Most EVs designed for overlanding haven’t reach consumers yet. As of today, the Rivian R1T is still the only
electric pickupavailable. But some creative gearheads are jumping the gun by making some radical modifications to the electric models we already know.
Case in point: the
TeslaModel Y adapted for all-terrain driving by Bitauto Garage, the mod-shop wing of an automotive marketing company based in Beijing, China.
Bitauto’s off-road mods to the Tesla Model Y
Does the Tesla Model Y send power to four wheels just to keep street drivers out of snowbanks? Or, with a little help, can it keep up with
Jeep Wranglersand Toyota 4Runners? The guys at Bitauto Garage made the necessary modifications to find out.
To get their Tesla ready for the trail, Bitauto Garage completely replaced its suspension, raised the car’s electric motors, swapped out factory tires for a gurthier set, and added fender flaps for protection. They also gave it a roll cage and a
rooftop tent, but that was mostly just for looks.
Once the mods were made, they set out on two excursions—one on a mixed-terrain trail called Laozhanggou and another to the Taklamakan Desert in the northwest of China—to see if the EV would be able to handle a true overlanding experience.
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How did the modified Tesla Model Y fare in the real world?
The results of Bitauto’s test were a mixed bag, to say the least. In Laozhanggou, problems with the build led to a broken CV shaft and lost camber slowing things down. But the main problems were with the Model Y’s electrical system.
After towing the
EV crossoverback to the Tesla dealership, the source of the problem was found: a sensor mounted to the control arms had been damaged in the ride. The fix gave the team hope for the cross-country drive to Xinjiang for the desert driving test.
Besides a few hiccups in the sand dunes and one broken suspension link, the modified Model Y’s desert ride went off without a hitch. The team only encountered one other problem—the lack of battery range.
Tesla claims the long-range Model Y offers a maximum of about 370 miles—Bitauto’s real-world test brought that down to 310. And with the added weight of the upgrades and range-extending gas generator, the team got less than 125 miles out of the Tesla’s battery.
EVs need a few upgrades to become true off-road contenders
With governments and automakers hoping to phase out gas engines in the next few decades, the electrification of off-roading is inevitable. But to convince
overlander fansto jump on board, EVs will first need to make a few changes.
The battery range problem is an obvious obstacle. The desert trip made by Bitauto Garage gives a clear example, but even under normal road conditions, manufacturers have to grapple how weather and weight affect the longevity of a EV battery’s charge.
Another problem more specific to overlanding is the durability of an electric car’s electrical system. Sensors and wiring will need to handle being knocked around and submerged under water to keep drivers moving safely out there on the trail.
Another hurdle for off-road supercar status: ownership costs
A normal Tesla Model Y is already not a cheap car to own. The crossover starts at just under $65,000, and
car insuranceaverages out to a wincing $3,335 a year. The modifications needed to make it a valid overlander will only raise those premiums even higher.
A growing number of EVs are cheaper to buy and insure than a Tesla Model Y, but they don’t offer the kind of battery range required for a serious
All that said, shopping for car insurance with Jerry can help you make owning an electric rock crawler more feasible. Some Model Y owners can save over $1,700 a year just by switching insurance providers with Jerry.