Tesla Motors, Inc. Debuts Ludicrous P90D at Monterey Car Week

Here's what you need to know about Tesla's newest car.

Daniel Sparks
Daniel Sparks
Aug 16, 2015 at 12:00PM

YouTube is littered with videos of Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ:TSLA) P85D Model S leaving cars in the dust, most of which are more expensive and seat only two passengers. But Tesla's newest addition to the family, the P90D with Ludicrous mode, is about to set off a new wave of acceleration videos. The vehicle makes its debut this weekend at Monterey Car Week, an internationally famed exotic car event.

P90D Model S making its debut at Monterey Car Week. Image source: Tesla Motors.

P90D Model S
As Tesla engineers were working on a goal of making a powertrain that can last a million miles, they discovered a way to go beyond the P85D's Insane mode. Tesla dubbed this new territory of explosive acceleration Ludicrous mode.

Ludicrous mode gets the Model S to 60 in just 2.8 seconds, about 10% faster than the 3.1-second time its P85D boasted.

Tesla explained the breakthrough enabling this faster speed in a July blog post announcing the vehicle.

Instead of a standard fuse that just melts past a certain amperage, requiring a big gap between the normal operating current and max current, we developed a fuse with its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery. It constantly monitors current at the millisecond level and is pyro-actuated to cut power with extreme precision and certainty.

That was combined with upgrading the main pack contactor to use inconel (a high temperature space-grade superalloy) instead of steel, so that it remains springy under the heat of heavy current. The net result is that we can safely increase the max pack output from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

During the press call announcing the P90D, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this engineering feet essentially enabled Model S to maintain the same power that lurched it from zero to 30 mph in just one and one-third seconds all the way through 60 mph. Therefore, it's not until the P90D Model S hits about 60 mph that power begins to taper off, as opposed to the P85D's power, which begins to taper off around 30 mph.

Like Tesla's previous flagship Model S, the vehicle sports all-wheel drive -- or dual motor, as Tesla calls it.

Tesla customers ordering the Model S and upgrading to Ludicrous mode will need to fork out $3,000 for a range upgrade to a 90 kWh battery, as well as $10,000 for the actual Ludicrous speed upgrade.

Model S. Image source: Tesla Motors.

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At a minimum, buying a Model S with Ludicrous mode costs about $118,000. A fully loaded version costs about $145,000. Notably, however, this is a very low price compared with other cars with similar performance specs.

Keeping the Model S line fresh with new features is important for Tesla's business. Today, Model S vehicle sales constitute 100% of the company's new auto sales, making its success in the market absolutely crucial to helping Tesla establish itself in the auto market. While Tesla's Model X SUV is scheduled to launch this year, deliveries will be constrained as production ramps.

Updates to the Model S lines have helped Tesla continue to grow sales. In 2014, the car maker introduced dual motor and autopilot features for the vehicle. And earlier in 2015, Tesla beefed up its entry-level version.

This year, Tesla is aiming to boost Model S deliveries by about 50% -- a goal it's living up to so far. Will Tesla's P90D, and the hundreds of YouTube videos it will inspire, help the company continue to solicit a growing number of orders for the vehicle?