Tesla Model S Wiki

I've been watching youtube videos on this car, and everyone states that the crazy accelleration is due to maximum torque at 0 rpm. Doing further research, this car uses an AC induction motor, not a DC motor.

From my old lecture slides, I remember that the torque curve of an induction motor is not this, but can be shifted (by varying the voltage/frequency, I can't remember).

Is the "maximum torque at 0 rpm" misinformation going around?

enter image description here

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ See mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/5574/… - scroll down and you'll see the Tesla S torque curve. It's dead flat (presumably electronically limited by limiting current) from 0 to about 40mph. \$\endgroup\$
    – user16324
    Nov 26, 2016 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Direct link to Tesla curve mentioned above. \$\endgroup\$
    – swihart
    Nov 28, 2016 at 2:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ The way people classify electric motors is not always accurate. They mention that they use an AC motor, but I am not sure whether it is an induction motor. If it is an induction motor, then I am not sure that it has cage rotor. If it uses permanent magnets it might be a variable frequency synchronous motor. It may even be a step reluctance motor which can work with permanent magnets or without magnets. I personally think that the motor that Tesla uses is the latter. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2016 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ All Tesla vehicles use conventional induction motors. Others such as the Toyota Rav 4EV and the Mercedes B Class EV use a Tesla designed powertrain and also use an induction motor. As far as I know all other recent EVs use permanent magnet synchronous motors. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2016 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that my answer answers your actual question more closely than the others do. FWIW. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Nov 30, 2016 at 12:49

5 Answers 5


With frequency control, there is not just one torque curve, but an infinite number of curves, one for every operating frequency. The voltage needs to be proportional to frequency. If the voltage is carefully regulated using a mathematical model of the motor with motor operating voltage, current and power factor information, the torque curve can be made to have the same shape at any speed. The required current to produce a given torque at zero speed, will be close to the current required to produce the same torque at rated speed. The motor is never operated at high slip, the operating point is always to the right of the pullout torque point.

enter image description here

When starting, the applied frequency is enough above zero so that enough slip is created to produce the maximum torque that the motor can safely produce.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So when initially taking off, the frequency would be close to 0 i.e. DC? \$\endgroup\$
    – tgun926
    Nov 26, 2016 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ The frequency at take off would be very low and so would the voltage . \$\endgroup\$
    – Autistic
    Nov 27, 2016 at 4:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the RPM indicate rotation of the wheels or the shaft? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2016 at 8:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @bunyaCloven would that not be the same? I don't believe there's a gearbox between the two... \$\endgroup\$
    – tgun926
    Nov 27, 2016 at 11:30
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I believe there is no gear-shift box, but there is a fixed gear ratio. Since the question is about the concept, it doesn't make much difference. The actual motor RPM is higher than the example given above. In addition, the Tesla motor has a dropping-torque, constant power range and a dropping-power range above the constant-torque speed range as shown above. See link given by @Brian_Drummand. \$\endgroup\$
    – user80875
    Nov 27, 2016 at 13:31

That curve is for constant frequency excitation.

If you are accelerating a motor, you know it's going to be for a very short time, so you can thermally overload it. If you want more torque from standstill on an induction motor drive, then you can use a lower drive frequency than the max. I'm sure Elon has thought of both things.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Elon musk is not the sole designer of the Tesla vehicles. It's quite possible he's thought of neither of the two things. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2016 at 5:13
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ It's a figure of speech, he didn't think of either thing. If you read the history of the vehicle, it was another company that developed the drive train and chose the motor technology. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neil_UK
    Nov 28, 2016 at 7:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @whatsisname from and despite the little I know of Elon I'd be approximately certain that he was aware of all major points of relevance, would understand the key factors involved, and be aware of the tradeoffs wrt alternatives, and have signed off on the chosen solution(s) with all the above as relevant factors. FWIW. \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Nov 30, 2016 at 11:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Neil_UK See my comment to whathisface above \$\endgroup\$
    – Russell McMahon
    Nov 30, 2016 at 11:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RussellMcMahon The thing Musk will have been aware of is "those guys are good". And he was pretty good at stringing along investors hanging between the fear of getting nothing out of bankruptcy and still getting payout. Your confidence in his technical prowess may be overblown, but it is by no means uncommon. It is a good thing Tesla got through the worst before Musk acquired Twitter and used it for wide dissemination of his insights. \$\endgroup\$
    – user107063
    Sep 5, 2023 at 21:57

Why do Tesla torque 'curve' and the lecture notes not match?

From my old lecture slides, I remember that the torque curve of an induction motor is not this, but can be shifted (by varying the voltage/frequency, I can't remember).

Q: Why does the Tesla torque curve not match the motor characteristics?
A: The Tesla output is what they choose to provide by design.
It's independent of what the motor CAN do - it's what they want the motr to actually do.

FWIW this means that the motor COULD produce more maximum trque if they allowed it to.

The lecture torque curves are one type of motor they might choose to work with.
While the motor will produce more torque up to some speed limit of they allowed it to, the car does not because they do not want it to.
The lecture curve is for a motor at fixed Vin frequency and tirque increases as slip frequency increases. Odds are the Tesla motor is being operaed att all times towards the right hand side of an equivalent curve but the fully controllable drive frequency is being juggled relative to motor speed and desired power so that torque stays flat.
As Torque is horsepower per RPM and RPM keeps going up, a point is reached where torque MUST start to decrease if maximum desired power input is not to be exceeded.
This can be seen in the graph, where power reaches a maximum and is then held flat as speed increases. If power = HP/RPM and HP is constant then Torque MUST drop.

Available data indicates that Tesla torque is maximum and flat from 0 mph up to between 40 & 60 mph depending on model.

The reason that maximum torque at zero speed is what is expected is "because this is the best choice if you can achieve it, and because they can"

For given available voltage an electric motor produces maximum torque when conditions are such that current is maximised and if current and energy input are not limitations then this occurs when induced rotor voltages are minimised so that maximum voltage is available across the rotor coils to produce the rotating magnetic field which interacts with the stator field to hurl you off the line as if there was no tomorrow.

Alas, current and energy input usually ARE limiting factors as the motor windings tend towards turning into a pool of molten copper under these conditions, and in practice some location will get there slightly faster and the windings will go open circuit.

As producing dead and damaged motors do not do a lot for sales volume the design is balanced somewhere between "I know I can" and "I really shouldn't".
With an electronic controller and highish voltage and high power output capacity battery it is "easy enough" to provide more power to the motor than you need to provide or decide to provide. So you choose the "as much power as I want all things considered level" and go from there.

There are many factors but the main ones would include.
- Maximum practical off the line acceleration.
- Does not break drive train (the early ones did)
- Does not require too strong and therefore expensive and heavy and large a drive train (the current ones are beefier and dearer than at first).
- Battery treated half well in limiting cases.

The maximum practical off the line acceleration desire sets the maximum torque ever produced and after that most else follows.

Torque is "power per rpm" x a constant.
eg in HP and foot-pound units HP = torque x RPM / 5252
or HP x 5252/RPM = torque.
[ eg 1 HP at 5252 rpm : 5252 rpm / 60 secs/min x 2 x Pi 550 ft.lb/s = 1 HP] ie The 5252 is just a constant to keep the units correct.

That torque = Power per RPM this is easily seen in the diagram below

enter image description here

The above chart is from this russian language site but is available in various locations.


The curve below from the motor report site purports to show actual Tesla Dyno torque versus a Camaro.

The curve is close to but not the same as the idealised curves in the other graph. Both sets of curve are liable to not precisiely represent reality - this latter set possibly infer torque from power and RPM, which may cause the dyno 'issues' at 0 RPM (as power per RPM is infinite). C:\IN\TESLA tirque 1vkYB.jpg

enter image description here

What does Elon know anyway?

I know little about Elon, but from the little I think I know I'd be approximately certain that he was aware of all major points of relevance, would understand the key factors involved, and be aware of the tradeoffs wrt alternatives, and have signed off on the chosen solution(s) with all the above as relevant factors. FWIW.


These AC motors are driven by a servo controller for Ac motors. The data of a possible AC servomotor might be: There you see, that the torque at low speed and at 0 rpm is maximum.

torque http://sstatic.net/Sites/stackoverflow/img/torque.jpg ![torque.jpg][1]

regards L. Wegmann
As it seems the piture is not shown. I do not understand how to inlude it correctly!


The concept is well understood in the industrial world where we have been achieving "100% torque at zero speed" for 2 decades or more, using VFDs with a variant of Vector Control called Field Oriented Control. In a nutshell, the VFD uses PWM to vary the voltage and frequency together, then the Vector Control / FOC capability allows for the precise separation of flux producing current vectors and torque producing current vectors within each AC cycle by manipulating the V/Hz pattern sub-cycle. So at even zero speed, the VFD determines the exact amount of flux current needed to magnetize the windings (Fields), provides ONLY that amount during the first portion of each cycle, then allows all the rest of the available current to be used to produce torque. Without FOC, all you can do is increase the current in total, which can over flux the motor, robbing it of torque capability. So using FOC, a standard AC induction motor will be capable of Break Down (peak) Torque at any speed, within a fraction of a second.


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