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2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Free Gas

April 23, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

What if you went to a mall and there was a gas pump with a sign saying, "Go ahead and fill up! It's free!" That's what it was like to drive the Tesla to Las Vegas. Free fuel in Barstow. Free fuel in Las Vegas.

And how much is that worth? Gas for a 2013 BMW 7 Series getting 22 mpg combined and requiring premium at $4.17 a gallon would be $123 for the 650-mile trip. For the Tesla, fuel costs would be $0. But there is the time and hassle of charging.

2013 Tesla Model S

I was nervous about handing over our Tesla Model S to the valets in Las Vegas. But I had to do it if I wanted to charge. A Tesla spokesperson directed me to charge at the Aria Resort and Casino. When I got there, I asked to ride along with the valet to the charger, to make sure he hooked it up correctly. But the valet dude said their insurance wouldn't allow it. Instead, I handed off the key fob, tipped liberally, and walked away. Minutes later, I checked the Tesla. It was happily charging.

The next morning the valet returned the Tesla to me and assured me the cable and adapter was in the trunk. I checked just in case.

Later in my trip I had to change hotels so I headed for the self-parking garage at the Venetian Las Vegas. I was wandering around, looking for the chargers (they are always so hard to find) and I spotted a maintenance guy on a little electric cart. I asked him where the chargers were and he said, "Follow me." So now I'm in this hulking luxury EV, creeping after a little golf cart as it weaves through the parking garage. But I found the chargers on the 6th level, hooked up and got another free charge.

Electricity and comped buffets are about the only free things in Las Vegas.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 2,623 miles


Comments

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I am thinking that there is more similarity between the free charges and the free buffets. Right now, with a minimum of EVs out there, it's not an issue, like if there is nobody at your buffet, if the same people show up every day and pig out, it's not an issue. When the crowds start showing up, there has to be some way to deal with this. With gas stations, it's for the most part market-driven: each pump can dispense like $50 worth of gas in 5 minutes (less time than that, actually), so you can make money selling it, they are located everywhere so they're convenient, and since gas costs the end user real money, that helps keep demand in line with supply. With electric cars, there is your home (slow, convenient, cheap), places like the valet-served chargers (free, but limited access - hotel customers only), the self-park garage and business parking areas like Ikea (free, but how do you limit this to customers?) and Superchargers (free and fast, but not located near residential areas, in part to eliminate habitual freeloaders). What happens when it's not free anymore? That will happen. There will have to be stratospheric margins to make any money selling it, because even with a Supercharger, at prevailing market rates, you can sell only like $15 of electricity an hour - you could never get your investment in real estate, charging equipment and construction costs back. Without a profit motive, how will there ever be a sufficient charging infrastructure?

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    How many gas stations would be *needed* if everyone had one at home? And superchargers are not "free" - Tesla Models S buyers are effectively pre-paying $2k for all-you-can-eat. The hardware is cheap enough that Tesla is including it in all the cars whether you pay for it or not. It's pretty obvious that EV adoption is going to be slow enough that "crowds" are not going to be a problem and switching the free chargers to a simple pay model will weed out the free loaders in short order. In fact this exact thing happened at a business in Cali. The EV charging spots were always full. When they switched to a pay model ($1-2/hr or whatever), suddenly noone really needed to charge at all and they are now available for use by those who actually need them.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    Drinks are free, too, if you're gambling.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    mfennell, I think the possibility that everyone is going to have a realistic (not 6 miles range per hour of charge) charging capability at home is about as realistic as everyone having a gas station at home. Too many candidates for EVs (many, many more in cities) don't have 240V 40A hookups at home and are not going to get them. For public charging setups, who is going to spend the money to acquire the real estate, install the chargers and maintain them? The cost of the electricity is not the issue - once you have spent a couple hundred thou plus maintenance, insurance, etc. on say a 3-bay charging station how much do you HAVE to charge someone to sit and occupy one of the bays for 2 hours?

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    I think fordson1 raises some fair questions. The re-fueling of cars has become such well-oiled affair that we forget how vital it is to the automotive industry. Will the ability to charge at home help, sure, but if electric vehicles keep being developed the charging network will also have to show continuous growth. Tesla cannot do this by themselves (not on a nationwide scale) and I'd rather not have the government pay for, and maintain, these charging stations. Now if a business model with potential profits could be developed, then the problem could take care of itself. The issue is that recharging stations don't seem to have the potential for profits by themselves, which is why we see them "attached" to other businesses. As mfennell said, the growth of electric vehicles is pretty slow, so that gives us time to address the concerns. They are still real and legitimate concerns though, and I'd rather they were addressed sooner than later. More importantly, bringing up buffets makes me hungry. Time for lunch!

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Hey it's free, so there is a little hassle is to be expected. Kind of like mail in rebates.

  • " Instead, I handed off the key fob, tipped liberally, and walked away." --- so do you tip valets when you drop the car off and when you pick it up? I've never been sure. Also valet etiquette question, do most people do a walk around on their car when they get it back or just get in and drive off?

  • I think that electric vehicle charging might be quickly becoming the new WiFi. Think about it, the cost of offering electric vehicle charging, after installing the infrastructure, would be minimal when weighed up against having you come in to one shopping mall or supermarket and have you spend your money there rather at another business down the street

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    mfennell does raise one point that Edmunds in its Tesla posts seems to refuse to acknowledge - that there is a $2k upfront for using the Superchargers - for "all you can eat." Edmunds is going to put, realistically, maybe 14,000 miles on this car during the year they own it - that's "all they can eat." That's 14.56 cents per mile, even if every one of those 14,000 miles is charged on the Superchargers - which it won't be. So even using that blue-sky scenario, this 650-mile trip is NOT going to cost them $0 as Philip Reed maintains...it's going to cost them $92.86. Now, compared to the $123 for the 7-Series, is that such a great deal as to compensate for the lack of convenience and the waiting around at Barstow for the car to charge? Now consider that they are going to charge nowhere near all 14,000 miles at the Superchargers, and you come to the realization that the 650-mile trip is probably costing them a lot MORE than the 7-Series. If they put 7k of their miles on the Supercharger network, then that's over 29 cents a mile. So the Vegas trip would cost them...more than $185. Think about it.

  • @fordson1 - The $2000 charge is only on the 60kwh model, the 85kwh and 85kwh performance have it included. Sure you are paying for it somehow, but it's not an "option" on those cars.

  • evjuice evjuice Posts:

    "...Gas for a 2013 BMW 7 Series ... would be $123.... For the Tesla, fuel costs would be $0. But there is the time and hassle of charging...." Re TIME: Here's another way to think about that time waiting to charge. Sure it's free fuel but also while charging your Tesla, you can work, read, surf, eat, nap, shop, generally do a lot of things you want to do to the extent the charge location allows you to. Now, to fill your gas car, how many hours did you have to work to make $123 dollars? 3 hours? 6 hours? Did you figure that as net take home wage with taxes removed on your hourly rate? Would you rather spend 4 hours at work to pay for the gasoline for a 600 mile trip, or, would you rather spend 4 hours doing something you want do do during that 600 mile trip? Free fuel means more free time in your life.

  • evjuice evjuice Posts:

    @fordson1 The old time vs money dilemma. One year of ownership? What about 10 years? Do you buy the SC option for those few trips? Maybe not and take less trips or do them stopping at sites with slower charge rates. Time vs money.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    evjuice, those are interesting points, and free fuel is pretty attractive...but more and more, that time that you work is flexible...you can work remotely, flex your time, etc. The time you spend while your car is charging is not flexible - it needs electricity when it needs it, whether that's convenient to you or not. If Philip Reed needed to be in Vegas at X hour, I don't know how he would have done that - you can't factor in just leaving an hour early to accommodate a charge at Barstow, because he could very well have arrived there and found it already in use - and that is true of any public charging option. Ironically, for the one location (your home) where you are sure of finding an unoccupied charger, time is usually not an issue - I mean, you're at HOME. For any public charging option, where you ARE usually on your way somewhere and presumably on some sort of schedule, there is no assurance the charger will be available to you. That is a crippling weakness which is for now endemic to EV ownership. For the time of ownership issue, I used one year of ownership because that's how long Edmunds will own the car, and it was an Edmunds employee who was making comparisons between the Tesla and other cars they test. As for "take less trips," huh...that sure was easy to type - maybe somewhat tougher to incorporate that change into your lifestyle for a year...or for ten years.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    @fordson1: " I think the possibility that everyone is going to have a realistic (not 6 miles range per hour of charge) charging capability at home is about as realistic as everyone having a gas station at home." So those people don't buy EVs.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    @fordson1: I think you actually bring up some good points, and I'll try to address them as best I can. I agree that current infrastructure could be a problem as the EV population grows, but I think you are misinformed about charging stations. They can

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    To continue my last post; Yes, Tesla hits you for their "free" Supercharging (either as an option fee or rolled into the cost of the car). But every car on the market includes the cost of things you may never use. I don't use my A/C, power windows, or fog lights, but I guarantee I paid to have them included on my vehicle. It's wrong to single Tesla out for this.

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