(June 23, 2022)
Over on my personal LinkedIn page, I posted something about the Tesla and its cost of travel over a year and it generated some conversation that I wanted to jump into. So I thought I would just answer them in a blog post here at DriveElectricND, and even kick it over to the Tesla owners group in ND for more discussion…I’m sure other Tesla owners, and other EV owners in general, can chime in as well. This is going to cover some ground where I think Tesla has done some amazing work, but also some areas in which I think their runaway success has created some expectations that are very hard to meet both for themselves as well as for the EV industry in general.
First question was if I have tracked electricity costs during the year, and the answer is not directly, but that’s an area in which Tesla’s innovation sets a very high standard and it kind of does that work for you, if you track it month by month (which I haven’t). Built into the app is a screen that potentially lets you choose your region and your utility and get a very accurate assessment of your charging costs over the course of the month, and even extrapolates the gas savings. It’s really cool, but isn’t available in every state, and no, North Dakota
isn’t on the list yet for the most granular data, but it gives you a fairly accurate estimate even if your utility isn’t directly linked. In my case it says I’ve spent about $31 over the last month, and what is really cool is that it is geolocation tagged, so it even says that all of that came at work, which is because I have my garage filled with debris from remodeling a bathroom so can’t park anything in there right now. A person can really dial down into this data, even more so if you live in a state where the utilities can be more directly linked. While its also possible to get even more accurate with a separate meter or something like this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003XOXU02/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 the extra degree of accuracy doesn’t justify the price of $125 for most consumers. Back to my expenses: I don’t use the app to track expenses month by month so all I can do is go back and figure out how many miles I have driven per year and extrapolate from there, which is actually pretty easy to do and works out to around $530-600 dollars for 12,000 miles in North Dakota.
Just as an aside, when we put in one of the first free public chargers in Bismarck, our electricity bill increased by about $200-300 a month, sometimes more, for that first year or so. Since that time, Tesla has opened Superchargers here in town and I’m guessing home infrastructure has also expanded, because we rarely see people at our charger anymore.
The Tesla app itself does a really good job of calculating gas savings much more accurately than what I did, but I also posted a picture of the Supercharging costs from my last trip to Fargo. This is where I think people have a little misperception, because what isn’t well known is that Supercharging is a lot more expensive than charging in your home, and it makes sense why—Tesla is deploying hundreds of thousands of dollars each time they hook up a Supercharger, and the technology needed to quickly and safely “pump” that electricity into the battery is pretty advanced. So sometimes people think “EVs are so cheap” and while that is true around town, for road trips the calculation changes. This isn’t a fault with Tesla, and they even build the capability to track your Supercharger costs into the app, as you can see on my screenshot. Its just one of those misperceptions that exist when I hear people say, “must be nice to pay $5 to drive to Fargo” or something like that.
But what you can see is that I drove to Fargo on March 30. The weather that day was between 20-40, so a little lower than optimal but higher than the temperature at which you start to see serious range degradation. Wind was a little above where you’d like it to be for a road trip, sometimes gusting from the northwest around 20mph. (https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/usa/bismarck/historic?month=3&year=2022) Before we left, I topped off the Tesla’s battery on the “road trip” mode, and what you can see from the charging report is that it cost $56 to drive to Fargo and back (and I got back pretty close to empty, and then would have filled up at my house for about $9.) It is about 200 miles to Fargo, it cost about $65 total there and back, full tank to full tank, using the Supercharger as little as possible. Right now, that would buy you 12 gallons of gas, so even right now the “break even” car would have to get more than 33 miles a gallon to be cheaper than the Tesla, due to the increased costs of the Supercharger, but only if you ignore the time value of money. If you don’t, you have to figure out how much it is worth to you to turn a 6 hour round trip burning gas into a 7 and a half hour round trip. I think EVs are actually undervalued as town vehicles and overvalued as road trip vehicles, where I see an opportunity for other alternative fueled vehicles like fuel cells or hydrogen carving out a niche for themselves. But its more a feeling like, “wow, gas is a really concentrated store of energy”.
Right now there is an immense frustration with gas prices, and EVs are getting looks from a lot of people who never thought about them before. They are amazing for a lot of things, but, like anything, making long term decisions from either end of the bell curve is going to leave a lot of people dissatisfied. And, speaking of either end of the bell curve, I’ll add some thoughts in a bit about the other question that came up, regarding impact of weather on range.