It’s been six months since Lori acquired her new Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD, and we have been impressed with it since day one. The car is extremely comfortable, safe, exhilarating to drive (that instant torque is sweet!), highly customizable for each driver, and frequently updated with new features and fixes over WiFi. One downside is the steep learning curve to master all the car’s features, and sometimes we wish certain things were configured differently.
Curious friends often ask about driving range and energy consumption. The nominal range of this model is 358 miles, assuming a full charge driven down to zero. However, for practical reasons, we only charge the battery to 80% capacity, per Tesla’s recommendation for longevity, and seldom go below 20% due to Lori’s range anxiety. Therefore, our typical range between charges is around 215 miles, although we can go over 300 miles if necessary. The battery’s performance will eventually decrease to about 70% of its initial capacity over time, but we’re okay with that. We’ve taken several long trips and numerous shorter ones without any worries. We’re comforted by Tesla’s extensive (and expanding) deployment of high-speed chargers, which is something that other electric car manufacturers are struggling to replicate. We primarily charge the car at home, where we had a proper connection installed in our garage, and it’s working great.
The EPA provides fuel economy data for cars, including electric vehicles. It does this by calculating MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) for electric vehicles. A gallon of gasoline has 33.7 kWh of energy potential so a simple conversion based on this and energy efficiencies of specific vehicles and motors yields EPA’s estimate of 131 MPGe for Lori’s Tesla.
So, how much does it actually cost to operate Lori’s car where and how we use it? Over the last six months, we’ve driven 6,431 miles and consumed 1,665 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Currently, our local electric rate (inclusive of electricity, delivery, taxes, and fees) is 11.27¢ per kWh, bringing our total “fuel” cost to $187.65. Lori’s previous car, an Audi A3, achieved approximately 30 mpg and used premium gasoline, which currently costs about $4.25 per gallon in our area. Therefore, the Audi would have cost approximately $911 to travel the same miles. The cost per mile for the Tesla is roughly 20% of the Audi’s cost per mile, which is impressive. (The few times we’ve used Tesla Superchargers on trips we noticed the rate charged per kWh was more than double what we pay by charging at home.)
Reducing the amount of CO2 we emit into the atmosphere is a significant reason for purchasing the Tesla, in addition to the fun factor and fuel savings. A friend who is an engineer argued that this isn’t true because power plants that generate electricity used by the car cause a lot of CO2 pollution. However, this is not the case, as evidenced by the analysis on fueleconomy.gov. Even with power plant emissions considered, the carbon emissions from using a Tesla are less than 10% of those from a gas-powered vehicle. Furthermore, our electricity comes from a community solar system that generates electricity without producing any carbon emissions.
Maintenance costs for the Tesla should be significantly lower than those for a gas-powered vehicle. There is no gasoline engine, no oil changes, no catalytic converter or exhaust system. We still need to replace the brakes, tires, and wiper blades, but that’s about it.