While many in the general public would like to think of Tesla, or electric cars in general, as an exotic foreign concept, it’s anything but. Battery-powered devices have ruled our life for some time now. The process of owning and charging a Tesla is almost identical to that of your smartphone or laptop. You just leave it plugged in as you sleep and wake up with enough energy to take on the next day.
Above: Tesla Model S charging at a Destination Charger (Image: Tesla)
Unlike the (relatively) low energy consumed by your smartphone and laptop, your Tesla will devour energy — putting some significant strain on your energy bill. Sure, owning an electric car is clearly less expensive to "fuel" than an equivalent internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, but it’s not free. While you no longer have to concern yourself with the pricey fluctuations of petrol/ diesel prices, charging an electric car can definitely add to your home energy bill.
One of the persistent debates within the auto community is whether or not owning an electric car is actually worth it, financially. That debate has been settled time and time again. The general consensus: yes! Owning an electric car can certainly save you a good chunk of money in the long run. In many cases, running an electric car will cost at least half as much when compared directly with your current gasoline expenses. More on that in a moment.
First, it's worth noting that the true cost to charge largely depends on a number of gating factors. How many miles do you drive? Which model are you considering? Which battery option will you opt for? Which charging mechanism are you employing? And, of course, the cost of electricity.
All of these factors play their respective roles in contributing to the final cost of charging your Tesla. Each vehicle in Tesla’s lineup comes with a fluctuating list of specs so the cost and time needed to charge one model could differ (in varying degrees) to another.
The average cost of electricity also varies from one country to another, state by state, and even city by city — you'll have to take that into account as well. For instance, the average cost of power per 1 kWh in the United States is roughly about 13 cents; whereas, the cost of the equivalent power supply in the UK fluctuates between 14 -15p.
As an example, let's take the Tesla Model X Long Range which houses a 100 kWh battery. Using the U.S. national average electricity rate of 13.27 cents per kWh, we can quickly calculate that it would cost 13.27 to “fill up” a Model X from a completely drained battery. That equates to roughly $0.04 per mile driven.
While that might sound straightforward enough, there’s a bit more to it. Charging efficiency is a factor rarely accounted for. In layman’s terms, this is the energy lost while transferring energy from your home to your devices, aka your car. This will fully depend on your source of energy and distribution methods (such as your outlet type) but for general purposes we can use the conservative number of 80%. So to charge a 100 kWh battery, you’ll actually need 120 kWh of energy. At the same 13.27 cents per kWh average, that equates to $15.92 or ~$0.049 per mile.
Above: Both Tesla Model S and X vehicles currently charge for free at Tesla Superchargers (Image: Tesla)
In comparison, it was recently reported that the average ICE goes 24.9 miles per gallon. At the current national average gas price of $2.603 per gallon, the average gasoline-powered car will cost $0.105 per mile to run. Using your local gas prices, the grade you use, and your cars stated mpg, you can easily calculate your current cost per mile to figure out the difference compared to what it would cost to run a Tesla. FYI: the savings could be significant. My previous car did 21 miles per gallon using premium gasoline. Using today's local rates, it cost me nearly $0.15 per mile. Switching to a Tesla saved me thousands per year!
One of Tesla’s many benefits is the variety of methods available for charging. Whether it be a standard 120V outlet, a 240V, or a Supercharger, the options are almost endless. Unlike gas-mobiles, you aren’t restricted to having to visit the gas station once a week. And with chargers sprouting up all over the country, you’ll be able to enjoy more and more convenient options. And if you’re going on a road trip, Tesla Superchargers are strategically placed in order to make long-distance travel more convenient.
Tesla Supercharging allows you to charge your car at a faster rate compared to charging at home. The cost can vary depending on the location of the charger. You’re billed on either per kWh consumed or a per-minute basis. Currently, the average cost per kWh at Tesla’s stations is $0.28 but the per-minute billing method can get a bit more complicated.
The method is comprised of two different sub-billing processes – tier 1 and tier 2. The average cost of tier 1 charging in the U.S. is $0.13 per minute. This is implemented for cars charging under 60 kW. Tier 2 averages at $0.26 per minute and are billed to cars charging above 60 kW. Simply put, the faster your car charges at a Supercharger, the more you pay.
One caveat: it's important to note that currently Tesla's Model S and Model X come with free unlimited supercharging. As a Tesla owner, you’re also given the opportunity to earn free Supercharging miles through Tesla’s referral program. Both scenarios can drastically reduce your charging costs — especially if you tend to use Superchargers frequently.
And there's other recent benefits too. New Supercharger V3 stations allow for 250 kW charging with no splitting. With these extraordinary speeds, a Model 3 can gain 75 miles of range in a mere 5 minutes. This marks another industry-leading feat for the Silicon Valley automaker. Meanwhile, Supercharger V3 locations are starting to spread across the globe with current plans to convert older stations as well. The charging costs for these stations are identical to the previous generation of Superchargers with the added benefit of faster charging.
Above: A look at Tesla's new V3 Supercharger in Las Vegas (YouTube: Tesla)
If you’re contemplating the switch to a Tesla, most prospective buyers tend to focus on the cool tech, outstanding performance, and environmental benefits. All good. But if you feel like the gas pump is akin to a money-draining ATM, you'll also enjoy saving your hard-earned cash by (instead) charging a Tesla.
An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.