Teslas use a remarkably small amount of electricity given the amount of mechanical work they do and the distance they can travel.
An average Tesla uses 34 kWh of electricity per 100 miles. This equates to about 34,000 kWh per 100,000 miles, or between 102,000 kWh to 170,000 kWh for the lifespan of the vehicle. Tesla vehicles charge at about 94% efficiency and discharge at about 90% efficiency.
In this article, we’ll break down all the different metrics used to determine how much electricity is used by Tesla cars. Additionally, we’ll go over how much electricity is lost at given efficiency levels and how energy usage compares to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.
We sourced some of the information used in this article directly from Tesla and other sources. We also made estimations based on related data to help put electricity consumption into perspective.
Tesla Battery Storage
Tesla automobiles have some of the highest battery capacity on the market. Battery capacity is measured using units such as kWh (kilowatt-hours), and the charge of batteries is measured in units such as mAh (milliamp hours).
Tesla battery packs are made up of thousands of 18650, 2170, and 4680 battery cells, which range in charge from 3400 mAh to 5000 mAh. These cells, when collected and connected, have a total storage capacity of 85 kWh (in sine models) and 100 kWh (in larger models).
Tesla Battery Cells vs. Battery Packs
Tesla cars use battery packs that are made up of thousands of individual lithium-ion cells. These cells are commercial-grade, and quality tested, as poor-quality lithium batteries can be dangerous. Tesla batteries are some of the best on the market, and they are extremely safe.
Tesla packs are stored in unused spaces, such as below the floor of the car. This frees up interior space, as the battery packs are remarkably thin. One thing to note about Tesla battery packs is their weight, as heaviness is the primary downside of batteries. The battery is one of the heaviest parts of the entire car, weighing in at an incredible 1,200 pounds.
Let’s use an 85 kWh battery as an example to show how they’re put together. A typical Tesla 85 battery is made up of 16 modules. Each module has six groups of cells, which are simply wired together in series.
This effectively turns thousands of batteries into a single battery, which is regulated by computers. Tesla batteries also generate quite a lot of heat, as batteries are not 100% efficient, and some capacity is wasted in the form of thermal energy. As a result, Tesla battery packs come with an integrated cooling system to prevent overheating.
Tesla Electricity Usage
It’s relatively easy to understand how much electricity Tesla cars use, but it helps to put energy usage into real-world perspective. To quantify what units like kWh mean in the real world, we’ll use a Tesla Model 3 with a 50 kWh battery as an example.
Keep in mind that this example uses estimates based on perfect driving conditions, IE no wind, hills, or anything else to change the range of the car. Real results vary, but it’s still useful and close enough to the real numbers for making a point.
The 50 kWh battery pack is the smallest available on the Tesla Model 3. The standard range for this model is 220 miles on a full charge. If all variables are perfect, that means that Tesla uses about .22 kWh per mile or 2200 watt-hours per mile.
To put it into perspective, that’s enough electricity to power 22 100-watt light bulbs for an hour. Alternatively, it could power one 100-watt light bulb for 22 hours or one 50-watt light bulb for 44 hours. Once you look at it that way, the efficiency of Tesla motors and batteries is quite remarkable.
How much of your energy would it take to push a 4,000-pound car one mile? You could generate that amount of power on a stationary bicycle, but it would take you five and a half hours to generate the amount of power required to move the car just a single mile. Next time you leave the lights on, remember how exhausting it would be to generate all that energy yourself.
Tesla Battery Efficiency
Efficiency is an important factor to consider when examining energy usage. The term refers to how much of the energy used is converted into useful mechanical and electrical power. For example, a 60% efficient battery would release 40% of its energy as heat, which means only 60% of the energy it stored would be useful.
Tesla batteries and motors are very efficient. As far as energy use is concerned, Tesla vehicles are actually much more efficient than gasoline-powered cars. Gasoline engines have an efficiency of about 35% at best, which means that only a limited amount of the energy potential of the fuel used will turn into mechanical energy and move the car.
Tesla vehicles are up to 94% efficient and 90% efficient on average. That means that the 3-phase AG motors, high-tech inverter, and batteries use almost all of their useful energy. This is both economical and great for the range, as it means that most of the power you pay for to charge it pays off.
Tesla Charger Efficiency
Another important factor to consider is charging efficiency. This number determines how much electricity used during charging is actually stored in the batteries. In this case, the most efficient Tesla charger for home use is the professionally installed wall charger. This device has a 94% efficiency at 240-volts and uses AC power from the grid.
Tesla chargers are highly efficient, but the batteries, cables, and charging units themselves lose some energy in the form of heat. All things considered, Tesla chargers are remarkably efficient and cost very little in lost energy. Compare that to a traditional incandescent lightbulb, which loses an astounding 90% of its energy as heat.
Cost of Tesla Electricity Use
The cost of the electricity used by a Tesla is remarkably low and saves a significant amount of money compared to driving a traditional car. Let’s use 100 miles as a benchmark to make a cost calculation. A Tesla uses around 34 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles. If electricity costs roughly $0.12 per kWh, that means that it costs $4.08 to drive 100 miles.
For comparison, let’s consider the cost of traveling the same distance in a gasoline car. Considering that the average fuel efficiency rating of cars is around 25 miles per gallon, it would use four gallons of gas to travel the same distance. At $2.83 per gallon, it would cost the gas-powered car $11.32 to travel the same 100 miles.
If all variables remain the same, driving a Tesla 100,000 miles would cost $4,080. Driving the gasoline car for 100,000 miles would cost $11,320. Over the lifespan of the vehicle, the Tesla is significantly less expensive to operate both in terms of electricity (energy) use and maintenance.
How Much Electricity Does the Tesla Model S Use?
The battery capacity of the Tesla Model S ranges from 100 kWh on newer models to 104 kWh on older models. The vehicle has a maximum range of about 368 miles, which means it consumes around 0.27 to 0.28 kWh per mile.
How Much Electricity Does the Tesla Model 3 Use?
The Tesla Model 3 comes with battery packs ranging in capacity from 50 kWh (standard range) to 82 kWh (extended range). It has a range of between 220 miles (50 kWh) and 353 miles (82 kWh). This means that the average Tesla Model 3 uses about 0.34 kWh per mile.
How Much Electricity Does the Tesla Model X Use?
The Tesla Model X SUV has a 100 kWh battery pack and a range of 289 miles. Other battery capacities and ranges are also available, but we’ll use the 100 kWh battery as an example. This larger vehicle consumes about .34 kWh of energy per mile.
How Much Electricity Does the Tesla Model Y Use?
The Tesla Model Y comes with a 75 kWh battery. There are other options available as well, but the Model Y comes standard with a mid-sized battery comparable to the high-end Model 3 battery. The base Model Y with 75 kWh of capacity has a range of around 280 miles, which means it uses an average of 0.26 kWh per mile.
About THE AUTHOR
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.Read More About Charles Redding