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Toyota's RAV4 Prime and Hybrid Show Just how Silly Tesla Model Y's Promised Fuel Savings Are

Tesla promises its Model Y will save its owner $4,300 in fuel savings. How much will it save you in energy costs over six years vs. the Toyota RAV4 Prime or RAV4 Hybrid?

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The Tesla Model Y is the company's newest and hottest model. The Model Y is a two-row crossover with all-wheel drive. Yet it consumes very little energy per mile. Tesla's battery-electric vehicles have grown ever more efficient as the company continues to make strides and technical advances almost daily. The Model Y is so efficient that Tesla even includes estimated fuel savings in its online pricing. That is very helpful if it is true. To see if it is true or not, we compared two very similarly-sized two-row, all-wheel drive crossovers with the Model Y to see what the EPA says the fuel costs for all three models are. Here is what we found.

Related Story: Toyota RAV4 Prime Will Costs Buyers About Half What A Tesla Model Y Will Cost

Tesla Model Y Long-Range, Dual-Motor, All-Wheel Drive
When we use the online Tesla configurator, the Model Y pricing automagically deducts $4,300 from the customer's cost. Tesla says this is the vehicle's "6-year gas savings." AAA's national average for regular unleaded fuel is $2.177 per gallon today. So, the Tesla savings equates to 1,975 gallons of fuel. That's quite a bit of gas. And our get tells us that the Model Y doesn't save anywhere near that amount of gas when compared to other similarly-sized green crossovers with all-wheel drive.

Related Story - Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. Tesla Model Y Maintenance Cost Analysis - A Surprising Outcome

Tesla offers two versions of its Model Y today. To make this contrast and comparison as fair to Tesla as possible, we will use the most efficient of its two models.
Fuel economy chart courtesy of www.FuelEconomy.gov.Six- Year Energy Costs - Model Y vs. Other Green AWD Crossovers
To determine the annual energy costs for the Tesla Model Y and other green AWD crossovers its size, we turned to the EPA. Its website www.FuelEconomy.gov is the official location for energy economy data for vehicles sold in America. If you could turn your eyes to the chart above and look closely at the bottom line you will see the energy costs per year for the vehicles listed. The Model Y costs $550 per year. Just FYI, its more gluttonous version uses $600 per year in energy. Note that EPA considers 15,000 miles one year of driving. That sounds like a lot for anyone with concern for their carbon footprint, but, hey, let's press on.

As you can see, the Toyota RAV4 Prime uses $750 per year in energy costs. So to drive the RAV4 Prime will cost an owner $200 more per year than if she drove a Model Y. By our math, six years times $200 is $1,200. Is that a meaningful amount of money to you as a buyer? Perhaps it is, but it is a far cry from $4,300.

The RAV4 Hybrid costs its owner $800 per year in energy costs (all of it gasoline). So, over six years, the RAV4 Hybrid owner will spend $1,500 more on energy. We threw in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for grins and giggles. Its annual energy cost is exactly double that of the Tesla Model Y. Over six years, its owner will pay $3,300 more for energy. None of these all-wheel drive crossovers cost their owner $4,300 more over six years to drive than the Model Y.

Nor does the Honda CR-V Hybrid AWD or the Jaguar iPace AWD. As far as we can see, not a single green all-wheel drive crossover similar in size to the Model Y on sale today costs its owner $4,300 more in energy over six years.

It is hard to understand how Tesla can make such a claim about its pricing. Were we living in a world where other green crossover options didn't exist, perhaps then Tesla's energy savings claim might be valid. However, there are numerous other green crossovers on the market today. The iPace, Outlander, and RAV4 Hybrid all beat the Model Y to market. The RAV4 Hybrid has thus far outsold the Model Y.

The Model Y beats the competition in so many ways they are hard to count. Which makes Tesla's odd exaggeration regarding its cost of ownership hard for us to understand. If you can explain it, please feel free to have a go in the comments section.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Toyota RAV4 Prime plug image courtesy of Toyota media services. Fuel economy chart courtesy of www.FuelEconomy.gov.

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Comments

Walter Mosley (not verified)    August 11, 2020 - 5:46PM

So what it’s still cheaper and that’s just energy not counting tuneups oil changes filters and unseen maintenance in 6 year period.Also cost of gas will probably increase in those 6 years from your original guesstimates.

Timothy Parker (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 11:20PM

In reply to by Walter Mosley (not verified)

I think the point here is that Tesla specifically refers to savings over the cost of gas. The only M-Y that can be ordered right now (at least from the website) is the M-Y dual motor long-range version, and the website states below the listed price: "Costs above include potential incentives and gas savings of $6,800." If Tesla means savings including maintenance costs, then they should state so. Of course, maintenance costs on a Tesla can be very, very high when off warranty. And the do break. It is reasonable to compare Tesla with a gas car, but a hybrid is not an unreasonable comparison. Tesla has a habit of pushing the specs in all categories, and this is just one example.

Null (not verified)    August 13, 2020 - 10:59PM

In reply to by Timothy Parker (not verified)

Yeah, I don't agree with their showing that way. It should be noted as it is real savinv.

However CUV suck the gas down rarely do real world averages. Over their lifespan in the real world cars don't get exactly ratings. Maybe for the first 50k or so miles...

Cherry picking 2 new to market hybrids isn't all that germaine especially when they're already sold out. Well that and the Toyota is getting sued for not getting EPA mileage anyway.

Try a GM tracker, barely breaking 20 real world.

Dale (not verified)    August 11, 2020 - 7:58PM

First off, I'm not a Tesla fan boy. Second, it's clear to me a father of 2 teenagers 40 year old, Educated tech professional that the intent of the advertising is ment to compare competitor vehicles that are ICE powered. Not to compare entry level hybrid/green versions of average people movers. Both the examples you compare are slower by leaps and bounds. Tesla could and probably should make the next vehicle after the cyber truck a smaller still CUV that has economy higher on the list of priorities than speed and power. When a RAV 4 hybrid is as fast as a 911 then you can use it as a base to compare with the Model Y. Until then keep these silly napkin numbers to yourself and write about something some actually wants to read.

John Goreham    August 12, 2020 - 11:36AM

In reply to by Dale (not verified)

Hi Dale,
My green vehicle stories have generated millions of pageviews at Torque News and other outlets, and have been featured in the autos section of print editions of dozens of newspapers. This story is the top-viewed story I have written in four weeks and your click helped. So thank you.

Timothy Parker (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 12:09PM

In reply to by Dale (not verified)

Raw acceleration or top speed are not the defining characteristics people use to choose a vehicle or that defines one as better than another, rather those are specs that purchasers used to justify a choice they have already made. More meaningful might be storage capacity, towing capacity or vehicle range, all things that actually make a difference for many people. But acceleration? Speed? Come on, get real.

EV guy (not verified)    August 11, 2020 - 10:10PM

What a pointless article! That estimate is actually an underestimate for me and others in other places. It is also relative to a gas vehicle, not a hybrid using electric drive to lower its use. Then there are maintenance costs and headaches but that is not included in the estimate anyway.

Al w (not verified)    August 11, 2020 - 10:28PM

Sadly Toyota is not selling too many of these fine vehicles this year. Perhaps Tesla is comparing its costs to a traditional gas SUV?

Bob (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 7:35PM

In reply to by John Goreham

John, get real. The Toyota RAV4 Prime is a compliance vehicle that will not be available in any substantial quantities and only in ZEV states. Please keep your comparisons apple to apple, not apple to orange. The Tesla cost comparison is based on an average pure ICE vehicle, not hybrids.

Alphonso (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 2:23AM

Not a single mention in the article about the cost savings of an EV because of its annual servicing, oil, filters, etc

Andy (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 2:33AM

Are their costs not compared directly to combustion vehicles and not the random hybrids thrown into the market?

I'm also guessing their comparison stats are comparing themselves against the lowest mpg vehicles they can find in the EPA market, but their job is to sell vehicles no?

Mike (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 5:11AM

Why only mention energy when comparing the cars? Sure the savings of electricity vs electricity would be close, but not if you also included the gas you would also have to pay yearly to drive the car.
Put all numbers in when you are comparing. Shows a really big difference.

Griff (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 6:12AM

Here is the explanation you requested:
You did the wrong comparison. The comparison tool you have in your article shows the model y saves $3250 vs the average new vehicle that gets 27mpg, over 5 years. The average vehicle is a gas powered vehicle, not a hybrid, plug in hubrid or battery electric vehicle. If you extrapolate it out to 6 years, that's $3900 saved compared to the average new vehicle. Even further, Teslas should not be compared to the average new vehicle. They should be compared to similar vehicles in their class. The comparison should be to a gas-powered, high performance vehicle that uses premium fuel, because it performs like one (0-60 in 3.5 seconds). Tesla was, for the longest time, the only manufacturer taking electric vehicles seriously. They were the only one's producing high-performance, premium electric vehicles that could compete with gas-powered offerings from BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, etc. Try using the comparison tool on any similar gas-powered offerings from those companies(it will automatically adjust for premium fuel) from the configurator and you will see the savings are actually much higher ($6000-$10000) than a similar performing vehicle.

John Goreham    August 12, 2020 - 11:22AM

In reply to by Griff (not verified)

Griff, do you think that Tesla Model Y shoppers are really thinking about buying an "average gas-powered vehicle?" The Model Y we chose to compare does not have a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. That one consumes more energy, so we chose the current base model. And the Jaguar i-Pace performance crossover we mention in our story is faster. The Model Y is more efficient. But nowhere near $4,300 less expensive to fuel over 6 years.

Griff (not verified)    August 13, 2020 - 11:57AM

In reply to by John Goreham

It does not matter what the shopper is comparing. My reply is to what you are stating. You are stating it gets nowhere near $4300 in savings. You used the EPA site for your comparison. The EPA site very clearly states the comparison is to the average new vehicle. In addition, you did use the performance model Y (0-60 in 3.5 seconds) for comparison as is very clearly shown in the image. The EPA had not yet rated the LR AWD model Y until after you posted this story. Not that it even matters because the EPA site shows the same numbers. Tesla is stating the savings are against the average new vehicle. That is how it is calculated. You can't change the narrative of their statement to fit your story. If I were to say, "My product has 20% more cleaning power than product X" You can't say, "He's lying because it only has 10% more cleaning power than product Y!" You have to compare the item against what it was originally stated against. Not what you want it to be stated against. Tesla was not comparing the Y to the iPace or the plug in Rav4 Prime (which didn't even exist when Model Y was made). So your article should actually state or reflect that your comparison is intentionally ignoring the average new gas vehicle (which is where the numbers actually came from) instead of having a title and narrative that suggests Tesla is exaggerating. Atleast, if you are trying to show integrity as a journalist.

Martijn Huigens (not verified)    August 13, 2020 - 4:53PM

In reply to by John Goreham

You are incredibly disingenuous. On Tesla.com they provide the comparison that supports their claim. They are not holding up to pseudo-green offerings, but ICE cars, because that is still the majority of what is sold. Most of the vehicles traded in to Tesla are premium ICEs not hybrid or EV, so the comparison on running costs is apt.

From Tesla.com “ Gasoline Savings
The average person drives between 15,000 and 25,000 kilometers and spends between $1,300 and $2,300 on gasoline per year. In comparison, the cost of electricity to power Model Y over the same distance is up to three times lower. Over the six year average length of car ownership, that's between $6,700 and $11,200 in gasoline savings.

We've assumed a fuel economy of 11.9 kilometers per litre for a comparable gasoline powered sedan. We've also assumed the national average of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour for electricity and $1.10 per litre for premium gasoline over the next six year”

That took <30 seconds to uncover...

John Goreham    August 13, 2020 - 5:34PM

In reply to by Martijn Huigens (not verified)

"Most of the vehicles traded in for a Tesla are premium ICE models?" You could be right in your market, but share your source. It would make a good story. Here is a link to the vehicles traded in to Tesla in America according to Bloomberg. Top car on the list? A Toyota hybrid. Also on the list? A Volt with the same EV range as the RAV4 Prime. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-tesla-model-3-survey/market-evolution.html. Here is a story from Elektrek that is a bit older. Top trade-in? A Toyota Hybrid. https://electrek.co/2018/08/01/tesla-model-3-top-5-trade-in-cars/ Many buyers of Tesla vehicles are also trading in EVs. They don't need imaginary "gas savings" in their pricing to be swayed to a Tesla. It's silly to think they do.

justhereforthe… (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 6:37AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but...aren’t you comparing the wrong numbers here? Tesla’s claim isn’t to save $4300 over other green vehicles, but over similarly sized (and powered?) ICE vehicles. Otherwise, your math simply shows that the Tesla is...better than the others. Is the Tesla claim disingenuous when applied to the base cost of the car? Almost certainly. But to claim it is an exaggeration based on your questionable comparison is intellectually dishonest i(if purposefully done).

John Goreham    August 12, 2020 - 11:30AM

In reply to by justhereforthe… (not verified)

If there were no other green vehicles like the Model Y, I could agree with your point. However, there is now a very long list of all-wheel drive green crossovers on the market. Some predate the Model Y. Some have outsold it. Some are faster than the Model Y we included in the comparison. Why is a comparison of a green vehicle to a conventionally-powered vehicle meaningful given that there is such a long list of much more comparable vehicles? Why does Tesla have to exaggerate its pricing?

Mike (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 9:19AM

I've been saying that for years. They are obviously comparing it to something like a BMW X3 or X5 with the larger engine options.

The same for their cars. They don't compare to the Porsche Panamera hybrid plug ins just the V8 performance versions.

Steven M. Heller (not verified)    August 12, 2020 - 10:08AM

In all fairness, they're are many other costs associated with a gas car. Oil changes are one such cost. Also, has cars wear out their brakes much quicker than EV's, due to regenerative braking. Add in brakes, oil changes and other typical expenses you'd encounter in 5 years, and it would much more expensive to own a phev

Jeff O (not verified)    August 13, 2020 - 11:13AM

In reply to by John Goreham

Cost is only one of the benefits of electrification. No emissions! Less maintenance! Faster! Better software! I suspect this article is just fishing for clicks, but it fails miserable at making a comparison and appears slanted towards ICE. It is misinformation at best. I drive over 30,000 miles per year and have clear evidence that my model 3 is cheaper than the Subaru it replaced. That is real data, not this imaginary numbers game the author is playing at.