Have you noticed that Tesla Model 3s come with plastic hub caps? Doesn’t that seem kind of odd for such a high end car?
Did Tesla overlook the hub caps while designing the Model 3? On the contrary, actually. Tesla gave the hub caps a lot of thought. It turns out that there’s a valid reason for using plastic hub caps, and it’s to improve the car’s efficiency.
Tesla’s Multi-Part Wheel Design
The Model 3 comes with a multi-part wheel design:
- Wheels: 10-spoke alloy wheels
- Aerodynamic caps: Plastic hub cabs fitted on the wheels
Even though aerodynamics was a big part of the Model 3’s design, the Model 3 reservation holders were still hesitant about the idea of aerodynamic hub caps. However, they warmed up to the idea after Tesla explained how efficient their aerodynamic hub caps would be and agreed to make the aero caps easily removable.
Tesla’s aerodynamics, design, and chassis teams spent a lot of time developing the aero hub caps for the Model 3. Not only is the design sleek and attractive, but the aero hub caps really increase the vehicle’s efficiency. A lot of Model 3 owners like that they can change the look of their cars on the fly because the alloy wheel under the cover is attractive. If you’re planning on driving around town, it’s easy to pull off the hub caps, and efficiency won’t drop at all. And if a longer highway trip is planned, you can just put the wheel covers back on for maximum efficiency.
How The Multi-Part Design Makes Tesla Wheels More Efficient
Did you know that the Model 3 is the most efficient long-range EV to date? It’s partially thanks to the aerodynamic wheels. The multi-part wheel design play a part in the car’s efficiency in the following areas:
To be efficient around town, you want lightweight wheels. The heavier the wheel is, the more energy it takes to start and stop the wheel. So Tesla developed the lightest weight alloy wheel possible for the Model 3. It weighs only 21.6 pounds, which is as light as a production wheel can be. However, it’s still not very aerodynamic. That’s why Tesla created the plastic aerodynamic hub caps.
Good aerodynamics make a wheel efficient at highway speeds. To be aerodynamic, the wheel face has to be as flat and flush with the tire sidewall as possible. A cast alloy wheel could have an aerodynamic shape, but it would be heavy due to the extra material used. So Tesla developed a plastic hub cover to provide aerodynamics. The hub cover only weighs 1.4 pounds, so it adds minimal weight to the wheel.
This article has more information about why the Tesla Model 3 aerodynamic wheels really work.
The One Downside To Aero Wheels
There’s only one downside to aero wheels, and it’s that making the rim of the wheel flush with sidewall of the tire makes the rim very susceptible to damage from curbs. Considering how expensive Tesla wheels are, it can be quite a bummer to see one of them get scratched up. Luckily, there’s a stylish and affordable way to protect your aero wheels from curb rashes: RimSavers!
RimSavers are durable strips you can install along the rim of your wheels. They serve as the first line of defense against curbs and they’re always quite efficient. Here’s more information on why RimSavers is a great way to protect your Tesla’s aero wheels.
But, Wait A Minute – Model 3’s Also Came With Sport Wheels
Image Credit: Daniel Spalding
Some people ordered their Model 3’s with Sport wheels. The Sport wheels are larger in diameter than the Aero wheels, and they don’t come with the plastic Aero covers. They do share one similarity with the Aero wheels. The design of the wheel has its spokes sitting very flush with the sidewall of the tire. This gives the wheel the best aerodynamics possible for an open spoke wheel. But, this design does make the wheel vulnerable to curb damage. The great news is that RimSavers also fit the Sport wheels perfectly, and protect against curb damage!