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My Tesla Model Y Cost of Charging and Savings

If you read the first part of my review (I Bought a Tesla and Now What? First Impressions of a New Owner), you know that we bought a Tesla model Y! I like it, but … And it is about the “buts” I want to talk now. More specifically, what does it cost to charge the Tesla, and what kind of savings (if any) can I expect after buying an electric car.

EVs cost more in general

The reality is that for comparable cars, gasoline vehicles cost less to purchase than electric vehicles (EVs). The following paragraphs will show that.

I am not sure of the exact numbers for my car but the price of the car was about $47,000 before the government incentive was applied. To that of course one needs to add all the extra charges any dealer places on top, but that is true for all cars. So let’s go forward with $47,000. Less $7500 government incentive, $39500.

Note: things have changed this year, you will not be able to claim the incentive unless your tax liability is at least that big. Or at least this is my understanding.

I have looked at the Honda CR-V SUV which is a similar car in size. Very similar. The price (no incentives here) for the model 2023 Honda CRV (MSRP, probably you could get better from dealer) is between $28,000 and $35,000. Let’s take a value in the middle: $31500. The difference is not negligible, $8,000.

But are the cars comparable? In my opinion, yes, they are. They certainly compare very well in size, the Honda has a stellar reputation and the CR-V model in particular is very well reviewed. I was determined to try an EV though, otherwise I would have definitely consider the Honda as an option. Other cars in the same category I would have considered were the Kia Sorrento, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Santa Fe (even if this is a bigger car).

The following is a short table with price comparison. Since my Tesla was the base model, I am using the base model for the other cars for the same year (2023). Price data from https://www.caranddriver.com.

VehicleMSRP
(after incentive)
MSRP (hybrid)Rating
(mpg, classic version)
Tesla Model Y39500
Honda CR-V EX 2WD329603375028/34
Hyundai Santa Fe3008538345 (2024)25/28
Kia Sportage276152881523/28
Kia Sorrento317653801524/29

Why did I accept to buy a more expensive car, when cheaper alternatives were available? I will list my reasons:

  • I did not buy the car, so I did not really pay the full difference. I leased the car and the lease differences were smaller (but still well in favor of the gasoline vehicles)
  • I wanted to see how the EV is performing. Not having driven one long term before I did not know what to expect and I considered the technology is mature enough. I no longer think the technology is mature enough except for niche vehicles (in-city).
  • More importantly, because our usage of the car is mostly in the city, I wanted to do my part in stopping the pollution and reducing the carbon footprint we generate. Florida generates a relatively large share of its energy from solar and nuclear plants (natural gas is still 3.5x bigger than these two combined) and in the future the share of solar will probably increase even more.

But the reality is that gasoline cars are still less expensive than EVs.

But what about savings? Everyone says that it is much less expensive to maintain an EV than a regular gasoline car. Perhaps it is worth the initial higher investment because of the future savings? The following paragraphs will look into this.

Charging the Electric Vehicle

Two very important questions arise now:

  1. Can I install an outlet to charge the EV in my home? Will my existing electrical wiring support one?
  2. How much will it cost?

I got the car on December 28 2023; for the first 5 months and a half (until June 10th 2024) I owned the car I managed to drive about 4500 miles and the total charge my car took was 1320kWh. Tesla gave me 6 months free supercharging, so these did not cost me a penny.

The following ignores the “power factor” (see Power factor – Wikipedia). I will consider that power = voltage x current like for a DC circuit. This is not true but simplifies my approximations. Taking a power factor into consideration will in fact increase the cost of charging at home. There is no data on the power factor for the Tesla charging, I could not use a realistic value so I chose to ignore it for now. As soon as I will connect the car to a home charger for a significant period of time I will be able to estimate this myself.

How do I know the total charge my car took? Simple. Tesla app tells me:

The cost of supercharging varies between 33 and 41 cents per kWh (as of May 2024) in my area. This means the charging for the 4500 miles would have cost me anywhere between $457 and $541. The cost (again, as of May 2024) of the energy at my home is about 13 cents/kWh, meaning it would have cost me about $172 if I would have charged at home exclusively.

Tesla Portable Charging Kit

The first observation is, obviously, that it would be cheaper to charge the car at home. One small problem here: the portable charger I bought (at a cost of $250, an added expense) gives me two options:

  • Connect to a regular 110V home outlet. That will charge the car from 0 to full battery in about 3 days!
  • Connect to a 240V outlet which is about 6 times faster.

I do not have a 240V outlet to charge the car; I would need to install one, and the cheapest way is to install a NEMA 14-50 outlet since an adapter is already included in the portable charger I bought. Other options (like installing a Tesla home charger) are more expensive.

So let’s start with the first question:

Can I install an EV charging outlet at home?

The short answer is yes, I can. But it will require some initial investment to do so, somewhere between $1000 and $4000. The detailed explanation (which you may want to pass) is below, it is indeed a technical discussion. If you want to bypass this part go directly to the next question.

But I realized soon I have a big issue with charging at home. The description I have for the Tesla NEMA 14-50 portable charger says it will take 33A max during charging. My home is wired for a maximum of 200A, but there are many homes that have only a 100A wiring and all my homes I had until now had a 100A max circuit. I will need to be careful because I have other power hungry devices around: stove, heater, AC, pool pump. Will I be able to run these devices and charge the car at the same time? I may have a chance, but a home with a 100A wiring, definitely not.

Let’s see. I am going to list only the biggest consumers.

  1. My AC has a 60A breaker (can’t run together with heater)
  2. The heating element (can’t run together with AC) 60A
  3. The stove has a 40A
  4. Drier 30A
  5. Water heater 60A
  6. Pool pump 20A (that is exaggerated, I know the motor takes only 10A)

Obviously I will not run the heater and the AC together, but all the others might run simultaneously. I do not know exactly how much current take each appliance normally. It must be less than the breaker allows, otherwise the breaker would trip. I will use the electric code rule, 80% NEC breaker rule. Meaning if I have a 60A breaker I should not use on that circuit an appliance that takes more than 80% of capacity.

In my case if I add everything I get 210A, already more than the capacity of the home electrical panel. Not good.

I still have space in my panel to install the new breaker needed for the EV charging; the issue is though that I do not have the capacity to do that safely.

So the answer to the first question is: in my home, to install an EV charger I would probably have to upgrade my electrical panel! And remember, I already have a 200A panel. I did not expect that.

Is it overly cautious? Probably yes. We don’t usually run the stove and the drier at the same time, we don’t really start the oven of the stove and all top elements and the water heater probably does not really need a 60A circuit, most water heaters are using no more than 25A. But this computation shows me that I am at the limit and in danger to cross over the limit if I add another major consumer. Since this is my home and I really don’t want to burn it down, I am tempted not to take risks.

The cost of upgrading the electrical panel? According to What Is the Cost to Upgrade an Electrical Panel? (thisoldhouse.com), depending on what exactly is being upgraded (the whole panel or only the main breaker/hot bus bar) I should budget anywhere between $1000 and $4000 for this.

Now the second question: once I can install an EV charging outlet, how should I go for it?

Utility-sponsored Chargers

Recently I received an offer from my utility (FPL, Florida Power & Light). They offer to install a charger and give me unlimited charging night and weekends for the price of $38/mo. The contract will be for 10 (yes, ten!) years. According to them, the charger will ONLY work during those times.

I am skeptical about the usefulness of such contracts.

  • I might want to charge the vehicle outside the hours allowed, even if I have to pay for it.
  • I am not sure I will have an EV continuously for 10 years
  • There is no mention of the price being fixed for the duration of the contract
  • There is no mention of what would happen when you sell the home
  • The offer only deals with installing a charger; does not touch the upgrade of the home electrical panel

All these make me wary of such offers; nevertheless I am mentioning it here since such help from the electric company might be worth considering, even if I personally do not think it is good for me.

Cost of Installing an EV charging outlet

The high current necessary for such a charger will require separate wiring with a cable that can carry such a current for about 60 feet. I will also need circuit breakers in my home panel and an outside box to hold the necessary connector. The parts will probably cost about $400-500 and the installation has to be done by an electrician, it is quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And even if you do know what you’re doing, there are issues like liability and insurance. That brings the total cost of the installation between $1500 and $2000 in my area.

Remember this will be added to the cost of upgrading your electrical panel, so we are looking at a sizeable investment anywhere between $3000 and $6000. From my experience with upgrades, any low estimate will in the end prove to be incorrect, so I would say at least $5000.

Together with the previous estimate for upgrading my electrical wiring, we come up with a sizeable investment of anywhere between $4000 and $10000. I did not expect that.

But assuming that I can charge the car at home, what will then the savings be? Let’s see. Maybe the savings will make the initial investment worth it?

Savings when using an EV

The savings are obviously what you would spend for a classic car (for the same mileage) minus what you spend for an EV. I will ignore the cost of repairs, both my cars are still under factory warranty.

 My other car is a full size SUV with a powerful 6 cylinders engine which takes an average of 22-25mpg. Better on freeway, actually, close to 30mpg, but let’s say 22mpg for this computation. For the 4500 miles I would have needed an oil change ($120, my car takes only synthetic oil every about 7000 miles) and a total of 4500/22 = about 205 gallons of gas. At $3.50 a gallon (the price at the pump was yesterday 3.39 in my area) this gives the total 120+3.50*205 = $837. Given the cost of electricity computed before, total savings for 5 months between $296 (using only superchargers, most expensive) and $665 (using only the charger at home, least expensive).

What if my other car had been a Honda CR-V, similar in size but $16,000 cheaper, with an average 30mpg consumption, and for which I do not need to invest more in upgrading my home electrical installation? The comparison will be even less favorable to the EV, with the cost of gas now down to $525 from $837!

For my lease period (30 months left, first 6 Tesla gave me free supercharging) I can expect then to save 6 times that much, meaning between $1776 and $3990. Doesn’t sound right. I would need to invest $5000 to save $4000? And that in addition to the higher initial expense? What if I will not have an EV after the lease ends?

I will delay the decision to upgrade my home wiring until I get the feeling of the EV. See how it performs, how prices evolve, what other technologies appear.

Because for now I do not believe the savings will be enough to justify the installation of a 240V charger at home, so for now I will stick with the 110V portable charger and supplement with a supercharger when needed. I may change my mind later, I do not know, but for now the savings are simply not there.

Cost of insuring an EV

Ah, did I tell you that my large SUV costs about half to insure than the Tesla? No? Well, I just received notice yesterday about my insurance bill for the next 6 months, and here it is, another $700/year or more added to the cost of owning an EV. Both cars are relatively new (the SUV is 2022 model), the cost of both is about the same, but …

Teslas are much more expensive to insure. This is unfortunately the unvarnished truth and the extra added insurance expense is making any savings in maintenance look more and more distant.

Cost of EV repairs

I will not touch the cost of repairs, this belongs in a separate article but it is premature for me. My Tesla is brand new and I expect it to still be under warranty for the whole period I will have it. But one reason the insurance company told me to justify the higher insurance rates is that the cost of repairs for an EV are generally much higher than the cost of repairs for a standard gasoline car.

Convenience

I did mention that we leased the Tesla to drive in the city or nearby and we do not plan to take it on the road for a long trip. Why? Simple: convenience. In my other SUV, I can stop once for 10 minutes to buy gas, I get 600 miles autonomy for driving. For Tesla, you stop once to charge (takes about 40 minutes to charge from 10% to 90% battery capacity) and you get 200 miles autonomy.

I am frequently driving to Canada and I stop on the road to see friends in Raleigh, NC. From Florida this is a ~800 miles trip (Naples to Raleigh), all freeway, which I can do in 14 about hours. Not a big deal, if I time my trip well I can avoid traffic. With a Tesla I would have to stop 4 times, the trip would become impossible in less than two days.

EVs are not yet ready to replace gasoline cars.

Conclusion: is an EV worth buying?

Summarizing my experience, the hype over the EV should in my opinion be toned down a little. In my opinion the reality shows that EVs are not yet really cost effective and if the only reason you buy an EV is to reduce costs for maintenance, you better think twice.

Do I regret leasing the car? Definitely not. It is fun to drive, it does the job well and it taught me lessons for the future.

Will I buy another EV? When this lease is over, or when I need to replace my other car? Who knows. Perhaps. But I am looking now at ads about “water cars”, or “hydrogen  cars”, so who knows what the technology will be in the future. With the way this crazy world evolves, let’s get there first, and we’ll make plans about cars later!

And because you have made it here, a bonus: do you know what is the similarity between the driver of an electric car and someone with an upset stomach? Both hope to get home first.

And if you are in the mood for more jokes, I suggest check this out: When You Need A Break … Jokes!

Did you find this guide on Tesla Model Y charging useful? If yes, why not save this pin to your Pinterest board? That way, you can easily return to the article whenever you need a refresher on these topics. And for an ongoing stream of handy tips, tutorials, and all sorts of creative inspiration, make sure to follow me on Pinterest.


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Sarah

Tuesday 25th of June 2024

Greetings from New Zealand. Thank you for a most illuminating couple of blogs regarding your Tesla. I thought you might be interested in our experience.

We live in a rural, hilly part of the far north of New Zealand, with plenty of sunshine and long distances between gas stations selling expensive gas. There is no public transport, even if it was practical for me to use it, so when we needed a new car we looked at all options, bearing in mind our rough rural roads, need for space to carry my power chair and other mobility equipment plus a week's groceries. We are in our late 70s and live on the state pension and the dwindling capital from our life savings, which took a hit in the GFC, with interest rates never having recovered to pre-2002 rates. So although saving the planet is important to us, minimising our expenditure scored higher on the list.

We are self-sufficient for power as we have a large and efficient solar system on our roof and therefore going for an electric vehicle was an apparently obvious choice. However, as you have found, range is a problem and our remote location (80 kilometres round trip to our nearest supermarket town, library etc.) would use up a charge pretty quickly, given the hilly (some would say mountainous) terrain. There are no charging points between us and the town, though there is a free one there (guess how often it isn't in use!).

So, we looked at a PHEV (plug-in hybrid) and cutting a long story short, bought a 4 wheel drive Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which replaced our 11 year old petrol model. We are delighted with it. Interestingly, even when running on petrol and despite the extra weigh, it uses about half the amount the old model did: 4litres per 100 kilometres as against 8 litres, about the same as our daughter gets from her 'super-efficient' petrol little Suzuki Ignis. What's not to like? For us, nothing and we get the best of all possible economies.

BUT we do generate our own power and have a convenient standard NZ domestic socket outlet in our car port so we can charge the car using the included cable which just plugs into the mains every night. We could have had a super-fast charger fitted but it would have cost a lot and the domestic one is perfectly adequate as we don't need a fast charge. I think the Tesla has a different sort of charging unit that requires a special outlet? The cost of power in New Zealand is high and the cost of public charging is even higher. There is a dearth of charging points throughout the country and so finding one unoccupied is a frustrating game and that, combined with the time it takes to charge compared with the time it takes to fill with gas, would add an unacceptable time to any journey.

We are aware of the future problem of battery disposal and also the resources used in building the car and don't fool ourselves that we are saving the world, but we also know there is a cost to the planet in building conventional vehicles (and bicycles if it comes to that!).

Realistically at our age, we probably won't buy another new car, but if we did, and hydrogen was still not available, we would definitely go for the same again.

Alex Balasa

Sunday 30th of June 2024

Thank you for your perspective! In the US we have only 110V for our domestic outlets, the 220V needs special circuits (and connectors) which need to be installed separately. It is indeed much easier to charge a car with 220V. I did not consider a hybrid car myself because my intention was to purchase a car to b used for short trips only, and this Tesla fits the bill well here. It is conceivable that in the future we will also generate our own power, perhaps at that time I will revise my opinion, but for the moment the option to generate power locally is also not cost effective; but that is other discussion entirely!

Brenda

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

I love my Mustang Mach e. I received the 7500 from government on the 50,000 cost. It was in the same range as other cars I was considering. We opted to get a 240 set up in our garage and cost us 200. Not your 1000! We usually charge at night (time of use fees apply, so cheaper at night) when we need it. Only 2 or 3 times a month. I plug the car in and set the timers to start at midnight and stop at 95% full or 8 am. I don’t let the battery get lower than 45% unless I’m on a road trip. In that case I use the chargers that are available and the charge costs are about 1/3 of what the gas would have cost me for a car. It takes about 20-30 min to get full and I plan it to coincide with bathroom and meal/snack breaks. The insurance on my Mach e was lower than what I had on my 6 yr old Malibu. I questioned that and was told it was because of all the safety features in the Mach e! As for maturity, I’m sure the EVs will improve as they continue to study what works, etc. All cars have potential of catching fire. People forget that in order to get a gas car to move there has to be tiny explosions of fire/gas. We’ve used these for a century and people were not overly afraid of that! We have no oil changes, no smog checks needed on EVs I do live in one of the hottest places in the country, Las Vegas. That said, heat is unforgiving on batteries of any kind. Boats, trucks, cars, toys, phones… all need to be protected from the sun and extreme heat. I keep my Ev in the garage and try to find shade when I’m out in the summer. I have no experience with cold weather as it doesn’t get cold here. Hope that helps. We also have solar panels on our house.

Alex Balasa

Sunday 23rd of June 2024

Glad the math works for you! You definitely got your home charger under cost. I figured I will need about 30-35 feet of cable from my electrical panel to the outlet outside the home, and the cost of parts only would be around $350. Installation will need a certified electrician, and that is expensive here, and I am not even talking about the cost to upgrade the electrical panel. Regarding charging time, I just charged the car yesterday from 12% to 90% (so about 80% capacity) at a supercharger, took 40 minutes.

Tessa

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

My husband purchased our first Tesla Model Y in December 2022 and we just purchased our second Model Y this past February so we are a total EV household with absolutely no regrets! We installed an EV charger and haven't noticed any significant increase in our electric bill. We take cross-country trips and find charging stations easily. We love our Teslas!

Alex Balasa

Sunday 23rd of June 2024

I love the Tesla too; my point was that if you only want it for the reduced cost, you probably won't get what you wanted. At least here, in SW Florida.

P. Stolz

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

Thank you. This is very valuable information. My reasons for not wanting an electric vehicle start before purchase and focus on environmental factors. The production of the (at this time) non-recyclable batteries are using materials that are abundant. The mining methods are decimating the lands the are taking place in. The major countries involved in the mining and selling of these materials are exploiting the labourers, and the environment, and the underdeveloped countries the mining takes place in. China is a major supplier of the rare earth minerals needed to produce the batteries, which are, at this time, unrecoverable. The overall impact of the electric vehicle at this time, is far more damaging to the environment, and humanity, than any negligible benefit it may be providing.

Another major factor against electric vehicles is the inadequacy of the current electricity supply. Many places are closing fossil fueled power plants with no suitable alternate sources available. This is why many Canadians were asked to reduce our power usage ( including charging electric vehicles) on several of the coldest days and nights of the past winter. We were asked not to plug in ANY type of vehicles. At temperatures near 40 degrees below zero, this is dangerous. A vast majority of vehicles will not start at these temperatures, escpecially electric ones. In case of emergency, help may not be reachable.

There is valid research available on all these, and other important factors relating to electric vehicles. It is well worth reading, and should be more readily available to everyone. But if people know the true impact of these”environment saving vehicles” perhaps they would do more to help save the environment.

There are far more negative factors that are not being disclosed. At this time electric vehicles really are not a great benefit to anyone who is not profiting from the production and sale of them.

Alex Balasa

Sunday 23rd of June 2024

I do not have experience with cold climate, but I did read last winter about the problems in Chicago where Teslas could not be charged even if they were towed to the supercharger site. And yes, I fully agree with the last two statements (lacking full disclosure and who benefits the most). Nevertheless let's not forget that the classic cars themselves have gone a loooong way in the last 30 years. In the 1980s I had a small car (1.3l, Renault 12) which was 70Hp or so and got around 22mpg, not counting that it was not even able to drive above 80mph. Today you can buy a Toyota Corolla 2l 170hp which gets easily 45mpg. I expect EVs to evolve also, even if for now they are not a real alternative (in my opinion) except in niche jobs.

Nancy

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

I think the basic idea of the electric cars is good. The problem is what will mankind do with all the dead and useless batteries that come from these vehicles. It is like nuclear waste. It doesn't go away, it just keeps poisoning where they are put, buried, etc.

Alex Balasa

Sunday 23rd of June 2024

I think in time there will be a solution for recycling. More likely though the battery technology will improve and the batteries themselves will become less of a problem.

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