Telsa model s -250

How much time does it take to recoup the costs of the Tesla versus a petrol car?

Information verified correct on October 25th, 2016

Say goodbye to the petrol pump: A look at fuel savings and the rough cost of owning an electric car.

The Tesla Model S 90D is a luxury car first and an electric car second, the entry level price tag of almost $170,000 is no small investment. As with all electric or hybrid vehicles on the market, compared to petrol run cars, there’s a greater upfront cost so you can save on running costs (at the petrol pump for example) over time.

Tesla claims the Model S ‘pays back’ the energy used to produce the vehicle in only 16,000 kms, which according to findings by researchers at Roy Morgan is just a touch above the average distance an Australian drives every year. If it only takes a year before the Tesla S is carbon footprint neutral, how long will it take before the vehicle breaks even financially — the number of years it takes for the savings in petrol to be greater than the difference in price to a petrol run luxury vehicle with similar stats: the 2015 BMW X6 50i.

Tesla versus BMW

Tesla Model S 90DBMW X6 50i
Release date20162015
TransmissionElectric - 4WDAutomatic - AWD
Electricity / Petro Consumption206 Wh/Km*9.7L/100km*
0 - 100 km ph4.4 seconds4.8 seconds
Top speed250 km ph240 km ph
Range557 kms850 - 900 kms
PriceFrom: $169,660From: $151,600
Annual cost$865*$2151*
Warranty8 years: battery and drive unit4 years: limited3 years: unlimited

*Green Vehicle Guide: 2016.

According to the car company, the Tesla Model S can be charged from empty for about $20 worth of electricity. This figure varies depending on the model and whether you’re charging the vehicle during on or off peak usage times. The range of the vehicle also varies depending on a number of factors such as acceleration and temperature for example, expect to get anywhere between 400 - 550 kms from a full battery, for the sake of this example, we’ll assume $20 for a full charge gets you 500 kms.

The average price of unleaded petrol in Sydney at the time of writing is 105 cents a litre. The BMW X6 has a 85L fuel tank, say that it can travel about 850 kms on a full tank which costs $89.

Tesla Model S 90DBMW X6 50i
Cost of electricity / fuel (full-charge / tank)$20$89
Maximum distance500 kms850 kms
Cost after 16,000 kms$640$1673

In the example above, and the government’s own calculations as published in the Green Vehicle Guide, there’s a saving of more than $1,000 every year in fuel costs by using an electric vehicle such as the Tesla.

Looking just at the fuel consumption, it’s will take more than 15 years before the fuel savings from the Tesla make up for the almost $20,000 more you’d fork out to purchase the vehicle over the X6. But this isn’t the full picture. The S 90D has fewer moving parts and doesn’t need maintenance on things like the oil, spark plugs or filters, and the brakes will last for years longer thanks to a unique feature called regenerative braking. As with all cars, the windscreen wipers and tires will need to be regularly maintained. Tesla advise the car is serviced once a year. The battery is guaranteed for 8 years and the vehicle has a 4 year or 80,000 km warranty, whichever comes first — A service can cost between $500 - $1000 depending on the age of the vehicle, Tesla sell service plans for a discount.

Did you know?

Regenerative braking actually captures the power the car uses to slow the vehicle saving it in a battery to be used again. The Tesla’s speed predominantly reduced using the engine.

Suggested Tesla Model S maintenance

The Tesla Model S owners manual suggests the following:

  • Every 2 years: Replace the brake fluid.
  • Every 4 years: Replace the battery coolant.
  • Every 10,000 kms: Rotate the tires
  • Every 40,000 kms: Replace air filter

The above example is a conservative estimate, an ABS survey found that in 2010 the average household spends more than $50 on their vehicle including fuel and lubricant, an increase of $10 from 2004. Fuel is only going to get more expensive in the future, electric and hybrid cars will become an increasingly viable option as the trend of rising fuel prices continues.

Jacob Joseph

Jacob is a writer and video journalist with Credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts are his bread and butter, and he likes nothing more helping people understand the sometimes overly complex world of personal finance.

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