Jan 26, 2014

Why a $20K Car Costs $40K and My Next Will be a Tesla

Gas Costs How Much
My grocery getter's odometer turned 125,000 miles.  Ran the numbers to see how much I've spent on gas.


Holy petrole'!

Paid $20,000 for the turbo wagon back in 2005.  When you factor in oil changes, fluid flushes and an upcoming head gasket and clutch rebuild, the total damage is $40,000.  That doesn't include the pine scented Hello Kitty air freshener.

My next car won't burn any gas.
It will be fully electric.
Dear Lord make it be a Tesla, please.

Electricity is 1/5 the Price of Gas
Tesla only makes a Model S for now, a large and expensive luxo cruiser that competes with the Mercedes S-Class and Porche Panamera.  Later this year, they'll release the Model X SUV.  In 2017, they'll build a less expensive sedan called the Model E.

Only Elon Musk can get away with an S, E, X lineup.

If the upcoming Model E stickers for $40K, it will cost less in the long haul than my $20K ride.  Electricity is 1/5 the price of gasoline to fill up.

Driving 200 miles in my car costs $32.
Driving 200 miles in a Tesla costs $6.

Electric Cars Need Less Maintenance
eCars have thousands of fewer parts than a gas guzzler, so maintenance is simpler.  Here are some of the things that don't exist on an electric auto, therefore you don't have to worry about them:

-Gas engine (so no spark plugs, pistons, connecting rods, valves...huge reduction in parts here)
-Oil changes
-Exhaust pipe, catalytic converter, emissions
-Air filter
-Oxygen sensors, knock sensors, engine overheating
-Gas station

Plugging In is Easier than Gassing Up
To fill up an electric, you plug into an outlet at your abode, same idea as recharging your phone.  Each morning when you head out for work, you have a full tank/battery.

The Tesla app lets you remotely warm the interior and check the battery level with your phone.

For recharging while travelling, Tesla is building out a free Supercharger network.  Think of it as free fuel, powered by sunlight.

The downside to electro when driving to grandma's house is you must juice up every 200 to 250 miles.  It takes about 45 minutes when slurping electrons from a 120 kW Supercharger.  If you're a numbers nerd and know electricity basics, the Supercharger is crazy powerful, putting out something like 480 volts @250 amps!

Tesla was started by a pack of Silicon Valley engineers, so gobs of techno in this car.  They don't advertise or have dealerships, and only sell online.  They offer a few small shops scattered at malls, similar to Apple stores.

Ride Along
I like Bjørn's videos (below and link), he shares his Trondheim Norwegian winter driving trips in a new Tesla.  He mentions a shipping company in Norway that pays people to deliver packages to others.  On one trip, he transports a crate of live pigeons, another he delivers kitty to a happy owner.

Gas or Electric?
What do you think about electric cars?
Are you open to going for a spin when the price comes down?
Are you willing to pay more up front for electric in exchange for lower total cost of ownership?
Or is it gasoline or bust for you?



  1. I love the idea of electric but I would like a dual fuel car just because I like the backup. Electric charging stations are not common enough when we travel a lot and I wouldn't want to get stuck in the middle of somewhere without being able to recharge. I don't know enough about the life cycle costs to consider it for the supposed 'green' benefit. Coal is still being burned so you can recharge the car. Maybe it is still more green than oil but I haven't researched it thoroughly enough yet. Now, if we could work out how to run a decent car on solar energy...

    1. I think it will be a slow transition to electric. Gas, then hybrid, then plug-in hybrid, then full electric. Fossil fuel will probably never go away, diesel semis come to mind.

      On the green side, while there's debate as to whether burning coal to make electricity is less pollution than millions of cars burning gasoline, what I like about electric cars as they offer flexibility for using energy. Coal, natural gas, solar panels, wind turbines, ocean tides, nuclear and future new ways of generating electricity.

      With a petrol car, you're stuck burning gas, a finite resource, which doesn't make it future proof for using new and various forms of energy.

  2. Anonymous1/27/2014

    I have had a chance to ride in The Model S a few times going to work and have to say it’s a great car both style wise as well as the drive. The first time I got a ride it took me about 20 minutes to realize what was different when I realized it was the noise, or lack thereof..:) Can’t afford the s model but like you are waiting to see what the Model E is like in a few years.

    For my day to day driving an electric car makes sense. I drive around 25-30 miles a day and a little bit more on the weekends. When we are planning a weekend away we always take my wife’s SUV anyway and I don’t see that changing with having an electric car. Yes tesla is building supercharging stations but these are mainly just of the interstates or in major metropolitan areas. We will often taking camping trips etc. into the Shenandoah’s and I don’t believe you will find any charging stations or outlets in the parking lots there. So yes I can see us owning an electric car but were a 2 car family and always will be I think so at least one is going to be a gas guzzler. Ideally I would love to see them bring the diesel engines Over here and make a diesel SUV. My parents still live in Scotland and both have small diesel cars. Both average between 60 and 70 MPG and sometime even more. With gas so expensive in Europe ( around $8/ gallon due to all the fees and taxes) they had to develop more fuel efficient cars. Now they need to bring them over here.

    1. Lucky you riding in a Tesla. I've only seen one in the wild here in Des Moines and most people have never heard of a Model S.

      When I talk to people about electric, the first thing they usually bring up is battery range, and mention worst case scenarios for having to recharge often on cross-country trips. When I ask them how often they travel long distances, over 500 miles, the answer is usually "rare or never." A study I read said 80%+ of all miles logged by the general population are less than 70 miles, so electric will work for many people most of the time. Many households have 2 cars, so set aside a gas guzzler as a back-up.

      If I snag a Model E in 2017, I'll keep my gas car as a backup.

      Small diesel cars would be excellent, 60+ MPH and a turbo snail blowing black coal. Americans seem to dislike diesels, could be the terrible Oldsmobile Diesel V-8s of the 1980s that leaves the sour taste. I test drove a Jetta TDI a few years ago, seemed tight to me.

  3. Anonymous1/27/2014

    My dad has a Chevrolet Volt, dual electric/gas (he's in Australia where they are branded as Holden), and LOVES it- electric then a gas-powered motor kicks in to charge the battery when the charge is low, and with regenerative braking it pours what would be wasted energy back into charging the battery, and has a ton of power. I forget the numbers, but they drive their daily routine on charge from home and on longer trips supplement with gasoline (which still has great MPG). But, here's the kicker, their house is solar-powered (as-are many where they live) with surplus, so their daily charge costs them nothing!

    I'm not sure that I'd go all electric just yet- too much uncertainty with the availability charging stations, but would definitely consider electric/gas next new car- I just don't drive enough right now to justify a new car (bus to work).

    1. Volt owners are happy people, the car gets good reviews. Solar panels would be awesome, there are many Tesla owner in California with photovoltaic set ups large enough to power their house and car, plus receive a check back from the local utility company for feeding excess juice back into the grid. Elon Musk also runs SolarCity, they allow homeowners to install solar on their roof and slowly pay for the cells over time.

      I hope to go full electric, but will keep my gas wagon as a back up.

  4. Turbo wagon makes me think the gas mileage is overly low. But I'm biased against the only turbo wagons I know...

    I wanted a hybrid for my new (to me) car but the only one in AWD was the brand new Subaru which is the first hybrid they've made, and an older style hybrid engine. I love the idea of an electric car but I drive 120 miles round trip each day and make 300+ mile trips monthly to visit family. A friend's Leaf needs to be plugged in at work each day which is the laugh of the shop (but he's getting free electric there).

    1. Car is AWD, which eats the gas more than the turbo. Roughly 23 mpg in town and 27 highway.

      120 miles each way to work is wretched! If your employer offered a 220 volt charger, you would be a perfect candidate for a Gen III Tesla. Thousands of bucks in gas would cost you a fraction in electricity. Probably want to keep your gas car as a backup for long trips to family.

      Nissan LEAF has range issues, 60 miles on a full charge is weak. A Tesla will go 265 miles per charge, which is incredible and will only improve as they advance battery tech.

    2. False alarm, I see your drive is 120 miles round trip. Still, ouchie. You could do that on electric, probably would just want to top off at work, plus it would be free.

  5. Anonymous1/28/2014

    I don't really care what i drive. what i do know is that the lack of options is ridiculous.

    Few months back, we got ourselves the TDI diesel wagon. LOVE. Spend tons of time on the highway commuting and am getting 45ish or more, which is still way too low for my liking. But, it seems like the best option for now.

    1. That's pretty good, 45 mpg and I hear you can hit 50+ if you drive like grandma Gladys. I like to tweak my cars, so would probably chip the engine for more power and spray black diesel soot when I get on it. :-)

  6. Saw this and thought of you...

  7. Thanks for the link! I was tracking the dad/daughter duo on their electric cross country trip on the Tesla Motors forum. They gave live updates and the winter weather was rough in parts of the adventure. All electricity free of charge via Superchargers, can't wait for the Gen III to be built.

  8. Anonymous2/08/2014

    Did you see this article? http://www.starmedia.us/technology/silicon-valley-sees-shortage-of-ev-charge-stations.html
    Made me laugh. Seems like a great business opportunity. My buddy has a Volt, which he LOVES and gasses up maybe once a month (40 mile rt commute). But, he had to install another circuit in his garage for $2k to handle the charge. Anyway, I know Musk will make smaller, longer charge batteries so 2017 is probably a good thing. The technology will only get better with time. And yes, the model S is an amazing and beautiful car! My friend just took delivery of his in gray, just stunning. Living in So Cal, they seem to be everywhere.

  9. Just bought a Leaf 2 days ago and couldn't be more happy with the price, and the car. As a single dad, I was spending $125+ a week to power my F250 diesel. That will now stay in the driveway except for the weekend trips. The Leaf is perfect for my situation: 30 mile round trip commute with another 20 miles of pick-ups and drop offs to club team practices every night. I was out the door (tax, title and fees) for less than 30k. After the state and fed rebates, less than 20k. With 0% for 6 years years, it's only sweeter.


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!