Tesla’s fuel savings estimate for its vehicles are actually nerfed for most US states

(Photo: Andres GE)

Tesla’s online configurator for its electric cars primarily shows a price that’s adjusted for incentives and estimated fuel savings. These savings vary depending on the vehicle being ordered, with the company listing estimated gas savings of $4,300 for the Model 3 and Model Y, $5,300 for the Model X, and $5,500 for the Model S. These may seem like optimistic estimates, but as it turns out, these figures are actually conservative, at least for the majority of the United States.

Tesla’s fuel savings estimate is based on the premise that charging an all-electric vehicle is a lot more affordable than filling up the tank of a petrol-powered car. Looking at the company’s estimates, it appears that the listed fuel savings for the Model S, 3, X, and Y are based on the assumption that drivers would drive their Tesla for 10,000 miles annually for a period of six years. The costs of charging a Tesla over this period is then compared to the estimated costs of refueling a comparable vehicle, such as a BMW, with premium gasoline.

This strategy actually makes sense, considering that the all-electric construction of a Tesla will likely allow the vehicle to be used for at least six years. The comparison with BMW’s vehicles is quite sound as well, seeing as both companies offer premium cars that perform and compete in the same segment. That being said, EV charging rate monitoring service Optiwatt noted in a recent report that Tesla’s estimated gas savings are a lot more nuanced than what the company’s online configurator would suggest.

(Credit: Optiwatt)

If there is one area where Tesla could be faulted, it is in the way that its estimated fuel savings for the US are the same regardless of the state where the car is being purchased. Different states have different electricity and average fuel prices, which means that there are some places where Tesla drivers could save more than the company’s own estimates, and areas where the opposite will be accurate. Take Hawaii, for example. The state pays 32 cents per kWh of electricity, which is over three times higher than the 9 cents per kWh that are paid by residents in Oklahoma.

Fuel consumption varies across states as well, with drivers in rural areas consuming more petrol and drivers in high-density states like New York consuming less. Wyoming drivers buy the most gas per capita at 609 gallons per person per year, while New York purchases less than half at 292 gallons per person per year. Considering that Tesla’s fuel savings rely on the price discrepancy between electricity and gas, owners who drive more are more likely to meet the company’s fuel savings estimates compared to owners who drive less.

The Tesla Model Y’s estimated gas savings across the United States. (Credit: Optiwatt)

Optiwatt’s analysis notes that ultimately, there are some areas in the United States where owning a Tesla will save drivers far more than what the company’s estimates would suggest, and there are some areas where fuel savings will be underwhelming. Driving a Model Y in Rhode Island for 10,000 miles every year for six years will save owners about $4,235 in fuel costs, which is a bit less than the company’s $4,300 estimate. Driving the all-electric crossover in Wyoming for six years, on the other hand, will give owners fuel savings of $11,122, over two times the company’s estimates.

A look at Optiwatt’s data shows that Tesla’s newer vehicles like the Model 3 and Model Y are more likely to meet the company’s fuel savings estimates, despite the Model S and Model X’s free Supercharging capabilities. Yet on average, across Tesla’s vehicle lineup, it appears that Americans can expect to save about $2,500 more than the company’s estimated savings over a six-year period. This bodes well for electric cars and their economic appeal as a whole. After all, a Tesla is not just designed to run for 6 years. With the company’s million-mile batteries poised to be released soon, Tesla drivers over the years will likely see even more fuel savings for every electric car purchase.

Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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