How Much Does It Cost to Charge a Tesla?


To understand the lifetime value of a Tesla, we look at its efficiency and how much it costs to charge one.

Tesla is one of the hottest car manufacturers out there today, driven by sleek, futuristic designs, high performance, and the efficiency of their electric motors. But we must also ask: how much does it cost to charge a Tesla?

A lot of fuss has been made about the cost savings of electric cars – not just Tesla, but electric vehicles from Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Chevy as well. Often they are more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, but maintenance costs over the lifetime of the car are much lower.

You spend more up front just buying the car, but your fuel costs over the life of the car are much lower, as purchasing electricity is much cheaper than gas.

So how efficient is a Tesla, and how much do they cost to charge?

Read on to find out.

How Much Does It Cost to Charge a Tesla?

Tesla’s Model X has a 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack and a 295-mile range. At the national average utility rate of $0.12 per kWh, it would cost you about $12 to charge up your Model X from completely depleted to completely full.

That’s great, but it’s only part of the equation. How often you need to fill up depends on how much you drive.

The Environmental Protection Agency gives the Model X an “mpg” of 37 kWh per 100 miles (kWh per 100 miles is a standard measurement of efficiency for electric vehicles). Knowing that the average American drives 13,474 miles each year, an average Model X driver would then need to purchase 4,985 kWh each year from his utility to drive his Tesla on a regular basis. At $0.12 per kWh, this adds up to $598 each year and 49 total fill-ups (if you filled up when you were completely empty each time).

To give us some context for how much money this is, let’s compare the Tesla’s fuel costs to a couple of gas-powered automobiles.

Let’s start with the Toyota Camry – the best-selling car in the United States. The Camry sees 28 MPG on average (2016, 4 cylinder model), so over 13,474 miles in a year, at the current average national gas cost of $2.32, you’d spend $1,116. So the Model X sees almost half the fuel cost of a moderately efficient sedan.

However, Tesla makes sports cars (at least for now). The Model X, with a zero to 60 time of 2.9 seconds, is a beast of a car. Is it really fair to compare it to a Camry? Maybe it’s better to compare it to the Ferrari 458, which sees the same 0 to 60 time of 2.9 seconds. The Ferrari uses up 14 gallons for each mile, so over the same mileage, you’d spend $2,233!

So the Tesla is one-third of the price to fill up as a Ferrari, but just as fast? AND it’s a four-door SUV? Maybe you’re beginning to see why Tesla is such a hot commodity.

That is some incredible fuel savings, but you might be thinking about how you can drop your fuel prices even further. You might now be wondering if you can install solar to drop your costs. Let’s find out!

Can I Install Solar and Save Even More?

In a word, Yes!

By purchasing a Tesla, you avoid paying the gas companies the high cost of gasoline. By installing solar, you can avoid paying the electric utilities the high cost of electricity. Take that next step!

Obviously, the more you drive, the more electricity (ie fuel) you need, so the size of your solar installation needs to be tailored to your driving habits. If you drive the average of roughly 13,474 miles each year, as we saw above you’d need a solar installation that produces 4,985 kWh each year.

How much money you save depends on your location (and how intense the sunlight is there) as well as your utility prices.

Let’s look at an example – step by step – to see how much you can save and walk through how you can calculate your own savings!

Example of Savings by Pairing Electric Vehicles with Solar

As previously mentioned, financial savings depends on your utility rates as well as location. For this example, let’s pretend the following:

  • You live in Newark, NJ
  • You drive 12,000 miles annually. With cars now lasting around 250,000 miles, that means you’d be driving your beautiful Tesla for almost 21 years.
  • Your utility charges $0.16 per kWh (the average price in NJ)

Now let’s calculate your savings. We’re going to break this down into steps so you can follow along and even perform your own calculations!

1. Calculate your annual kWh needed.

Driving 12,000 each year at the Model X’s 37 miles per kWh means you need 4,440 kWh each year.

2. Calculate your total fuel costs.

At $0.16/kWh, you’d spend $702 purchasing 4,440 kWh from the utility each year. At the end of 21 years, you’ll have spent $14,742! This total is without even accounting for most utilities’ 2.5% yearly rate increase.

3. Find out how big your solar installation needs to be.

For this, you can use the National Renewable Energy Lab’s free online calculator, PV Watts. To produce 4,440 kWh in Newark, NJ, you’d need a 3.5 kW installation.

4. Calculate your solar installation cost.

In the United States, the average solar installation costs $2.93 per watt. So a 3.5 kW installation would cost $10,255 before the 30% federal tax credit and $7,178 afterward.

5. Calculate your savings.

This is the easy part. To find your savings, simply subtract your total cost to go solar from the total cost you’d pay the utility. In our example, this works out to a total savings of $7,564!

So a Tesla is cheaper to run than a Camry, but just as fast as a Ferrari? Couple Tesla’s electric motor with a solar installation on your roof or carport and you’re beginning to see some real savings.

Is it worth it to install solar to fuel your Tesla? You bet!

For more on this, see our comprehensive post: How many solar panels does it take to charge an electric car? 

Do you have a Tesla or other electric car powered by solar panels? Tell us about your setup and savings in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it!

Image courtesy of SolarCity

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