Tesla Model S vs BMW i3 vs Nissan LEAF — Your Answers Are In

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

About a month ago, I wrote a long article about my challenge deciding between a Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, or Tesla Model S. I buried a short poll on the bottom of the article and, honestly, didn’t think many of you would see or respond to it. Surprisingly, 1,651 people have responded to the poll!

For a few days, the three options were super close — basically split ⅓-⅓-⅓ — and I think each of them were #1 at some point or another. That matched my mindset pretty well.

However, I got more and more solid on a preference for the BMW i3, and the poll actually turned in that direction as well. Based on responses from EV Obsession and CleanTechnica readers, this is were it stands now:

Nissan LEAF vs BMW i3 vs Tesla Model S

That’s 699 (42%) voting that I’ll choose the BMW i3, 551 (33%) the Nissan LEAF, and 401 (24%) the Tesla Model S.

We’ll see, and despite heavily leaning toward the i3, I’m still not sure and intend to do two more test drives each (1 on my own while I’m in Florida to present at the EV Transportation & Technology Summit and 1 with my wife later on).

I’ve all but ruled out the LEAF since it can’t make a few trips I want to take and since, I think more importantly, the drive quality of the i3 and Model S is just stunning. So as a quick update, these are the strengths of the two models relative to each other (not any other cars) that are pulling me to them:

BMW i3

  • Compact but feels spacious.
  • Greenest car on the market.
  • ~50% cheaper.
  • Doesn’t have excess battery capacity I won’t need ~99% of the time, but still has the ability to make the road trips I want to take (with the REx, but primarily using electricity).
  • Will theoretically help to pull more people over to EVs since it’s more affordable and also similar to much more affordable models people could choose if the i3 was still too much for them.
  • Awesome regenerative braking package.
  • Looks cool.

Tesla Model S

  • Amazing acceleration and handling.
  • Safest car on the planet.
  • Produced by a company that is 100% for electric transport.
  • Produced by a company I’ve invested in.
  • Supercharger access that allows me to never touch a drop of gas again (in the US, at least).
  • Awesome tech/infotainment.
  • Looks super slick.

It’s a tough decision. I’m eager to get behind the wheel of these again. And, yes, I’m still going to test out the LEAF and probably some other EVs as well before making the decision.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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136 thoughts on “Tesla Model S vs BMW i3 vs Nissan LEAF — Your Answers Are In

  • I would not go with a long term investment in EV’s right now. There’s too much awesome stuff just 2-3 years away.

    Get a short lease. Nissan Leaf leases are the best.

    • I think Zach mentioned that he would be leasing the car rather than purchasing it.

    • I think that’s what’s putting a lot of prospective EV owners off, I know it s the reason in my case, that, and the niggling worry that car companies don’t take their EV customers seriously.

      • I found that buying a 2014 leaf was the same price as a 3 year lease so just bought. Same result…I get a car for 3 years but I theoretically have some residual at the end. Agree though…it’s an awkward time for EVs.

    • Leasing Spark EV is the best there is!

      If you’re in California, you can lease the Spark EV for $139/month with 0
      money down. Then you get the $2,500 cash rebate from California air
      resources board, and spread over 39 months, your effective lease becomes $74.90/month for a brand new car, leased for 39 months.

      Spark EV is the most efficient electric car there is, and the cheapest to lease!

      • Sounds like an affordable car but up in Canada it is nearly impossible to get it. When I called the dealer he said, after a lot of prodding, that it is available but only for fleet purchase. When I asked how many qualifies as a fleet he said five. As if any individual is going to purchase five. It just means head office doesn’t want any sold in Canada.

      • The E-Golf SE now leases for $99/month and around $1,000 down after CA state rebate. That’s the best deal right now overall, IMO.

    • Nope, definitely going with a lease. Not even sure if I’ll be in the US for more than a couple of years.

  • Great lease deals on the i3, and they give you free loaner for long trips. I’d skip the Rex version and go all-electric. Or a used RAV4 EV

    • Why? It’s still better having the Rex and don’t needing it than don’t having a Rex and needing it. Especially for someone with little kids.

      • A possible why — maybe the top editor of Cleantechnica would benefit slightly in his credibility/position going completely ICE-free on the ground — of course that’s currently really only an option if he chooses the Tesla, or rents one for trips.

        • PHEVs are such a huge improvement over ICEVs that we shouldn’t be concerned if one works better for some people.

    • I was considering a Rex but the registration fee here in AZ would have been over $700 more for the year! The registration incentive applies only to all electric vehicles, and I just registered the car for the next 5 years for a total of $60.32..that’s a significant savings when combined with the added cost of the engine that will not be used much at all. BTW the engine runs even when you don’t need it to keep the gasoline fresh with occasional refills and to just run the motor..more waste.

  • Both the i3 and model s looks good on paper but they are rear wheel drive so it is a deal breaker in snow country. The Tesla have AWD Option but its really not worth it If your intention is just to go green. Best win win is to leave the tesla alone, lease a i3, or buy a used leaf at 10k.

    • Rear wheel drive ICE cars don’t do so great in snow because there’s less weight on the wheels. (Pickup truck drivers commonly put heavy stuff in the beds of their trucks for snow traction.)

      EVs like the S have the batteries spread mostly between the axles. There should be plenty weight on the rear wheels. You might want to check the Tesla forum and see what Tesla owners who live in snow country have to say.

      Actually, I took my own advice out of curiosity.



      • There is plenty of traction in snow for the Model S RWD. (I drive mine in Ithaca, NY — heavy snow, steep hills.)

        The only problem I’ve had is that the traction control is over-aggressive and I’ve had to turn it off occasionally in certain kinds of slushy ice in order to keep moving.

    • I’ll be in Florida beach country. 😀 but the Model S performs super well in snow country, so don’t spread FUD.

  • So, you are leaning toward a I3 with a range extender, yet you won’t even consider a 2016 Chevy Volt?!?

    • Yup!

      Zach would love to go limping back to the nearest charger with the BMW i3 Rex with an itty bitty tiny 2.6 gallon tank than have a consistent wonderful powerful ride with the next generation Chevy Volt throughout the extended long range trip. The BMW i3 simply transfers your range anxiety from the battery to the tiny gasoline tank of 2.6 gallons. Imagine, how many times are you going to fill up 2.6 gallons every time you traverse California end to end?

      The BMW i3 Rex engine would also make you limp every time you climb long grades, while the 2016 Volt, you can have consistent over 75 mph speed in mountain mode when riding the steep mountains even for a long period of time.

      Speaking of dead weight of the engine, the 2016 Chevy Volt’s engine is far lighter than the extra Tesla Batteries that you lug around 99% of the time, mile for mile extended range.

      The Volt 2016 is not even a figment of Zach’s imagination a choice when you want extended trip. It’s only fault is that it was made by GM instead of foreign company.

      • I’m baffled that people find Rex limited charging abilities acceptable.

      • Haha. Well, if I go with the i3 REx, you know I’ll document the trips here. 😀 So we’ll see how things turn out. 😉 😀

      • Tesla is an American company…

      • A German made car is always the better option over GM.

        • Nothing screams quality like the German

    • If it were available in Florida, I’d definitely consider it. It isn’t available in Florida or any nearby states. If GM were willing to bring one down to Florida for me to test drive, that would be nice. 😀 But that was denied and we had Robyn do the test drives in San Fran 😀

      • Ah. I live in Vermont, so we often have to travel to test certain cars. Perhaps you and yours deserve a long weekend in, say, Montreal. You could fly up (Canada gets the ’16 Volt)… and drive home. 🙂

        • I’ve just recently started to consider this option… slightly. We’ll see. There’s still quite a bit to work through before we’d even book a flight to the US. Maybe some things will change before then… like Volt availability.

        • (Just put this elsewhere, but fits best here.) I do love the 2016 Volt, but I was in communication with GM reps for ~1 month recently about getting a media loaner car down in Florida to review. They seemed to try hard, but apparently found out that there’d be none in this region yet. This was not long before GM announce the 2016 Volt would only come to ~10 states. I’d still love to test one, but I’d have to fly somewhere to do so, and then I’d also have to buy out of state. I don’t think I’m up for the hassle, and think I prefer the i3 anyway.

          (New.) Maybe things will change in ~2 months. We’ll see. Would really love to test out the new Volt before choosing, and will test the old Volt anyway. But if the previous announcement of it not being available until Spring, the closest state to FL on that list is Maryland… not close 😛

  • Another consideration is: what could you do with the money difference between the Tesla and the BMW. $35,000 would buy a 10 kw rooftop PV system that would zero your house and car electrical use.

    • And the difference between BMW i3 Rex and the 2016 Volt would help boost your retirement savings as well. No gas and electric range anxiety for long trips, it is priceless with the 2016 Volt.

    • Surely you’re kidding right. 35k on a rooftop system would power maybe my lamps LOL

      • I think you’re information is outdated – Got a quote to power my brother’s house 100% on solar, was $36K… and that’s with our “large, wasteful American ways” (Honestly, I told him to get more quotes as that seemed expensive to me…)

        • LOL I wish. I did a solar estimator and it would be over 100k to power my house completely. 36k covers the costs of a “partial” system.

          • When did you do the estimate? With who? And how much electricity do you use?

          • How long ago was this?

      • Surely, you are kidding! 10 kw of PV produces about 15,000kwh year. The Average house is less than 12,000. A thoughtful house is 7-9000 kwh. See a recent article by Indradeep Ghosh on July 13 2015 on Cleantechnica in which he describes his net Zero house. A 2200 sq ft house and two electric cars all on a 12 kw array.

        • ?? My house uses 1300+kw per MONTH, I thought you meant a 10kw system per month. Typically thats what you mean when you say a 10kw system.

          • A 10 kW system would mean a system with 10,000 watts (10 kW) of solar panels. There’s no “time” metric in kW.

            1,300 kWh / 30 days = 43.3 kWh per day.

            Middle of the US, 4.5 average solar hours per day.

            43.3 kWh / 4.5 hours = 9.6 kW system size. Call it 10 kW.

            10 kW at the average US residential price of $3.50/watt = $35,000.

            Next question. How can you reduce your electricity use? No sense in spending money to generate electricity you don’t need to burn.

          • Then 1300×12= 15,600 kwh per year. And so you need a 10 kw PV array. By the way, it will cost less than $35,000. That would be $3.50 watt installed, which is about average these days. However the tax rebate is 30%. Now you are down to $24,000. And then there are state rebates which could bring you below $20,000. Net Zero electricity for 30 years or more.

    • Believe me, that is one of the big Qs that keeps popping into my mind. Though, the difference for my timeframe is ~$11,000.

    • When I bought my car,
      (a) The i3 didn’t exist yet
      (b) I drive 120 mile round trips on a roughly monthly basis year-round; the i3 simply doesn’t have the range
      (c) I hate visiting gasoline stations, *especially* in midwinter (I live in the snowbelt)

      Zach is in a different situation. A Tesla may simply be more car than he needs. It’s possible that he would be fine with the standard BMW i3 (no REx).

  • I sure wish this site would focus somewhat more on the options for folks who are NOT RICH and would like to drive an electric car.

    • I think the answer there is: Used Nissan Leaf.

      • Or used chevy volt. That’s what I’m looking at…

      • Yep. There’s a lot of them out there and they’re *very* reasonably priced.

    • unfortunately at this point, there arent a whole lot of options for cheap electric cars (outside of the tiny neighborhood EVs)… with time, battery tech will improve, prices will come down, additional models are coming, and used electric car availability will lower the cost of jumping in to the electric pool (that sounds dangerous, but it really isnt) 😉

  • If you are going to include a PHEV with the two BEVs, why not some of the many other PHEVs? You worry about not dragging around extra battery capacity you don’t need most of the time, yet you aren’t worried about dragging around an extra engine and generator you won’t need most of the time, for an extra 75 miles of range? Make sure you stand outside the car to listen to the engine during charge sustaining mode, and maybe compare that sound to the engines of some of the other PHEVs, some of which can go a lot further than the ~150 miles in total the i3 w/REx can muster. Be sure to also drive it up some big hills when the battery is depleted…

    • A BMW i3 REx is not a PHEV. Get into the nitty gritty of how it works and you can see that.

      Pick the right tool for the right job, right? 99.9% on electricity and a REx for that extra 0.1% seems to make more sense in my case than anything else… whether looking at emissions or convenience.

      • Do you even have a 0.1% chance of exceeding the electric range? Oh right — there are some road trips you might take. Are you sure you shouldn’t just rent a car for those?

        I agree with “right tool for the job”. The Model S was the first car which fit *my* profile (with 120 mile round trips without charging every couple of weeks, in the snowbelt).

  • I decided to go with the i3 BEV..I do still have an ICE and am waiting those 2-3 years to replace it and get the next generation in battery technology. For me 85-95 mile i3 range meets 99.9% of my driving needs..If I didn’t have the ICE, i’d just rent an ICE for longer trips. My BMW dealer will also loan an ICE if I leave the i3 for a service check (last we spoke they did not join the free loaner “i3 Mobility program” but would still readily accommodate my needs).

    • Yes, I think the i3 REx would be driven on electricity ~99.9% of the time in my case, but that extra 0.1% on the REx would be super useful for me. Before being in the market, I didn’t think it was a smart move by BMW. Now I think it’s genius.

      • It’s genius that they’re convincing so many to pay so much extra for a riding-mower engine. If your decision were down to the i3 vs 2010 Volt, I’d agree with you but the 2016 Volt is much better than its predecessor in every way – and significantly cheaper.
        I wouldn’t make a final decision until trying the new Volt – and I’m not a Chevy fanboy. I did NOT like the original Volt and have said so many times.

        • I was anti-REx for a long time. Just until recently, when I planned out the long-distance trips I’d like to take. The REx made them possible, and also made them look more convenient than a Model S, surprisingly. The Volt would also do that, but it would require driving more on gas, and I don’t like the car as much.

          I do love the 2016 Volt, but I was in communication with GM reps for ~1 month recently about getting a media loaner car down in Florida to review. They seemed to try hard, but apparently found out that there’d be none in this region yet. This was not long before GM announce the 2016 Volt would only come to ~10 states. I’d still love to test one, but I’d have to fly somewhere to do so, and then I’d also have to buy out of state. I don’t think I’m up for the hassle, and think I prefer the i3 anyway.

  • BMW i3 w gas range extender is the “greenest car”?! That is an incorrect claim. Author knows better than to list that as a criteria, especially with respect to the REX model which has a gas backup engine!

    Note, the “greenest” car from manufacture, driving, and recycle is the Smart ED, as it uses far less materials and energy in production, and is within a few percent of the BMW i3 in daily electricity consumption on the same route.

    Agree with many others that a 2016 Volt is a far superior choice to the BMW i3 all things considered. If you are going to use gas as your backup, Volt is the one, not i3 with it’s pathetic extra range.

    We chose two EV’s, and couldn’t be happier, but not everyone has that option, for those, the Volt is an excellent primary car.

  • cmon seriously, the I3 goes 81 miles or 150 with the range extender, thats a soccer-mom car, if you want to go any distance the Tesla is the only real player by a mile, sure it’s more $$ than an i3, but it’s a car that so advanced it’s not even in the same ball park as an i3.

    • With a Volt you’re not limited the a charging network and your wallet is a lot bigger.

      • You’re not limited with a Tesla either, you can use home, clever, plug-in or any stations (you have to pay – just like a Volt), except you can use a supercharger for FREE ! Win Tesla

        • My point Gary is that when you’re on the road in the Tesla and away from the fast charging network you have limited fast charging options, or in most areas no fast charging options. TCO? It’s not even dose.

          • I’ve only taken three trips in my Tesla where I’ve needed to use public chargers at all. (In 2 1/2 years.)

            As for TCO, the jury is still out — it depends on how long you intend to own the car. The Tesla is in some ways a spectacularly *durable* design, with very little exposure to salt water damage and with the entire ICE apparatus. This means nothing if you plan to trade the car in after 5 years, or lease it. If you plan to keep it for 10 years plus, then the Tesla may start having the edge on TCO. (Gas prices will probably go up in 10 years.)

          • At 60k miles the ICE in my Volt had less than 5K miles on
            it. The ICE isn’t the wear point and the battery is proving far more durable than GM’ original claims. For that day of replacement far into the future a new battery is $2,300 plus installation. The TCO of the Volt isn’t even in the same category as the Model S and there’s not enough petrol used for prices to play into the equation.

          • You seem to assume all drivers have the same habits as you. Personally, I take fewer trips (work at home) but when I go out, my trips are usually longer than the Volt will run on EV. So my ICE usage with the volt would probably end up higher than the EV use, especially on the older volt model. I haven’t done the math for how that affects TCO, but I imagine it must make Tesla more competitive. Either way, I want zero ICE use, regardless of TCO.

          • Statistically Gen I Volt Owens experience over 80% EV driving. GM expects that percentage to rise to over 90% for Gen II owners.

            Of course if you want a total EV driving experience and TCO isn’t an issue the Model S is an amazing car.

        • One thing I’ve discovered about Tesla is they charge $450 for a CHAdEMO charger adapter and they don’t yet have an SAE combo adapter (but I’m guessing it will be the same price). It does come with an L2 J1772 10kwh adapter but for L3 charging it’s pretty expensive to use anything other than superchargers.

          Of course superchargers cover almost the entire USA at this point and are still expanding. See http://supercharge.info

    • I think you probably missed my original post (it’s a long one, linked at the top). I’d probably drive ~20-25 miles a day, so no, I don’t really need the range. There are a few long trips I’d like to take, but the i3 REx actually looks better suited for them than the Model S.

      Yes, the Model S is a much better vehicle objectively speaking, no doubt about it. But many of the ways it’s better really don’t matter to me, and I’m not sure if the others are worth an extra $450-500/mo.

      • Agree, thats a personal choice, I don’t drive far every day, but its nice to not have that range anxiety and know i can make a 200km round trip and not have to worry about running flat on the highway !

  • You forgot the Kia EV Soul which gets just over 100 miles per full charge.

  • I also agree with all these comments about getting a lease, which is what I did for my Kia EV Soul. There will be so many better evs when my lease expires.

    • Yes, I’m definitely planning a lease. Aside from the typically strong reasons, I just don’t know if I’ll be staying in the US… or in a city where I think owning a car makes sense.

  • Lease an i3 for 2-3 years and get on the waiting list for a model 3/y

    • That’s is the plan I’m most strongly leaning toward. That or leasing a Model S and reserving a 3/Y (Y, please!).

  • If you can afford it, I humbly suggest getting the Telsa Model S 70. Price difference between that and the BMW is probably not much.

    Key reasons to choose Telsa over BMW (emphasizing some of your points):

    1. Produced by a company that is 100% for electric transport – if Tesla were not around, BMW (and GM, Nissan, etc) most likely would not have come out with an EV

    2. BMW is still not fully supportive of EVs – why haven’t they offered pure electric variants of their most popular models?
    3. Safest car on the planet
    4. Super Charger access
    5. Best acceleration and handling
    6. Subjective, but to many it looks WAY better than the i3
    7. Actually way more storage than i3
    8. Resale Value Guarantee – in 3 years, trade it in for the Model 3?

    Good luck!

    I’m based in Hong Kong and wait time for Telsas is about 5 months. They are hugely popular here and getting more and more popular.

  • If you can afford it, I humbly suggest getting the Telsa Model S 70. Price difference between that and the BMW is probably not much.

    Key reasons to choose Telsa over BMW (emphasizing some of your points):

    1. Produced by a company that is 100% for electric transport – if Tesla were not around, BMW (and GM, VW, etc) most likely would not even be thinking about coming out with an EV

    2. BMW is still not fully supportive of EVs – why haven’t they offered pure electric variants of their most popular models or any model with good range?
    3. Range: 230 miles (Tesla) vs 82 miles (BMW)
    4. Safest car on the planet
    5. Super Charger access
    6. Best acceleration and handling
    7. Seating: 5 (Tesla) vs 4 (BMW)
    8. Subjective, but to many it looks WAY better than the i3
    9. Actually way more storage than i3
    10. Resale Value Guarantee – in 3 years, trade it in for the Model 3?

    Good luck!

    I’m based in Hong Kong and wait time for Telsas is about 5 months. They are hugely popular here and getting more and more popular.

    • You’re selling me on a lot of strong points. Each one puts a dent in the i3 in my head. 😀

      But yeah, the price is pretty big (~$900/mo vs $450/mo) and I really don’t like big cars (but the pros of the Model S could make up for that 😀 ).

      • One thing to think about: will you ever use the size of the Tesla?

        I routinely drive other couples around (4 people in the car), and they *like* the capacity of the Tesla. I also use it to haul garbage (I live in an area without municipal trash hauling, so otherwise I’d have to pay a private hauler). I’ve driven the car with 5 people in it comfortably. On a Christmas trip, I actually filled both trunks to the limit.

        If you can’t come up with any scenarios like that, then one of the great advantages of the Model S is irrelevant to you.

        But if you *can* envision wanting to drive 5 people and lots of luggage somewhere… then you’ll want a Model S.

  • The huge difference is with BMW you are supporting a foreign company and the vehicle is made outside of the USA.
    If you can afford it then the Model S should be your car of choice.
    Get a used one for $60K. Long term you’ll be more happy.

    • You will be lugging more extra weight 99% of the time with any of the Tesla Models compared to the 2016 Volt! And all the Tesla Models would require you to diligently plan your inflexible trips unlike the 2016 Volt which gives you complete freedom and flexibilities in times of emergencies…

      • The FUD is strong with this one…

        In practical terms, there is no “inflexibility” or lack of “complete freedom” with a Model S. The range anxiety above is his and his alone.

        I’ve driven 5,000 and 6,000 mile road trips this year and am about to embark upon a 9,000 mile trip – all in a Model S. I got from LA to Portland in 20 hours – that’s 1000 miles. From LA to CO in 16 hours – that’s 800 miles – on the way to South Dakota. That includes stops, staying within 5-10mph of speed limits, and I arrive *refreshed* – huge difference from driving an ICE. Oh – and the “fuel” cost for those 11,000 miles? Less than $25 and even that was optional.

        Used high-mileage Model S are now available in the $40K range (CPO = certified pre-owned) with a 50,000 mile warranty – and more will be coming as existing cars come off lease. Fortunately, mileage doesn’t matter in a Model S (the motor/inverter/battery are fine to 800,000-1,000,000 miles) *and* credit unions will finance used Model S at 1.5%.

        For those who drive a lot ($75/week in gas, let’s say), you’re doing yourself a serious disservice by not considering a CPO Tesla Model S. The gas savings become your car payment for awhile, et voila.

        • So you were averaging 50 miles/hour in a super charged car. Score! According to Google Map, that trip from LA to Portland shouldn’t take more than 14 hours, so you spent 6 hours sitting. You better be “refreshed”.

          Spending 40K on a high mileage used car with spotty track record (Edmunds had their drive unit replaced 3 times) is pretty crazy. And who told you mileage doesn’t matter in a Model S? Musk? A well maintained gasoline engine can last 1M miles, yes. A battery, not so much. That’s 3700 full charging cycles. You also wouldn’t know how the battery was used. Deep charge cycles tend to shorten the life of a battery, according to Tesla. Worse yet, the battery loses capacity whether you drive it or not. I am sure you can drive it after 1M miles/50 years if you maintain it, whether it will go more than 100 miles is a different story.

          • Lol – and look! More FUD!

            First of all, it’s 1,000 miles from LA (County) to Portland. You won’t make that trip in 14 hours. Theoretically possible, but here in reality and CA traffic, a ridiculous assertion. Add in 3 stops for gas and 1 stop for the speeding ticket and *maybe* you get there in 16 hours. I’ll take 19-20 hours and the $150 gas savings, thanks.

            To follow that up with the equally absurd postulate that gasoline engines last 1M miles is just amusing. Again, theoretically possible, but the number of cars that make it past 300,000 miles is in the “very few” category.

            Meanwhile, the Model S has an unlimited mileage 8-year warranty (motor, inverter, battery). Beyond that, yes, they’ve been tested to 800K-1M miles. Google it.

            Once again, practically speaking, most people trade out of their cars long before that. The point is, and I’ll type it more slowly this time, high-mileage CPO Model S are a great deal (cost of ownership, owner satisfaction) compared to ANY OTHER EV for 50,000 miles.

            Now – would I own ANY EV past the warranty period? Not a chance in Phoenix. Especially not a Model S – but for the same reason I wouldn’t own a new aluminum Ford F-150 out of warranty either – until more of both are sold, the cost of repairs alone is disproportionately high compared to steel.

            But in warranty? I’d stack up a CPO Model S at $40K’s cost of ownership and owner satisfaction against any EV out there. Not some bogus hybrid (see i3 Rex or the Volt), but pure EV. See for yourself.

          • So after 3 gas stops and 1 speeding ticket, according to you, I could still do it in 16 hours. Where did you sit for that 3-4 hours extra? On the side of highway waiting for a tow truck? And what speeding ticket? Google Maps gives out time based on posted speed limit and traffic, so I could drive slower than you yet still get there 3-4 hours faster. And what three gas stops? A Prius can complete that trips with 17 gallon of gas, less than 2 tanks. A TDI can do the whole trip on a single tank. And what 150 gas saving? 17 gallon is $50. Even a Volt would only use 21 gallon, or about $60. A TDI would cost $66, probably less if you don’t mind air pollution since they routinely beat EPA ratings with the cheating device. You wasted 3-4 hours for a saving of $66 or less. Score! (BTW, $150 can buy 50 gallon of gas, what are you comparing your Tesla to? A transport truck?).

            Gasoline engines can last 1M miles just fine. However, most cars don’t fail because of engine failures. It’s the other part of the system that gets more and more expensive to fix. The same applies to your high mileage Tesla. The unique thing about Tesla is that battery has also been degraded by the high mileage. And guess what, that precious of warranty of yours don’t cover battery degradation. Unless you are taking a 270 mile test drive, you have no idea what range that Tesla would have.

            I will type it very slowly this time. 40K for a high mileage used car without a proven track record is a terrible deal. And you have to dump that car within 50K miles as well since you would not “own ANY EV past the warranty period”. That’s less than 3 years for most people. Maybe only 2 year for you due to all those road trips. And since you can’t provide warranty when you sell it, who will buy it? Somebody who would “own ANY EV past the warranty period”? Say you get 10K for a now really high mileage car without warranty. That’s 60 cents per mile. Your Tesla just depreciated by $600 over that 1000 miles trip, yet you boast less than $66 of gas savings. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish.

            You can have a used Leaf with low mileage for 8K probably with some warranty left, which covers battery degradation. Let’s say 10K for the 29K miles one Zack originally quoted. Let’s see you beat that in TCO. Go ahead, show us the math.

          • BTW, where did you see a used CPO Tesla in the 40K range? The cheapest one on Tesla’s website is $56K, and that’s for a 60, not even a 70. Are you sure you are not being duped by a local car dealer selling fake warranties?

            And by in the 40K range, did you mean 49.99K? That would make your depreciation 80 cents/mile. Ouch!

          • Correct about the pricing situation. Pricing for used Teslas is holding up very strong compared to similar high-end gasoline cars — probably will continue to stay high until Model 3 comes out.

          • The keywords were “similar high-end”. High end cars have never been sensible spending. The TCOs suck. Tesla cars are no exception.

          • The battery will easily last a million miles or more. You haven’t actually been paying attention to the battery situation in the Tesla.

            (a) Unless you specifically set it to “range mode” or run to the limits of your range, you aren’t using a deep charge cycle. I think I’ve done four or five deep charge cycles in 2 1/2 years.
            (b) The main failure modes of lithium-ion batteries are *heat damage* and *cold damage*. Laptop batteries are badly exposed to both. Tesla batteries are exposed to neither.

            Is there a drivetrain problem? There’s some evidence that there might be a wear problem which shows up around 30K-50K miles in *some* people’s cars — it seems to be dependent on driving style. It’ll probably be fixed by a redesign with more durable parts.

          • a) Charge cycles add up. Yes, partial discharges prolong battery life, but they still add up.
            b) Lithium-ion batteries lose capacity over time even if not used and stored in a fridge. At 0 degree, 100% charged Lithium-ion battery would lose 6% in the first 3 months. Tesla battery probably operate at 20-25 degrees, thus can potentially lose 20% in the first 3 months.
            c) Full state of charge is bad for Lithium-ion batteries. The optimum charge level is 40-60%. Most Tesla batteries probably have been kept at full state of charge.
            d) 85kwh assumes that the battery is charged to 4.35v/cell, extremely damaging to battery life. At 4.2v, it’s only 80kwh.

            The way Prius work is to keep the charge within a narrow bind of 40-60%. Tesla does not have such luxury.

            I doubt there has been a Model S driven a million miles in real world over 20 years. For a million miles, the battery would have to been charged 4000 cycles. That’s pushing it even at 10% DOD. There’s simply no data to suggest the Tesla battery can bend the laws of physics. They can certainly distort reality though, much like Apple products.

          • Tesla has stated that ModS drivers should have no problem getting 200,000 miles out of their batteries.

            And that means at 200,000 miles the car should still have a range of at least 80 of new. About 190 miles for a car that started with a 240 mile range.

            That’s going to make an excellent commuting car for a number more years.

            Perhaps you should check owner reports and see how their batteries are holding up rather than waving your pencil arund and guessing.

          • VW has stated that their diesel engines are clean, until they aren’t. Words are wind. They didn’t put that into their warranty for some reason (Nissan did for Leafs). And 200,000 is only 1/5 of 1 million miles. Are we giving up on the 1 million miles claim already?

            Theoretically speaking, my car (with a very small tank) can easily go 900km between refills. However, I don’t think I have ever gone above 800km. Most of my refills are done at 600km range. Why? Range anxiety. I don’t want to get stranded without gas. How far are people willing to push the Model S before they have to sit for 40 minutes to 1 hour to charge? Also, the more you push the car, the shorter the battery life. 190 miles is pretty pathetic. In real life, you can easily get nervous at 150 or less. Long distance travel becomes impractical.

            I remember there was an owner’s survey saying how well the Tesla battery held up, until somebody dig deeper and found out a lot of the owners had their batteries replaced already (20% of the 2013 model year IIRC). If we believe owner’s reports, Tesla batteries sucks. And that’s assuming the owners didn’t lie. Again, we simply have no independent data to confirm the battery life.

            All my data came from battery university and Tesla.

          • Actually, I’m not paying any attention to the million mile stuff. I’m attending to what I think most important – whether owners will need a battery replacement before they hit 200,000 miles.

            And by “need a battery replacement” I mean whether the battery will have dropped significantly below 80% of new capacity.

            “How far are people willing to push the Model S before they have to sit for 40 minutes to 1 hour to charge?”

            We don’t know. It may be that most drivers will be willing to drive their 265 EPA mile range S85 200 miles before charging. BTW, when you exaggerate as in “40 minutes to 1 hour to charge” you damage your argument.

            “somebody dig deeper and found out a lot of the owners had their batteries replaced already (20% of the 2013 model year IIRC).”

            You wouldn’t be trying to shove any bullshit off on us, would you? Where’s the data that backs that up?

          • From Tesla Canada: the supercharger would charge 80% of the battery in 40 minutes and 100% in 75 minutes. 30 minutes would get you only 270km (167 miles) or 63% of 265 miles of full range. How is that an exaggeration? Unless you are saying Tesla is lying about their own charge speed.

            From cleantechnica: “The replacement occurred in nearly 20% of surveyed 2013 vehicles.”

            Now those are out of the way. 200 miles out of 265 is 75%, which means most drivers wouldn’t dare to drive 150 miles (or less than 250km) after their battery have degraded to 190 miles range. Much less in the winter. According consumer report, they barely got 176 miles (the last three miles with 0% charge) at 45 F. Canadian winter can drop to -30C or -22F easily, colder while travelling on the highway. The supercharger in Kingston is 260km from Toronto, so you wouldn’t be able to make a trip (not without a lot of stress at least) from Montreal to Toronto in the winter even with a brand new Tesla (176 * 75% = 140 miles (225 km)). A degraded one wouldn’t even make it in the summer. And that’s assuming you sit for 40 minutes to charge in Kingston. (260 / 75% / 270 * 30 = 38 minutes even if the charge time is linear) For people who want to charge to 100% and attempt that trip in a degraded Tesla, it would take 75 minutes. (or 60 minutes if the charge times drops with capacity, doubtful).

            Therefore, even at 20% degradation, the car’s utility would be extremely compromised. And there’s nothing to back that claim up other than Tesla’s own words. There are a lot of people questioning whether Tesla batteries can last more than 1000 cycles.

            In the mean time, according to consumer report, after 10 years and 200K miles, a first gen Prius’s fuel economy and thus its range dropped a mere 0.5% and since gas stations are less than 100km apart and you can fill up in less than 5 minutes, the range anxiety is much lower. Not that it matters for the same Montreal to Toronto trip since a Prius has a range of 540 miles. No need to fill up at all. At 40.5 MPG, a first gen Prius would use 4938 gallons to cover the 200K, or less than $15K. At 55MPG, a forth gen Prius can do it using $11K. Unless the Tesla can really do 1 million miles, the TCO is not even comparable.

          • Start with 265. Drive 200. Eat/charge 30 minutes. Drive 170 miles. Grab the last 130 of a 500 mile day during the second stop.

            You write 40 minutes and one hour as if that’s the best strategy.

            Here’s the rest of the 20% replacement stuff –

            “” All 8 battery replacements took place in 2013 vehicles with the latest delivered in November 2013. The replacement occurred in nearly 20% of surveyed 2013 vehicles.

            It should be noted that all batteries were replaced for free under Tesla’s 8 year, infinite mile battery warranty. Also, the results of the battery degradation data were adjusted to show mileage on the battery, not on the car.

            Failures of battery packs in early Model S vehicles, 2012 through 2013 Model years, has been a known issue, but the true replacement rate has been known only to Tesla. The data collected in the survey seems to suggest that Tesla has since fixed the battery issue plaguing early models. Battery pack Version A was replaced by Version B in new Model S vehicles by late 2013.”

            “after their battery have degraded to 190 miles range.”

            We’re talking about a car that has 200,000 miles on it. Over 15 years of normal driving.

            I’m not interested in discussing driving in the very worst possible situations and then trying to say what battery performance would be like the other 99% of the time based on outlier data.

          • What’s the point of noting those battery were replaced for free? VW is fixing their cars for free as well, outside their warranty, does that make it ok to lie? Every hybrid car manufacturer would cover their battery within warranty. The fact is that 20% of batteries from 2013 year model were replaced. We don’t know about the 2014s since they are not even old enough to show any degradation. There is simply not enough data to claim Tesla batteries are reliable. I am not saying they are not reliable, I am saying they are not proven enough like the original poster claimed.

            We are not talking about driving in the worst possible situation. We were using your own numbers and from Consumer Report which was done at 9C, nowhere close to the worst possible situation. We are even assuming there’s a Tesla super charger on the route which is not true for a lot of places. It’s pretty funny that your second leg of trip is only 170 miles because you refuse to acknowledge that it takes 40 minutes to an hour to charge 200+ miles despite calling my claim exaggeration. According to you, the Tesla is a 170 mile car, not a 265 mile car anymore.

            The fact is, it takes 40 minutes to 1 hour to charge to above 200 miles and one needs to stop to eat every 200 miles due to range anxiety (according to you). And that’s for a brand new car. The other fact is that some Tesla batteries needed to be replace within a year and they degrade over time much faster than Prius’s range even according to Tesla. Neither you nor Tesla have any data to back even that fact up. They also refuse to warranty their car for battery degradation despite their data less claims.

            And guess what, we do need to talk about the worst possible situation regardless your interests since otherwise the Teslas are not all weather cars anymore. Let’s say I need to take a long trip in a cold snap, a Tesla would just fail me. What’s the point of getting a car that can’t handle a little weather? California is not 99% of the world despite what some people think.

            Model S are nice toys (I might buy one if I win the lottery tomorrow, but I would still keep my Prius for the “worst possible situations”), but they are not suitable for the sole family cars in a lot of situations. Yet it’s way too expensive for most people as a commute car. For in city drive, both Leafs and Volt can do the job for much less. 90% of the times people don’t drive more than 40 miles anyway. For long trips, Telsa’s can’t handle many situations even when new (according to consumer report) and degrade over time so much that it wouldn’t be able to handle most long drives anymore after 200,000 miles, according to your data less claim. Now, there’s nothing new about toy cars. A lot of the convertibles are summer only cars and many luxury cars are notoriously unreliable. They are toys for rich people. Luckily, there are plenty of all weather cars for ordinary people like the Prius or the Volt and there are cheaper cars that can act as pure commuter cars, like the Leaf. Tesla’s TCO just sucks too much to even compare to these cars. The Model X is even worse. I don’t know how much of the sticker price cover those ridiculous falcon doors, but it certainly does not help its battery longevity or the environment. They are fancy toys for the rich people partially funded by tax credits paid by the middle class.

          • I’m sorry, I just don’t see any value in wading through all that stuff. You have a nice day.

          • No, I am sorry if I have burst some people’s bubble with real data. I guess real data instead of Tesla ads is just too much for some people. That’s understandable. Most consumers buy on marketing hypes than on real data and then get defensive about their purchases (It’s funny how they cheer when CR raves about the Model S, yet when real data came out they call them outlier). You have a nice day too. If you did have a Tesla, I am sure you would be able to enjoy it for the next few years at least. It’s wonderful for what it is and I heard the services to replace the drive units and batteries under warranty are first class.

            In the mean time, I am still waiting for the other guy’s TCO number to prove a used Tesla is a better value than a used Leaf. I am guessing I will be waiting for all eternity. 🙂 Some people are just not good with data.

        • Link for a $40k CPO please. I’ve never been able to find one.

        • Yes, the FUD is definitely strong with Marion. 😀 Anything Elon touches is cursed. 😀

        • I’ve only seen two people get a used Model S in the $40K range, and they basically had a Tesla person find them for them.

      • I agree that the Volt is a better choice over the BMW i3. You can’t buy the 2016 Volt yet, otherwise I would have recommended that over the i3 too.

        • I would really like to try the 2016 Volt first, but yeah, not in FL till 2017. We’ll see. Slightly considering a trip somewhere else first where I could test it.

          • There was an article on Inside EV’s that the first 2016 Volt was given to a dealership. I’m surprised Florida is low on the delivery schedule being such a major market.

      • Lugging extra weight/batteries really is an interesting and important point, imho. Would love it if some manufacturers came out with 150-mile and 170-mile (and so on) EVs. Also think the EREV & REx models are quite smart at this stage, until fast charging is more widespread.

      • The Tesla S is a full sized car, the Volt a compact.

        The Tesla S is significantly longer and wider. It has far more interior space.

        The Tesla S weighs 861 pounds more than the Volt. A decent hunk of that extra weight come simply from it being a larger vehicle.

        • Yeah, the Model S is a freakin’ beast. It’s a giant car. That’s one thing my wife and I don’t like about it.

          • I didn’t like the car’s size, but then I ended up actually using it fairly often (see my comment above).

        • Following up on the weight difference between a full size car and a compact

          Chevy Cruze 3,005 to 3,471 lbs

          Cadillac XTS 4,006 to 4,215 lbs

          Going from smallish to big adds more than the weight difference between the Volt and the ModS.

    • Honestly, I’ve long felt like a “global citizen.” Why should I care less about Germans or Indians or Chinese than about Americans? Obviously, there are selfish reasons to support one’s own economy, but even if you value being selfish in such matters, the economy is so global these days that I don’t think it’s a huge pro.

      • The BMW is lighter and currently has the very best efficiency. IMO, any EV choice is a good EV choice.

        • Yes, I love those things about the i3, as well as several others. I think it’s pretty obvious by now, but one thing pulling me to the i3 is that everything together just makes it a car than “lifts my spirit.” I’m excited about it. But we’ll see.

  • I have the Chevy Spark EV and LOVE IT! It’s also a top safety pick.

    • Honestly, have only heard great things about that car from owners.

  • I looked at Leaf and Fiat500e but ended up buying a 85kWh Model S and never looked back. Puts to shame my other car, a Mercedes ‘clean diesel’ car. Yes, I got suckered by clean diesel will never buy an fossil car evert again.

    • If I knew we’d be staying in the US, I’d probably do that with the 70 kWh (I really don’t feel a need for more range than that), but atm, just not sure about our plans.

  • Plenty of free chargers in Sarasota. Buy a used Leaf 2013 for $8500.00.

  • Zach, family man speaking here, I still think the most important consideration is that even for short trips, you will not be able to fit all the stuff you will need in an i3. Stroller etc. I talked to the Tesla store in Sarasota and they can’t wait to talk to you about either a lease (with that price guarantee) or a CPO (for $40,000 like a couple of your readers have been able to obtain). Good luck

    • If people have found Teslas for $40k they’re extremely lucky. $56k is the lowest price on their web site at the moment and if I limit it to near me (Los Angeles), $80k is the lowest.

      • Yeah, the only way I’ve seen people finding them (saw one ~$42,000 and one ~$45,000 or $46,000) is by getting a Tesla employee to keep an eye out on an internal system of theirs. Interesting stuff going on that way…

        • Well, here’s an unexpected twist… I just put a down payment on a $50k Tesla. Ever since I read this comment thread I’ve been refreshing the CPO site 2-3 times a day without really expecting anything affordable to appear, but yesterday evening a $50k 2014 P60 base model with 3100 or so miles came up in San Francisco (about 7 hours from me).

          I angsted for awhile and then decided that if I lease a Leaf for 3 years I’m throwing away around $12k (the cost varies depending on the lease deal but I don’t expect good deals until the 2016 Leaf has been out for awhile) while waiting for the Tesla 3 at around $35k. Either way I’m spending about $50k over 5 years. This math is thrown off if the Tesla 3 still qualifies for $7500 EV credit, but that credit drops to 50% after 200,000 Teslas are sold, drops to 25% after 6 months, then expires completely after a year. Some or all of that expiration has a good chance of happening before I would be able to get the model 3 depending how much it’s delayed and how early I can get in line for it.

          I figured that if I get the Tesla now I will actually own it in 5 years and get the 200+ mile range now instead of waiting 3 years. Plus I get the reliability of the supercharger network which makes me feel comfortable selling my Prius now instead of in 3+ years, which is worth another ~$3.5k plus I save the cost of insuring it. From what I’ve read, Tesla insurance isn’t much more than I’m already paying for the Prius. Tesla also has a history of supporting battery upgrades (unlike Nissan) so in the future I hope it will become a 300+ mile range car.

          Anyway, something to think about. $50k might not be the best deal reported on this site, but the car age and milage would have to be a lot higher to drop it below $45k, and I have a feeling that cars much below $50k get taken by insiders before they ever reach the web site.

          • Congrats.

            You’ve just bought many years of driving past gas stations and laughing. Price in the entertainment value.

    • Hmm, so maybe I should call them up this weekend. 😀 Just 1.5 weeks till I’m in Florida anyway. 😀 I’m definitely eager to go on another test drive. (And thanks a ton, btw! :D)

      • I read your imminent arrival in America has been delayed by bureaucracy. Sorry to hear that. Any idea when you will be arriving? Is this the best way to reach you or is there an email address I should better use? Thanks again, Don

  • For the few road trips, can’t you just rent a car?

    If money was not an issue, then I would say Model S. The range extender on the i3 won’t last you long with a 7.2L tank and you can super charge the Model S almost everywhere now.

    Otherwise, both sucks in terms of TCO. Leaf would be your best bet. If you are really concerned about road trips, then Volt would be a much better option even if you have to ship it (or just take a road trip) from California. Even the Prius beat both cars in terms of TCO.

    • Some of these trips would theoretically be moves, not just trips, so would need to take the car. Also, I realized that I really want to take the electric car with me and not be stuck with a gasmobile on vacation. Would just be unpleasant.

      Yeah, I mapped out the routes and realize the REx isn’t like a normal gas tank, but seems it’d work fine. Interestingly, it actually looks more convenient to take the i3 up the East Coast than the Model S because of where Superchargers are located — not really along the route I’d want to take.

      Yeah, TCO isn’t my #1 concern, I guess. Would consider the 2016 Volt (see my comments above) but I don’t even have the opp to test drive it.

  • Zach, I’m curious why the Volt wasnt considered?

    • I’m not into the look of the 1st-gen Volt and the electric range is a bit low for me too. The 2nd-gen Volt looks really attractive, but not in FL yet.

  • Erm… If you read beyond the first comment in your Leaf link you’ll see the 27 mile conclusion is BS. Not to mention the 2016 Leaf adds 25% to the range. But Zack has already indicated it’s still not enough to serve as a primary car in his area due to lack of chargers along longer routes so I wouldn’t worry about him picking Leaf.

    As to your BMW link, the lady writing it is supposedly too busy to wait for a 30 minute charge and needs more than its ~53 mile range so it’s not an appropriate primary car for her. Doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate for everyone. Plus she’s not driving the i3 rex that Zack is considering. If she were, she probably wouldn’t be so anxious about running out of power because you can stop at a gas station and the rex will keep going.

    • After seeing the first link, I didn’t even bother to read the 2nd one. 😛 😀

    • And honestly, read the comments on that first article. If the story is legit (sort of hard to believe) it’s completely absurd.

  • I’ve seen that first article before and it’s absolutely horrid. read the comments from real i3 owners — there are a lot, and they point out how dumb the article is.

    The Model S can be cheaper than gasmobiles given the right circumstances, but a $900/mo or $1000/mo Model S lease certainly isn’t cheaper than a $400/mo or $500/mo i3 lease.

    But we’ll see… 😀

  • I actually own a BMW i3. I bought it new in December 2014 from a Los Angeles area dealership. With the rebate check from the state of California plus the $7500 credit on my federal income taxes, the car cost me $28,250 before tax. Let that sink in for a bit.

    I’d strongly considered the LEAF and I really wanted a Tesla Model S … but when you look at what I actually paid for my i3, the choice among the three was clear. I.e., the i3 is a *much* better car than the LEAF for just a bit more money and it’s only slightly not-as-awesome as a Tesla but for a *lot* less money.

    My all-electric i3 (no range extender) is the best car I’ve ever owned, no qualifications. (I’ve owned two BMW 3-series, a Lexus hybrid SUV, a Prius, an Acura sedan, and an Acura hatchback.) Notable wonderfulness: crisp handling, carbon-fiber body, Swedish spa interior, surprising acceleration power, and IT’S ALL ELECTRIC.

    The i3 is a BMW from the future, and as an American scientist once said, I focus on the future because that’s where I’ll be living.

    • Awesome. Yes, there seems to be some anti-i3 bias here, but I love the car. I’m not a car nut (at least, not a conventional car nut) but I’ve driven a number of very nice cars, and the i3 beats all of them easily… except the Model S.

      An i3 owner I met in Vancouver had a line he used a lot: “it’s half the price of a Model S, but more than half the car.” I wasn’t that sold on the line, and was leaning toward a Model S for a bit, but when I looked more closely, the i3 still really excited me, has some things I actually like more than the Model S (not saying it beats it in most categories, of course!), and is really a *lot* cheaper. ~$11,000 for 2 years vs >22,000 for 2 years… and yeah, Tesla just offers a 3-year lease, which I would hopefully be able to negotiate around (I just want 2 years) but not sure.

      Anyway, no decision yet, but I was honestly more excited when thinking I was set on the i3 than when I thought I was set on the Model S. Maybe because it felt more realistic. (Aside from all the considerations I’ve put out there, I don’t think my wife would go for spending $900 to $1000/mo on a car… and it wouldn’t be worth the problems to force the buy. But we’ll see. She hasn’t ridden in one yet. :D)

      • I honestly think it doesn’t work so well to lease (as opposed to owning) a Model S, especially if you (a) don’t need the internal space and (b) don’t need the range.

        But get your wife in for a test drive befoer you decide. 🙂

  • I’m still waiting for your response to your claim that Nissan refused to honor the warranty on your battery. I’m calling BS, but happy to not only apologize, but help you with legal action if it’s true.

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