Cheap Electricity on the Oregon Coast - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Cheap Electricity on the Oregon Coast

January 14, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

Dad has plenty of power in his Oregon coast garage. It's more of a shop, really. Beyond the usual hand tools he's got a mill, a lathe, a humungous 6.5-hp air compressor and a nice welder. And he happens to have a NEMA 14-50 "RV" socket, too, and that made it easy to drive our 2013 Tesla Model S every day during our stay.

Sure, a garden-variety 120-volt, 12-amp garage plug would have worked, but the resulting slow charge rate couldn't possibly fill the battery overnight. The Tesla's unique configurable charge cord with its included NEMA 14-50 wall adapter can access 240-volt power at up to 40 amps. Volts times amps equals watts, so that works out to a very healthy maximum delivery rate of 9.6 kilowatts.

And so we awoke to a full battery every morning. We could drive as much as we liked. Good thing, too, because the weather was gorgeous and the stunning viewpoints are numerous.

But it gets better. Dad's electricity rates are low. He pays just 7.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in summer and 7.94 cents in winter. These rates apply at all hours. Taxes and transmission costs are included, too.

2013 Tesla Model S

Dad's place stands on top of a hill at 1,600 feet, just one mile inland from the seashore. The road up is sinuous, narrow, poorly maintained and dotted with the occasional cow. And the steepness kicks up substantially when you turn onto the one-lane road/driveway that eventually leads to his house after first passing five others.

We went up and down this route a dozen times in the course of the 374 miles we covered over our 5-day stay. The car's consumption onboard meter registered a total of 144.8 kW during that period. Assuming a charging loss of 20 percent, Dad's electrical meter would have registered about 174 kW of billable electricity consumption.

At his winter rate of 7.94 cents apiece, that works out to $13.80.

2013 Tesla Model S

The going rate for unleaded in these parts is $3.40 per gallon. Our $13.80 would buy us just 4.06 gallons of the stuff, not even enough to fill a Jerry can. An equivalent gas-powered car would have to be capable of 92 mpg (on this sort of challenging terrain, no less) to cover those 374 miles on that amount of gas.

This 92-mpg figure is what I call mpgc, and it differs from the silly mpge that's on EV window stickers because it's cost-based, not CO2-based. But mpgc varies radically with the local prices of gas and electricity. I pay four times as much as Dad for my electricity at home. Mpgc is too specific to the wildly variable local prices of electricity to be of any use on a window sticker.

2013 Tesla Model S

Here on the Oregon coast, the 2013 Tesla Model S is much more practical than I ever imagined. Cheap electricity makes it easy to run, and the Supercharger network along Interstate 5 is within easy reach. All you need is a NEMA 14-50 RV socket at your home base.

Mom and Dad could easily get to the Costco and Home Depot they frequent in Medford after a brief stop at the Grant's Pass supercharger. From there they could get to Seattle or L.A., but when it comes right down to it the sights are so spectacular here there's not much reason to venture too far afield.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,318 miles


  • nicad nicad Posts:

    Everything about this car sounds great. ….The two big questions are still unanswered though. How long will the battery last, what will it cost to replace? The minor quality control and design issues are really quite minimal when you consider this is an industrial undertaking built from scratch.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    There's a reason your last name is Edmunds. You write coherently, your stories are full of useful, pertinent information, they're longer than a short paragraph, pictures are included to give the reader a feel for the locale, etc. Your staff should all be required to read each article you write and follow suit as best they can.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Nicad - Tesla warranties the battery for 8 years and unlimited miles if you purchase the 85kW car. Now you may ask what degradation of the battery is considered normal and I've read a lot of different answers to that question. Seems that somewhere I saw something "official" about the cutoff being 70% - meaning that if your battery lost more than 70% of its original charging capacity over the eight years then it would be replaced. With 265 miles rated that means that you should be guaranteed a 185 mile charging capacity on your 8-year old Tesla Model S which is still fine for 95% of most people's daily driving. Also note that the battery is also warrantied against any fire so if you run over a huge rock on the 101 Freeway and your car catches fire you will also be reimbursed. Lastly, 5 years of battery information recorded on the Tesla Roadster have shown that the batteries are actually holding up far better than even the Tesla Engineering Staff had believed they would and the Roadster has a first-generation inferior battery technology when compared to the Model S. I have 8000 miles on my car in 8 months and have lost one mile of charge which I attribute to a rounding error.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Should say "lost more than 30%" instead of "lost more than 70%".

  • evodad evodad Posts:

    dunning, even if that 1 mile in 8 mo and 8k miles isn't a rounding error, at that rate you'd only lose 15 miles in 10yrs or 120k miles, certainly not bad at all even if you were to double, triple or quadruple that rate

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    True, in some places it's very cheap to refuel this car. What's not cheap is the fact that it's a 6 figure car, one that eats tires and motor bearings.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    So Dan, extrapolating from your figures, and with the stipulation that your local terrain is not as challenging as that around your dad's place, I'm thinking that charging at home, used as a DD, this car would be getting you say 25 mpgc, as opposed to a competitive luxury sedan getting maybe 21 mpgc - ? So to sum up, in local use, the range and charge time limitations would not come into play, but it really would not save you that much money as opposed to an ICE vehicle, and in long-trip use, the SC network definitely would save you a lot of money, but there the range, charge time and flexibility limitations DO come into play, as opposed to an ICE vehicle. That about right?

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    What is mpgc? Using Dan's numbers, in NJ (0.18/kwh) the Model S would cost 1/3 in electricity compared to fuel for my Jag XJR, not that any person ever bought a Model S to "save money", it's simply a nice bonus. South Cal Edison has EV off peak charging rates of 0.11/kwh.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    Sorry my reading comprehension sucks, mpgc is mpgCOST, which is how I calculated it above. Maybe Dan does not have the option of an EV rate plan - seems like a no-brainer to me.

  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    This is why I don't like Edmunds switching out the cars a lot - chances are we'll never really know the real mileage of the Tesla after 100k. I'd be interested in some hard numbers for higher mileage Teslas.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Kirk - if you are seriously interested you can head over to a site called Tesla Motor Club and they have forums. There's a mileage thread in there amongst the Model S threads and I believe the highest mileage Model S is around 60,000 miles right now. The guy has done a great job of detailing his issues and their resolution along with long-term mileage milestone updates. Once Edmunds sells their Model S you can make a monthly sojurn over to that page to see how its holding up.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    My electricity rates at home under Edison are tiered -- the more I use the more I pay. If I owned a Tesla (or a Leaf, even) I'd be buried in tier IV at 32 cents per kWh all year. I'm close even today in winter without an EV at home. Option II is SCE's time-of-use program, in which I get lower rates at night. But there is a catch, and in my case it wipes out all of the savings: the on-peak summer rate goes to 50 or 55 cents (I forget exactly.) I live inland and use air conditioning, so that's a tough pill to swallow. SCE did an analysis for me and we both came to the conclusion that time-of-use would be a wash. You have to live where the ocean breeze mitigates the summer heat to avoid that beartrap. I don't, so for me there is no free lunch. Option III gets me the cheapest EV rate of something like 12 cents or thereabouts, but to do that I need to have a second meter installed that's dedicated to the EV and nothing else. This would cost thousands to install, between parts, electrician costs, trenching to the back corner of the house where my meter resides, trenching from there to the garage to serve the charge equipment, permits, etc. I can't see recouping that. This house was built in 1966 and the electrical service isn't robust enough. They didn't foresee EVs. The power and the driveway are on opposite sides of the house. Again, money. So, for me, I need to justify any EV I might buy on the basis of 34 cents per kilowatt hour being my fuel cost, straight up. The thing about the Tesla is the long trips on the supercharger are zero cents, so those miles cost nothing, at least.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Very big thumbs-up on that one, ActualSize. SCE needs to get their act together and start making an EV attractive. I hear that PG&E has put together a nice option for our counterparts up in Northern California. Something about a modified Time Of Use option where everything is status quo other than extremely low rates ($0.10 Kw) for super off peak which is where most of us charge our cars anyway. The Tiering kills us because once you're into Tier 3 and Tier 4 it doesn't matter when you charge - 9am on Monday morning is as bad as 2am on Saturday morning. Perhaps this progressive, environmentally-concerned state of ours can come up with something for all of us.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    This is why Solar, EV's and Time of Use metering go hand in hand. I have a 6.6kw solar system and two EV's and pay less than $20/month for electricity (when I used to pay over $250/month before solar).

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    It's a slippery slope, Doc. $250 a month is $3000 a year in electricity costs. Now you're paying $240 so let's say $2750 a year is what you save. If those solar panels were $20K to install then your payback is 7.5 years. Of course investing that 20K over 7.5 years at even a paltry 5% would yield $27,000 so you need to figure another 7K you could have made on that money. And what are those solar panels worth after 8 years? Do they need to be replaced after 10 years? What is the maintenance on them? Do you even own them or is it one of those lease-back deals? I've looked at it nine ways to Sunday and in my case it always made sense to not do it. You have two EVs and may drive tons of miles whereas I have just the Model S and don't put many miles on it at all. If you have details please share them as I love seeing examples of where it works out well.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    Assuming I could afford a 6.6 kWh solar system, it might be cheaper to just pay 32 cents per kWh instead and be done with it. And then there's the fact that I don't expect to be in my current house for more than another five years. I can't move the panels. I'd had to re-do the charge station at the new place. The prospect of moving is the drawback for me and EVs (and solar).

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    Yes, my mpgc stands for cost. The mpge on window stickers refers to energy content. It's an equivalency based on a comparison of the number of BTUs in a gallon of gas and the number of BTUs in a kWh of electricity. The working assumption from there is that CO2 emissions track with BTUs. But relative cost of gasoline and electricity has zero relationship with their unit BTU content. Gasoline is a commodity. Electricity prices are all over the map. The make mpge useless as a cost metric, which to my mind makes it utterly useless and unworthy of precious window sticker and advertising real estate because I think consumers use MPG as a shorthand for fuel cost. MPGe utterly fails in that role and is very misleading.

  • diigii diigii Posts:

    I admit I like following your Model S blogs ever since you got it. But on this post, I don't care a single bit about the car or if I have a give it up. Your dad's place is more stunning. Some people have all the luck (and, should I say, wealth) to afford such a picturesque view.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    Thanks for the explanation Dan. The physical issues of the EV plan didn't occur to me.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I think what floors me here is that in a lot of the U.S., especially the Tesla's native range (CA and the bicoastal areas in general), once you count all the supply, delivery, higher-use tiers, cost of home quick-charging equipment and especially installation or maybe upgrading your residential electric service etc. this car is not a lot cheaper to run or even more expensive than a comparable ICE, even with all of the noted efficiency edge it enjoys. Of course that is in daily use, when you're charging it at home, not at free chargers or the SC network.

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