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Red Tesla meetup Australia.
Red Tesla meetup. Image courtesy of Majella and David Waterworth.


Mathematics & The EV — How Much Money Does My Tesla Model 3 Save On Fuel?

As petrol prices head north of $2 in Australia, there is much anguish and advice for motorists. Sadly, most of this advice is around the “better buy petrol today because it will be more expensive tomorrow” narrative. Strangely, no one is suggesting that it might be time to buy an electric vehicle. This, in a country which has the highest penetration of domestic rooftop solar in the world — free electricity. Let’s have a look at mathematics and the EV.

When do I get a return on investment when buying an EV as opposed to a petrol car? I won’t get into depreciation because it is too hard to predict for different models.

As an example, I drove a Hyundai Sonata V6 for 13 years. It used 10 liters per hundred km. We were spending $80 per week ($4000 per year) on petrol. With today’s prices, we would be spending $5000 per year on petrol.

The Sonata cost $40,000 new from the dealer. Driving it for 13 years cost about $52,000 in fuel alone. So, just looking at these two factors, after 13 years I spent $92,000 on that car.

The Tesla cost me $72,000. Driving it for 13 years should cost me about $3000 maximum in electricity. (I have solar on the roof and mainly charge at home.) So, after 13 years, the car will likely have cost me around $75,000. The Tesla is a cheap car in comparison.

If I add other factors, like the fact that registration on the Sonata was $1000 per year and registration on the Tesla Model 3 is $600 a year, the story gets better for the Tesla. With this specific benefit, over 13 years, I would save another $5,200. The Tesla is even cheaper by comparison. The Sonata has now cost me around $22,000 more than the Tesla Model 3 is expected to.

Then there is maintenance to consider. Most of what went wrong with the Sonata does not exist on an EV (like when the automatic gearbox shat itself halfway up the mountain). The Tesla has done 70,000 km and hasn’t had a service visit yet. Over 13 years, the Sonata would have cost me another $4800 ($300 a service visit every 15,000 km, which was 16 services since we clocked up 240,000 km) and also another $3500 for the gearbox. With these numbers, the Sonata’s cost goes above $105,000.

Within 10 years, just looking at fuel cost, the Tesla has become the cheaper option. These factors vary from country to country, and even from person to person. Australia has cheap electricity and expensive petrol, which helps those of us trying to drive something cleaner.

If you are looking at changing your vehicle, it is worth doing the mathematics and considering an electric car.

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David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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