How Much Does It Cost to Charge a Tesla?

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla? It ranges from about $8 to $18 to fully charge a Tesla, depending on the model vehicle you drive.

To better understand the cost, you need to learn the details of the charging calculation.

Because let’s face it, the fuel cost savings is a huge reason why you’re even considering an electric car. And of course, because Tesla vehicles are awesome-looking!

I’ll cover the cost of charging all the different Tesla model vehicles. But also, I’m going to go over many variables you need to consider when it comes to the charging cost.

This way, you can calculate your charging costs no matter your vehicle circumstances.

First, though, let’s go over the calculation to fuel a gas-powered vehicle. You can then directly see the cost savings of an electric vehicle.

Fuel cost calculation of gasoline-powered vehicles

This calculation is overly simple.

You first estimate how many miles you’ll drive in a year. Then, divide this figure by the miles per gallon of your vehicle and multiply it by the current price of gas.

\dfrac{\text{Miles in a year}}{\text{Miles/Gallon}} \times \dfrac{\text{Price of gas}}{\text{Gallon}} = Annual fuel cost

As an example, let’s look at a typical everyday 2021 Honda Accord. This car is fairly equal to a Tesla Model 3 in both size and price.

This Honda has a combined gas mileage of 33 Miles Per Gallon (MPG), with a base price of $24,770. And we’ll assume in our calculation you drive 13,500 miles per year. This is about the average miles driven per year in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

\dfrac{13,500}{33} \times \dfrac{\text{2.559 dollars}}{\text{Gallon}} = $1,046.86 per year

Important Note: the U.S. Department of Energy uses the term “eGallon.” 

eGallon is the cost of electricity to “fuel” a vehicle, compared to a similar gas-powered vehicle. 

The following data from Choose Energy compares price per gallon versus price per eGallon:

StatePrice per gallonPrice per eGallonCost difference
New York$2.91$1.66$1.25

To better understand these numbers, let’s look at California as an example. For $1.86 worth of electricity, you can drive an equal distance as you would using $3.91 worth of gasoline.

On average, you can see the cost to charge a vehicle is 50% less than paying for gasoline. This is a quick and dirty way to compare energy costs.

Cost of charging calculation for electric-powered vehicles

To do a one-to-one comparison with gasoline-powered vehicles, let’s first look at MPGe. This is a value used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

MPGe is Miles Per Gallon Equivalent. This value measures the fuel efficiency of vehicles that use non-liquid fuels.

The following is the MPGe for the standard Tesla Model 3: 142 MPGe.

But this value alone doesn’t help us calculate the cost of charging a Tesla. In other words, we need to use the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) versus the price of a gallon of gas. While noting, we express the battery capacity of an electric vehicle in terms of kWh.

Thus, in our calculation, we’ll use miles per kWh versus miles per gallon.

For this reason, we need to know the cost of a kWh of electricity. Nationwide, the cost of electricity was 13.7 cents per kWh in January 2021.

To put this cost into perspective, the below-shown table compares average energy prices in the U.S.

DateGasoline cost per gallonElectricity cost per kWh
March 2020$2.334$0.134
April 2020$1.946$0.133
May 2020$1.946$0.134
June 2020$2.141$0.137
July 2020$2.243$0.137
August 2020$2.245$0.137
September 2020$2.260$0.137
October 2020$2.228$0.135
November 2020$2.159$0.136
December 2020$2.235$0.136
January 2021$2.235$0.136
February 2021$2.559$0.137

Cost of charging calculation for the Tesla Model 3

tesla vehicle charging
Photo Credit: Jannis Lucas

The rated miles per kWh for the standard Tesla Model 3 is 4.17 miles per kWh. And again, we’ll assume you drive 13,500 miles in a single year.

\dfrac{\text{13,500 Miles}}{\text{4.17 Miles Per kWh }} = 3,237.41 kWh of electricity

Next, we multiply our result by the cost per kWh to calculate the total annual cost.

3,237.41 kWh x $0.137 per kWh = $443.53

So compared to the annual cost of a gasoline-powered car, the energy cost savings is $1,046.86 – $443.53 = $603.33!

If you live in California with higher gasoline prices, your cost savings will be even greater.

Cost of charging calculation for all Tesla vehicle models

tesla charging station
Photo Credit: Andreas Dress (image cropped)

We’ll calculate the charging cost of the other Tesla vehicles using another method. This is because I don’t have the MPGe value for each Tesla vehicle.

Instead, we’ll use the Tesla vehicle battery sizes in our calculation from the Electric Vehicle Database.

To illustrate, a standard Tesla Model 3 has a 50 kWh battery. Also, a Level 2 home charger has an approximate efficiency of 87%. In other words, the charging process isn’t 100% efficient. You’ll need a tad over 1 kWh of energy to charge a 1 kWh battery.

Thus, (50 kWh / 0.87) x $0.137 per kWh = $7.87 is the cost to fully charge a standard Tesla Model 3.

Tesla model vehicleBattery usableRangeFully charge costCost per mile
Model 3 (Standard Plus)50 kWh263 miles$7.87$0.030
Model 3 (Long Range)82 kWh353 miles$12.91$0.037
Model 3 (Performance)76 kWh315 miles$11.97$0.038
Model S (Long Range)90 kWh412 miles$14.17$0.034
Model S (Plaid)90 kWh390 miles$14.17$0.036
Model S (Plaid+)115 kWh520 miles$18.11$0.035
Model X (Long Range)90 kWh360 miles$14.17$0.039
Model X (Plaid)90 kWh340 miles$14.17$0.042
Model Y (Long Range)72.5 kWh326 miles$11.42$0.035
Model Y (Performance)72.5 kWh303 miles$11.42$0.038

Important Note: the battery range isn’t fixed. The actual range depends on the following factors: 

  • Speed
  • Style of driving
  • Weather
  • Route conditions
  • Usage of heating and air conditioning
  • Battery condition

Figuring out your kWh (electricity) cost at home

electricity bill kwh

Take a look at your monthly electricity bill to see the rate you’re paying. You’ll then know how much it’ll cost to charge your Tesla vehicle at home.

The above image is a typical electrical bill. What I have boxed in red is the rate you need to use in your charging cost calculation.

Just as important, find out when off-peak times are in the day for you. By taking advantage of these hours, you’ll get much cheaper rates. Plus, you can simply tell your Tesla vehicle when to charge. Doesn’t get any easier than that.

Solar-powered home cost of savings

If you have solar panels installed, your cost of electricity will drop substantially. Let’s do the math to see how much you’ll save.

A 15kW system will cost about $20,000 after $10,000 of tax credits and $10,000 in rebates.

You’ll produce about 20,000 kWh of energy per year or 600,000 kWh over the next 30 years. Then to account for system degradation, we’ll multiply our energy result by 0.08% x 30.

This calculates to 600,000 –  (600,000 x 0.024)  = 585,600 kWh over the next 30 years.

So your electricity cost is $20,000 / 585,600 kWh = $0.034/kWh. Let’s now revisit the cost of charging some of the Tesla vehicles we calculated earlier. The following table compares the charging costs with and without solar:

Tesla Model VehicleFully charge cost (no solar)Fully charge cost (solar)Cost per mile (no solar)Cost per mile (solar)
Model 3 (Standard Plus)$7.87$1.95
Model S (Long Range)$14.17$3.52

Model X (Long Range)$14.17$3.52
Model Y (Long Range)$11.42$2.83

Without a doubt, your charging costs are much cheaper if you have solar panels installed. Keep in mind though, electricity prices do fluctuate. But using our approximate calculation, you can still clearly see the cost savings.

Cost of charging calculation for Tesla Supercharger

Another option is to use Tesla Supercharging. Go here and select the state you’ll charge your car in to check your charging cost.

As a comparison, the following is the cost to fully charge a standard Tesla Model 3:

  • Charging at home (no solar): (50 kWh / 0.87) x $0.137  per kWh = $7.87
  • Supercharging: (50 kWh / 0.87) x $0.26  per kWh = $14.94

Now, the per-mile cost for a standard Tesla Model 3 is:

  • Charging at home (no solar): $7.87 / 263 mile range = $0.030 / mile
  • Supercharging: $14.94 / 263 mile range = $0.057 / mile

The cost to charge at home is definitely cheaper, unless you get free supercharging of course.

Important Note: since 2017, Tesla no longer subsidizes the Supercharger network. The network needs to pay for itself allowing for better expansion and upgrades. All the while, not reducing the profitability of car sales.

Looking back at the 2021 Honda Accord, it has a gas tank size of 14.8 gallons with a highway gas mileage of 38 MPG.

Let’s now calculate the cost to drive 562.4 miles. We’ll use the national gas and electricity cost averages from February 2021.

  • Honda Accord: 14.8 gallons x 38 MPG = 562.4 miles costing $37.87 (14.8 gallons x $2.559 per gallon)
  • Tesla Model 3: 562.4 miles x $0.057 per mile= $32.06

So for long-distance driving, a Supercharger doesn’t save you much money. In certain states, it may even be more expensive depending on the gas-powered car you drive. 

“How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?” wrap up 

Electric cars are far more energy-efficient than gasoline-powered cars.

Through our calculations, you’ll save about $600 every year by driving a Tesla versus a Honda.

According to Car Insurance, Americans on average keep their cars for about 11 years. So that’s a total savings of around $6,500!

That’s a huge cost-saving, that’ll no doubt help you justify buying a Tesla.

Just be sure to calculate all your costs, as the energy market is constantly fluctuating. You want to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

How much do you pay to charge your Tesla vehicle at home every month? Would you ever go back to a gasoline-powered car as a current Tesla owner? What are your thoughts on electric vehicles compared to gasoline-powered cars?

Featured Image Photo Credit: Andreas Dress (image cropped)


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