The cost of charging a Tesla—and how it compares to gas vehicles
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The debate rages on about whether or not driving an electric vehicle is really a cost-saving measure worth entertaining. Tesla electric cars have brought electric vehicles into the mainstream but their popularity has raised new questions: which battery to choose, where to charge your car, how long it takes to charge, and, of course, how much it will cost to charge your electric vehicle.
Your Tesla’s charging cost depends on how you use your vehicle and what model of electric vehicle you intend to buy, among other things. Check out our breakdown of the factors that impact Tesla charging costs in the below video:
Both the Tesla Model X and the Model X Plaid come with 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) batteries. Older versions of the Model X may have battery capacities as low as 60 kWh.
Let’s assume you own a Model X with a 100 kWh battery and you pay the national average cost of electricity in the U.S. of $0.15 per kWh. Let’s also allow for a charging efficiency of 85%, which is standard for Level 2 home charging stations.
Based on this, it would cost about $15.29 for a Model X to fully charge. Given the 2022 Model X has a range of 348 miles, the cost per mile would be slightly higher around $0.053, or $5.27 per 100 miles driven.
The 2022 Model X Plaid has a range of 333 miles, so the cost per mile would be slightly higher around $0.045, with the cost per 100 miles coming to about $4.49.
Keep in mind, that the cost of charging a Tesla Model X depends on the type of charger you are using, the features of the car, the cost of electricity in your area, and whether or not you are fully charging the battery from zero.
The standard Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 comes with a 62.3 kWh battery and up to 272 miles of range. The Performance Model 3s come with an 82 kWh battery and taps out at 315 miles of rage.
If you purchase the 2022 standard Model 3, you can expect to pay about $10.94 to fully charge the battery. That brings the cost per mile to about $0.04, or $4.02 per 100 miles.
Completely charging the 2022 Performance model would cost $14.39. That’s about $0.046 per mile.
As of August 2022, there are two versions of the Model S: Standard Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive and Plaid. Both come with a 100 kWh battery.
If you have the standard variant - which has an impressive range of 405 miles - it costs $17.55 for a full charge based on electricity prices of $0.15 per kWh and 85% charging efficiency.
That gives you a charge cost of $0.043 per mile or $4.33 per 100 miles.
Tesla’s newest EV model - the Model Y - has two versions, both of which come with a 75 kWh battery. The cost to fully charge the Long Range Model Y comes out to $13.16. That’s about $0.04 per mile or $3.98 per 100 miles.
This is almost 64% less than the cost per mile to drive some of the most popular gas-powered cars, which is approximately 13 cents per mile.
These gas savings are impressive, but most new electric car buyers have realized that there is an even cheaper way to charge their Tesla: using home solar panels.
Charging a Tesla can be even cheaper when you install a home solar power system. If your home is well suited for solar panels, solar power can be produced for as little as 5 cents per kilowatt hour. This will allow you to charge your Tesla for even less than the estimated above.
So, how much would it cost to charge your Tesla with solar power? Depending on the Tesla model, charing the car with solar power would cost somewhere between $3.78 and $6.07. That’s substantially less than what you would pay to charge with electricity from the grid.
Let's take a dive into the math.
A 6 kilowatt (kW) solar system will cost around $17,100 before the 30% solar tax credit, and around $11,970 after. Depending on how much sunlight your area gets, a 6 kW system will generate between 6,130 and 10,500 kWh of electricity per year. That works out to paying roughly 5.16 cents per kWh of solar electricity the system produces over its 25-year lifespan.
This is substantially lower than the average cost of $0.15 per kWh of electricity from the grid in the U.S. Admittedly, this doesn't take into account the time cost of money. But with interest rates on deposits close to zero, that doesn't change the numbers that much.
Keep in mind, the cost of a solar installation for your home may be higher or lower than average and the amount of electricity the solar panels produce will depend on how much sunlight your roof gets. You can generate an online solar cost and savings estimate for your home by entering your zip code and power bill into our solar calculator.
From just your address and monthly power bill our calculator can work out how many panels you need and your likely savings. It also allows you to compare prices charged by local solar companies if you wish to do so.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that the average cost to operate an internal combustion engine car was close to $1,117 per year.
Electric vehicles, on the other hand, were estimated to cost an average of $485 per year. The actual cost of operating an EV varies from state to state. But even in Hawaii, the state with the highest average electricity prices, the cost to operate an EV is still lower than the cost of a combustion engine car.
There is also the matter of range to consider. For instance, a truck that only gets 14 miles-per-gallon (mpg) is not the same as fueling a sedan that gets closer to 40 mpg. It is also worth noting that in some parts of the country, fuel costs will be much higher than average.
There are several different types of vehicles to compare when considering gas cars versus electric.
First are internal combustion engines (ICE). These include all of the various gasoline, diesel, and biofuel options that are currently on the road.
On the other end of the spectrum are battery electric vehicles. These are fully electric cars that operate on battery power alone. While Tesla is the most notable of these brands, other models such as the Nissan Leaf are becoming increasingly popular.
In between are hybrid electric vehicles, which come in two main varieties: plug-in hybrids, like the Toyota Prius, that you recharge and switch to gasoline after the battery is drained, and mild hybrids that use gasoline to power a generator which creates electric power, like the Mazda 2 Hybrid.
The upfront cost of ICE vehicles is usually lower, and you can find a wide range of new and used vehicles. Secondly, gas stations are widely available everywhere you go, so you don't have to worry much about running out of gas.
On the downside, gas cars are more expensive to operate in the long run, and those costs are subject to wild fluctuations without much warning. They also contribute to climate change and other environmental hazards.
Electric vehicles are cheaper to operate on an annual basis and can save you a ton of time by allowing you to recharge at home. They are significantly better for the environment, and they have proven that they can be competitive when it comes to power and performance.
On the downside, charging networks can be tricky at first, and you will have to do some extra planning to account for some of the slower charging stops you may encounter.
Overall, electric vehicles are proving themselves capable, and they will be the way of the future. While this transition is likely to take a long time, electric vehicles are superior for daily driving in almost every way.
There are many costs associated with vehicle ownership beyond just the fuel. In the big picture, you are likely to pay slightly more in insurance for an EV than you would an ICE. However, you will save money on maintenance because EVs have almost no wearable parts that require upkeep beyond the tires. You won't have to pay for oil changes, filters, etc.
If you choose to invest in solar panels for your home, you can reduce your charging costs even further to make your EV nearly free to operate. Plus, there are tons of rebates and incentives to reduce the upfront cost of EVs.
The best EV for you will be the one that meets your budget and gives you the range you need for daily tasks. Both the Nissan Leaf and Tesla's Model 3 are affordable options. While Tesla's Supercharger network is very well thought out, not all cities have access to one, so you will need to consider the availability of applicable chargers near you. If you need space and performance, the Model X is great for large families and is priced similarly to other luxury SUVs.
The cost of charging your EV each year will depend on a number of factors including:
Do your research before committing to a model to ensure you get exactly what you want.
Electric vehicles are an important part of preserving our common resources. Installing solar panels to charge your electric vehicle amplifies your efforts and further reduces the strain on dwindling oil reserves. Contact a residential solar installation company in your area to find out more about installing a solar system to go with your electric vehicle.