How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?
Written by Andrew Sendy
Updated March 12, 2020
6 minutes read
When it comes to purchasing a new Tesla, there is still a lot of misinformation about how much it costs to charge your new electric car, and whether or not it will save you money in the long run.
The good news is that there are some straightforward ways to determine how much you will spend on charging.
Spoiler alert: charging a Tesla is far more cost-effective than continuing to pay for fuel!
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model 3?
First off, the cost to charge your Model 3 will depend on the actual range of your vehicle.
For simplicity, we will use the national average residential price of $0.13 per kWh for electricity to do our math.
While electricity rates vary from state to state, electricity rates are not subject to the same unpredictable rises and falls inherent to petroleum products. Therefore, the national average we're using can be used relatively reliably for the foreseeable future.
The Model 3 comes with either a 50 kWh battery or the larger capacity 75 kWh battery. For the smaller battery, the math is $0.13*50 = $6.50. For the larger battery, that total is $9.75 for a single charge.
Of course, you are not going to be draining your battery all the way to zero each day, so you will likely only see a dollar or two in charging costs per day.
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model S?
The math for the Model S is similar to that of the Model 3.
For 100 kWh Model S, you will be looking at $13.00 for a full charge and roughly 315 miles of range.
As of Jan 2020, Tesla appears set to (re-)launch a 85 kWh model. For this lower-end 75 kWh battery, you can expect the charging cost of $11.05 if charging from flat.
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla Model X?
Charging costs for the Model X are the same as for the Model S above because the X comes in the same range of battery options.
Unlike other SUVs or crossovers, which tend to have larger gas tanks to produce a similar distance, the Model X is just as cost-friendly to charge up as Tesla's smaller cars.
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla per mile of driving range?
The miles of driving a Tesla provides per kWh of electricity varies slightly depending on the model. If we take the Model 3 with a 50 kWh battery and a 220-mile range - we are getting 4.4 miles of driving per kWh. Assuming the national average electricity cost stated earlier, this works out to 2.9 cents per mile.
How does the cost per mile of driving a Tesla compare with the cost per mile of driving a conventional gasoline-powered car?
The average mileage of a new American car nowadays is around 25 miles per gallon. With fuel costs of roughly $3 per gallon, the typical new conventional car costs 12 cents per mile.
12 cents per mile versus 2.9 cents per mile? I know which I'd rather pay!
You get even more bang for your buck if you use a home solar power system is used to charge the Tesla - because home power systems can produce electricity for a levelized cost of only 7-8 cents per kilowatt-hour, much cheaper than the 13 cents per kWh average national residential electricity cost used in our analysis above!
So it's no wonder why most people that buy a Tesla are making the smart choice and installing solar panels.
How does the cost of charging a Tesla compare to the average cost of charging an electric car?
The real question is whether or not charging a Tesla is competitive with other EVs on the market. Let's take a look at the actual range that we get from each battery.
The 2020 Chevy Volt EV has a rated range of 259 mi with its 66 kWh battery.
The Nissan Leaf has a 151-mile range with its 40 kWh battery.
So, charging the Volt will cost about $8.58, and the Leaf will cost $5.20 using 13 cents per kilowatt-hour as an average cost of utility power.
By contrast, the smallest Model 3 battery offers comparable miles to the Volt for a charging price of $6.50, and almost double the miles of the Leaf for only $1.30 more.
Based on this analysis, it's easy to see that Tesla has a strong claim as the most cost-efficient electric car to run.
Is there a difference between Tesla charging stations and regular EV charging stations?
There are some essential differences between Tesla Superchargers and other charging stations.
Tesla network chargers are made to charge your car faster and cheaper than any other charger around.
Tesla owners get a few hundred free miles at the Superchargers each year with their purchase.
Third-party chargers tend to be less reliable because they are made for slow charging, and the third party sets their rate. While some of these chargers are free in low-demand areas, high-demand locations may require a $10 minimum or more and could take hours to charge your car.
Additionally, Tesla's destination chargers are located at hotels and restaurants around the world, and are often free to guests, which can save you even more money on your travels!
What types of charging stations are there?
When you purchase a Tesla, you will receive a pouch that includes a charging cable and several adaptors.
One adaptor is made for plugging into a standard 120V outlet. While this is nice to have, the reality is that a 120V charger only adds about 3 miles per hour to your car, so it's only useful if you plan on leaving your car for a while.
The other adaptor is the SAE J1772 plug. This three-prong plug works at almost all public EV chargers except Tesla-specific chargers.
You will find these public chargers rated as Level 1, 2 or 3. A level 1 charger is a slow charger that will take 8-15 hours to charge your car. A level 2 charger is a 6 kWh charger that is also pretty slow if you're used to Supercharging—it will take 3-8 hours to charge your car.
Finally, new Level 3 fast chargers are available which can charge your car in an hour, but most localities do not have these available just yet. Currently, the most reliable fast charging is through the Supercharging network.
How do you find chargers?
The easiest way to find chargers in a Tesla is using the navigation feature in the car. If you type in your destination, it will automatically route you to the nearest Superchargers along your path.
Otherwise, you can click on the lightning bolt on the map to discover nearby Superchargers and Destination Chargers.
If you are looking for third-party chargers, your best bet is to download an app like PlugShare or Chargepoint. These apps have places for users to leave helpful tips about the location and whether or not the charger is functioning correctly.
What about solar?
As mentioned above, if you want to reduce your charging costs further, a solar roof or garage is a smart investment!
It can drop your charging costs to zero and pay off the panels in no time at all.