Tesla is famous for its all-electric fleet of vehicles. But did it (and does it currently) offer any gasoline cars?

No, Tesla doesn’t offer gasoline cars, and none of its cars can directly run off of liquid fuel. Tesla vehicles use battery power—which is sometimes generated by gasoline—as their primary and only source of energy.

 In this article, we’ll cover why Tesla cars can’t run on gas. We’ll compare the pros and cons of Tesla’s electric-only approach, as well as a comparison between gas and electric refueling stations and infrastructure.

We sourced the information used in this article from automotive guides and industry experts, including some at Tesla itself.

Can Tesla Use Gas?

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Are There Any Gas-Powered Tesla Cars?

No, Tesla cars never have (and probably never will) run on conventional gasoline. Tesla vehicles are 100% electric and always have been.

They probably always will be electric-only because Tesla has no plans to devolve the quality and systems used in its cars. Tesla vehicles are clean and highly advanced—and all of these systems rely solely on electric power.

What do Tesla Cars Use Instead of Gas?

Tesla vehicles rely on large, high-capacity battery packs to provide the energy they need to move and run their many complex systems. That means that all the power used by a Tesla has to be moved from a generating station to the batteries.

Not a single production Tesla car has an engine. Instead, they have motors, which are not the same as engines, even though the terms are often used interchangeably.

Engines usually convert fuel (or the product of fuel, like steam from a coal or oil-fired boiler) into mechanical energy. Engines run on gasoline, diesel, kerosene, oil, and heat in the case of Stirling engines. Motors, on the other hand, convert electricity directly into mechanical energy.

Where Can Tesla Batteries Charge?

Tesla batteries can be charged at home or on the road using three primary methods. The first is with the included home slow charger, which plugs into a 120-volt home outlet. This charging method takes many hours and is the least efficient way to charge a Tesla.

The second method is with the Tesla Wall Charger. This charging unit, which wires directly into your home electrical infrastructure, is much more powerful. Tesla owners who plug their cars into this charger when they get off work usually have a full charge when they wake up the following morning to use the car again.

The third method is also the fastest. This method uses Tesla ‘Superchargers’ located around the country in parking lots and at gas stations.

Superchargers look much like a streamlined gas pump. These ultra-fast chargers can add around 200 miles of range to your Tesla’s batteries in about 15 minutes, which is astoundingly fast compared to all other methods.

Tesla charging stations are located in all sorts of locations, including mall parking lots, truck stops, roadside parking spots, and many other designated locations.

With the help of an adapter, Tesla cars can also be charged at other charging stations that are designed for generic electric cars. But this method is slower than superchargers, and it’s best not to rely on 3rd-party charging locations to charge your Tesla.

Can You Use Gasoline to Charge a Tesla?

Sure, you can use gasoline to charge a Tesla if you want. But since Tesla cars don’t have an engine or a fuel tank, you’ll need to use a separate one.

It’s possible to charge a Tesla using a gasoline-powered generator, and many people have done it during power outages or while in remote areas. Diesel generators are also common but on a larger scale.

But this charging process is even less efficient than gasoline engines, which themselves are pitifully inefficient and waste a tremendous amount of energy.

Do Tesla Cars Charge Too Slowly?

No, Tesla cars do not charge slowly. In fact, they charge quite fast when compared to other battery-powered devices. Tesla chargers can add substantial power to a battery pack in ten to fifteen minutes.

Although this is slower than the time it takes to fill a fuel tank, the benefits of electric cars likely outweigh the inconvenience of the few extra minutes it takes to charge a big automotive battery.

Why Tesla Chose Battery Power

Batteries and electricity were the obvious choices for Tesla. This fact was clear from the very beginnings of the company, which was founded in 2004 as a producer of only electric cars. From what we understand, this has always been the goal—Tesla vehicles were never meant to use gas.

But why not hybrids? Hybrid vehicles were gaining in popularity at the time and presented the only commercially available practical alternative to conventional gas cars.

But that’s just it—hybrids were a medium between the car of today and the car of the future. And Tesla set out to build the car of the future from the ground up, unlike hybrids which were just adapted versions of conventional gas cars.

Where Does Tesla Electricity Come From?

So, where do Tesla chargers get their electricity? The answer is complicated, as it depends on where you are. For example, a Tesla charging station in Pennsylvania is most likely to get its electricity from a coal-fired power plant located nearby.

Alternatively, a charging station located in Texas could get its power from coal, nuclear, wind, solar, or natural gas power plants. The same is true for other areas that favor geothermal, wind, or hydroelectric power. So in some parts of the country, the Hoover Dam may have actually charged your car.

So yes, something usually has to be burned to create electricity for Tesla cars. That said, many electric car charging locations receive much of their power from nearby solar panels—sometimes located directly overhead.

Are Tesla Cars More Environmentally Friendly than Gas Cars?

Generally speaking, yes—Tesla cars are more environmentally friendly to drive than gasoline cars. Here’s an example of how a coal-fired power plant can release less CO2 charging a Tesla than a gasoline-powered car releases to drive the same distance.

Efficiency is the key reason why driving a Tesla is more green. And power plants are some of the most efficient ways to turn fossil fuels into electricity.

In a power plant, coal is burned to boil water into superheated (dry) steam, which then drives a turbine and spins a generator. Large steam turbines, such as the ones found in power plants, are highly efficient—up to 90% in some cases. That means that the vast majority of the energy released by burning coal is converted into electricity.

Once the power moves through the lines, it charges the batteries of the Tesla, which store the energy for use on the road. The Tesla charging efficiency is also in excess of 90%, which means that the majority of the energy used goes into battery storage.

Here, we have a 90% efficient power plant converting coal to electricity, which then charges a Tesla at 90% efficiency for a total efficiency loss of 20%. This is not a scientific argument—just an example.

Compare that to a gas car. Gas comes from oil. Oil has to be extracted from the ground and moved (by truck or tanker) but with greater expense than coal. Then, unlike coal for a power plant, oil has to be refined using heat—which requires more fuel burning and releases CO2 and other chemicals.

Once the oil is finally refined into gasoline, it has to be shipped over road or rail to a gas station, from which point it is pumped into your car using electricity.

Once in the tank, your gasoline engine can only achieve about 30 to 35% efficiency—which already exceeds the energy loss of our entire generation, transportation, and charging losses for the Tesla.

That’s less than 30% efficient for gas production and use and close to 90% for electricity. And we haven’t even factored in driving yet. As you can see, driving an electric car like a Tesla is much more efficient and environmentally friendly than driving a gasoline-powered car.

Sure, all kinds of coal have less energy density than gasoline. But at this scale, coal is a much more efficient and cost-effective way to generate power (even though it’s not renewable).

Will Electric Cars Replace Gasoline?

In consumer applications, electric cars will probably replace gasoline in the somewhat near future. Electric cars are cleaner, safer, more reliable, and more fun to drive in a lot of cases.

Plus, they offer a gateway into self-driving technology, though the real applications for self-driving are probably overhyped.

Nonetheless, there are numerous reasons why Tesla and other companies will likely kill gas-powered cars in the coming decades. The main obstacle is cost and battery capacity, which engineers are constantly working to improve.

Gasoline will be replaced once electric cars become affordable enough to produce and ultimately less expensive than conventional gasoline cars. Nobody knows when this will be, but thanks to Tesla, high-quality electric cars are now within reach of many Americans.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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