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Elon Musk promises to end 'range anxiety.' Is it possible?

Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, tweeted Tuesday that the automaker would end range anxiety, or electric car drivers' uncertainty over how much battery is left. 

Stringer/Reuters/File
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, waves during a news conference to mark the company's delivery of the first batch of electric cars to Chinese customers in Beijing last year

Yesterday morning, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk sent out this tantalizing tweet:

What could that possibly mean? How could an over-the-air software update "end range anxiety"?

On the one hand, Musk could be planning to boost the efficiency of the Model S itself. That would be hard to do with just software, though. Yes, Tesla's "D" performance package increased battery range on the Model S, but only by installing another electric motor on the car's front axle, and even then, the increase in range was less than 20 miles. Perhaps there's some sloppy code lurking somewhere in the Model S -- code that could be tightened to give range a jump -- but that jump isn't likely to be significant enough to "end range anxiety". 

On the other hand, Musk could be talking about driver anxiety that's brought on by uncertainty about how much battery range is left. Improving the accuracy of the Model S' battery evaluation system would allow owners to relax instead ofcutting their trips short. If Tesla were to go this route, it wouldn't be offering endless battery range, it would just be quelling uncertainty, offering a functional cure that effectively ends range anxiety.

Have thoughts of your own? We'll know more details about Musk's evil-genius plan on Thursday morning.

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