turns out, the base Model S 70 and the mid-range Model S 75 both use the same 75-kWh battery. The lower-priced version has its range limited by software that you can have removed after purchase—for a sizable fee.
From the factory, the batteries in the Model S 70 and 70D are limited to 70-kWh. Upgrading to the full 75-kWh capacity after you've taken delivery of the car will set you back $3250. According to , the 5-kWh upgrade only costs $3000 if you order it that way from the start, and if you purchased a Model S in March or April, the upgrade is free.
Though the upgrade can be done over the air, Tesla will replace the "70" badge on the back of your Model S with a "75" one when you take the car in for servicing, lest anyone think you have an inferior Model S. Enabling the full 75-kWh charge capacity will increase the range of the Model S by 19 miles. The range of the rear-wheel-drive Model S 70 will increase from 234 miles to 253 miles with the upgrade, while the all-wheel-drive Model S 70D will increase from 240 miles to 259 miles.
Essentially what Tesla is offering is kind of equivalent to an ECU reflash, but instead of being aftermarket, it's coming from the factory. It's sort of ingenious, too, streamlining production to two battery sizes (75-kWh and 90-kWh) while creating an after-purchase revenue stream.
Tesla's familiar with these sort of after-purchase upgrades as well: The automaker equips all of its cars with Autopilot hardware, but charges customers $3000 after delivery to activate it if the car isn't originally ordered with the option.