Published on August 18th, 2020 |
by Kyle Field
August 18th, 2020 by Kyle Field
A new study published by Tesla mod shop Unplugged Performance revealed an impressive 13.3% improvement in efficiency at 70 miles per hour as a result of installing just three bolt-on upgrades on a Tesla Model 3. Because they look so amazing and add a nice aesthetic to Tesla’s vehicles, Unplugged Performance’s carbon fiber modifications might be interpreted as being simply for looks, but this new study makes it clear that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
At 70 miles per hour, the efficiency improvement translates to a staggering 43 miles of extra range per charge for a Tesla Model 3 Long Range vehicle. Not too shabby for a few bolt-ons that can be added to the vehicle with less than a single day’s work and a few thousand dollars.
The study looked specifically at the improvements in aerodynamic efficiency and downforce as a result of adding the Unplugged Performance front lip, rear wing, and lowering springs.
Critics will be quick to note that aerodynamic improvements in the confines of a wind tunnel do not directly translate to improvements in the real world, for a number of reasons. That’s true, but before and after tests in a controlled environment are the best way to understand the improvements that come with a new product.
The Unplugged Performance Front Lip Spoiler
The largest improvement in efficiency of the three components came from a seemingly simple Unplugged Performance Front Lip Spoiler. This little lip can be added to a Tesla Model 3 in less than 30 minutes and comes pre-painted in a range of factory colors. The undiscerning eye likely would not even notice the upgrade, as it simply extends the forward extent of the lower lip of the factory spoiler and only extends an extra eighth of an inch below the factory ground clearance.
The simple nature of this upgrade hides the fact that this spoiler decreases vehicle drag by an impressive 6.6%. That translates to an improvement in the factory drag coefficient of 0.23 by an additional 0.015. It also provides a massive 35.4% improvement in front downforce.
Achieving a dramatic improvement like this with such a simple upgrade has the potential to be a game changer for drivers hitting the track, and even a potentially worthwhile upgrade for those putting significant freeway mileage on their Model 3. At $995, the new spoiler isn’t cheap, but it is very approachable for those used to paying for upgrades to a race vehicle.
The Unplugged Performance High-Efficiency Rear Spoiler
Out back, the study confirmed that those massive rear spoilers popularized by the Fast & The Furious franchise actually make a noticeable difference on aerodynamics and downforce. Adding a simple spoiler to the rear of the vehicle catches the air zooming over the top of the vehicle and uses it to push the tail down. The Unplugged Performance study found their spoiler made a massive improvement in the amount of rear downforce, increasing it 83.7% over stock.
Compared to the factory carbon fiber spoiler that comes with Tesla’s optional Performance Upgrade Package, Unplugged Performance’s High Efficiency Rear Spoiler kicks out a bit farther, for greater effect. Surprisingly, adding the UP rear spoiler also reduces drag by 6.3%, or an improvement of 0.015 in the drag coefficient.
Unplugged Performance Lowering Springs
Lowering springs are a bit more invasive, as they require a much more technical install, and because they permanently lower the stance of the vehicle. That impacts the comfort of the ride, ground clearance of the vehicle, and perhaps most importantly, the ground clearance of the front of the vehicle. Having said that, they are a fantastic way to improve the aerodynamics of the vehicle.
Unplugged Performance’s moderate dual-rate linear-lowering spring set was designed specifically for the Tesla Model 3 with a bias towards developing a set of springs that provides comfortable city and track performance. To accomplish both, Unplugged Performance developed a dual rate spring that packs a more comfortable spring rate for city driving and a secondary spring rate that is more firm for better performance on the track.
The moderate and super performance spring sets lower the ride height 1.5 inches below factory, which translates to a reduction in drag of 8.1%. For owners looking for more performance, Unplugged offers kits that deliver mild, mid, and low heights, up to a maximum drop of 2.1 inches. Unplugged Performance also offers a mild lowering kit that slashes 0.7 inches from the factory ride height for a more casual look.
Seeing the performance improvement of these bolt-on upgrades for the Tesla Model 3 is exciting for those hitting the track, but these likely don’t offer a return on investment for most commuters. Having said that, there are likely to be a few edge cases for commuters putting massive amounts of highway mileage on their Model 3s where adding a few low-cost, low-effort upgrades to the vehicle might actually make sense.
Whether it is a matter of skipping a Supercharger here and there, or just maximizing the number of miles that can be put on the vehicle, the lab testing makes it clear that these upgrades could be a good option.
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