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How cost efficient is the Tesla Model S?

The Tesla Model S roars ahead with an equivalent fuel efficiency of 46.3 kilometres/litre – and uses zero petrol.

With rising petrol prices, a new type of engine has driven into the car market – the electric car. The electric car is an attempt to be more energy efficient and promote renewable, clean energy.

Tesla is one of the leading makers of electric vehicles (EV) in the world. The Model S is one of the latest electric vehicles from Tesla and is a surprising leader when it comes to efficiency – clocking in at the equivalent of 46.3 kilometres/litre* for a fuel-powered car.

*Based on the vehicle's specifications with the assumption that 1 litre of petrol produces the equivalent of 8.9kWh of energy.

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Is the Tesla Model S cost-efficient?

The drive-away price of the Model S is a huge drawback – about $154,372 in Australia, though this can depend on what state you purchase it in and additional vehicle options.

While its purchase price is competitive with similarly performing cars like the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series, how does its cost efficiency measure up?

Efficiency

Under the American system, the efficiency for vehicles not powered by petrol is measured in a "Miles per Gallon Equivalent", or MPGe. By using the Environmental Protection Agency's assertion that 1 litre of petrol produces the equivalent of 8.9kWh of electricity, we can compare the Tesla's "fuel" efficiency to other models in kilometres/litre:

Car modelFuel efficiency (kilometres/litre)
2020 Tesla Model S (standard)46.3
2021 Mercedes-Benz E350 (4 cylinder)10.6
2020 Audi A6 quattro (4 cylinder)11.5
2020 BMW 530e (4 cylinder, hybrid)29.3

As you can see, the Tesla has much, much better efficiency than its hybrid competitors.

Reliability

The overall reliability of Tesla's Model S is slightly above average. Although the running cost and simplicity of the engine makes the ride comfortable and energy efficient, there have been reports of latches and door handles not working properly.

Other problems with the reliability of the Model S include squeak and rattles from the supposed silent engine.

Despite these consumer reports, the overall reliability trumps competitors like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.

How much energy does it take to charge a Tesla?

The standard Tesla Model S has a battery capacity of either 65kWh or 85kWh, depending on the car you bought. While the vehicle will never charge to its full capacity for technical reasons, you'll consume around 65 or 85kWh respectively when charging it, over a period of about 5 hours (or half that in 20 minutes, for a 50% battery charge).

Even with the Model S's high efficiency, electricity can be expensive, so you could benefit from comparing energy plans to get the most out of your money. We also have some general energy saving tips for the home.

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Finder survey: Have many Australians installed solar panels or a smart meter at their property after buying an EV?

Response
I have added nothing27.08%
I already had solar18.75%
I have added both solar and a smart meter16.67%
I have added solar14.58%
I have added a smart meter10.42%
I already had both solar and a smart meter8.33%
I already had a smart meter4.17%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1145 Australians, December 2023

Running cost of Model S

Since the Tesla is an electric vehicle, you do save a lot of money on running costs. The Tesla does not require oil changes, smog checks and has fewer parts to maintain. The car has no carburetor, fuel injection, petrol tank, cooling system or spark plugs. It is estimated that you can save up to $10,000 on maintenance cost.

Model S is quite cost efficient because the running cost is cheaper. According to Tesla Australia, recharging the battery on the Model S will cost around $20. This is much cheaper compared to the price it costs to fill a petrol tank. The real cost will be even cheaper since most people won't recharge the battery every night so $20 a night is the maximum theoretical cost.

There are off-peak electricity rates that offer lower prices to the user during specific times. Off-peak electricity times are often when residential homes and businesses use less electricity. This electricity is cheaper because it is an incentive to use electricity at less busy times. The price is usually half of the regular price for electricity, so it would be $10 to fill up a Model S.

Tesla also offers a number of superchargers which are used to charge the Model S in minutes rather than hours. The use of this service is free. There are several superchargers strategically placed around Australia for long-distance trips.

There are virtually no servicing costs unless you need to replace a certain part. The engine is so simple that it minimises the risk of damaging the equipment.

Highlights and drawbacks

  • All electric. Model S delivers economical, petrol-free driving.
  • Durable. Aluminium body with no possibility of rust and lightweight.
  • Safety. Eight airbags, traction control and has a 5-Star Ancap Safety rating.
  • Cost efficient. The service cost is significantly lower since the engine is made up only of a battery and a rotor.

There are a few drawbacks when it comes to Tesla Model S:

  • The tires are performance tires. The tread from these tires wears easily and since these are expensive tires, there could be a few price drawbacks because of this.
  • Reported issues with the wheel. There have been reports of persistent problems with the alignment of the wheels.
  • Leaking cooling pumps. For the battery and suspension systems, it has all been problems for the 2015 Model S.

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