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How Tesla's Vehicles Work Compared To Gas Cars: Comparing EVs to Gas Cars

This article goes over how Tesla's electric vehicles work and operate compared to gas cars. You will understand energy efficiency of Tesla cars compared to gas cars and gallons of gas.

Energy and Efficiency: kWh and Gallons

The choice between an electric vehicle (EV) and a gas car often comes down to cost, performance, and Energy efficiency. Generally, a customer buying a vehicle is considering one or more of these factors.

One of the main differences between Tesla's EVs, and all EVs for that matter, and gas cars is the way they measure and store energy. EVs measure their Energy in kilowatt-hours (kWh), while gas cars measure their Energy in gallons.

Let's take a closer look at the differences between kWh and gallons and how they impact energy efficiency in Tesla's EVs and gas cars.

What are Kilowatt-Hours (kWh)?

Kilowatt-hours (kWh) are a unit of measurement for energy, typically used to measure the amount of electricity used by an EV. One kilowatt-hour is equal to the amount of energy used when one kilowatt of power is consumed for one hour. You can say this another way: a kilowatt-hour measures the energy stored in a battery that can be used to power an EV.

What are Gallons?

Gallons, on the other hand, are a unit of measurement for gasoline, the fuel that powers internal combustion engines in gas vehicles. A gallon of gasoline contains a certain amount of energy that can be released when burned in the engine. Gallons are used to measure the amount of fuel stored in a gas car's fuel tank and how far the vehicle can travel on a single tank of fuel.

When you think about both, compare a kWh to a gallon of gas. In my experience, 1 kWh for my Model 3 RWD gets me between 3 and 6 miles of range, depending on weather conditions, tire pressure, acceleration, going down hill, and if there is any drag on the car from dirt.

Miles per gallon is also affected by the same factors an EV is, except cold weather generally doesn't affect range as much as an EVs battery is affected. My Model 3 RWD gets about 10% to 30% less range, depending on how cold it is.

Energy Efficiency: Kilowatt-Hours vs Gallons

One of the main advantages of Tesla's and other EVs over gas cars is their energy efficiency. EVs are typically more energy-efficient than gas cars, which means they use less energy to travel a mile than using a gallon of gas does.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, EVs typically have an energy efficiency of around 3 to 5 miles per kilowatt-hour, while gas cars have an energy efficiency of around 0.3 miles per gallon.

In other words, an EV with a 60 kWh battery can travel approximately 250 miles on a single charge, while a gas car with a 14-gallon fuel tank can travel approximately 400 miles on a single fill-up. Some of Tesla's vehicles can go 400 miles on a charge, and the new Roadster has an EPA of 620 miles.

EVs are about 85% energy efficient, and a gas car is about 20% energy efficient. EVs lose very little in the way of energy consumption, while gas cars lose quite a bit of the energy expended. My Model 3 RWD is the most efficient EV on the market today.

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Cost Comparison: Kilowatt-Hours vs Gallons

Another important consideration when choosing between an EV and a gas car is cost. While EVs tend to have a higher upfront cost than gas cars, they typically have lower operating costs, including lower fuel costs and lower maintenance costs, compared to gas vehicles.

Today, a Tesla Model 3 is now on par with a Toyota vehicle and eventually, EVs will cost less in sticker price than gas cars.

EVs don't have engines, transmission, belts, oil to change, mufflers, or many of the parts a gas car does.

The cost of charging an EV can be much lower than the cost of gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average cost of electricity in the United States is around 16 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost of gasoline is around $3.30 per gallon.

In addition, many countries and states offer incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, to encourage the adoption of EVs. These incentives can help offset the higher upfront cost of an EV and make it a more attractive option for cost-conscious consumers. Right now, the IRA has tax credits in the U.S. up to $7,500 for new EVs and $4,000 for used EVs, with income limits.

Choosing a Vehicle

When choosing between an EV and a gas car, it's important to consider a number of factors, including cost, performance, and energy efficiency. Tesla vehicles shine in all of these areas.

EVs tend to be more energy-efficient than gas cars, with an energy efficiency of around 3 miles per kilowatt-hour, compared to around 30 miles per gallon for gas cars. While EVs may have a higher upfront cost, they typically have lower operating costs, including lower fuel costs and lower maintenance costs, making them a more cost-effective option in the long run.

In Related News: Tesla gives big incentive in Germany - it now qualifies vehicles for BIG EV incentive

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Jeremy Johnson is a Tesla investor and supporter. He first invested in Tesla in 2017 after years of following Elon Musk and admiring his work ethic and intelligence. Since then, he's become a Tesla bull, covering anything about Tesla he can find, while also dabbling in other electric vehicle companies. Jeremy covers Tesla developments at Torque News. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn to stay in touch and follow his Tesla news coverage on Torque News.

Image Credit, Tesla, Screenshot


Robert Meade (not verified)    February 7, 2023 - 9:36AM

Thanks for the article, efficiency is important. You need to revise the gasoline mileage from .3 miles a gallon (as stated twice in the article) to 30 miles a gallon. I would also like to encourage to compare electric efficiencies (stated as 85%) and gasoline efficiency (stated as 20%) on an equal basis. ICE cars convert the fuel to energy (rotational motion). For one to power an electric vehicle, fuel has to be converted to electricity. The efficiency of a typical thermal-electric plant is 33+% . If you include energy conversion in the electricity efficiency quote, then an EV is (at best ) 33%*85% = 28.5%. This is still better than an ICE. You might want to consider the benefits of renewable energy on efficiency, which will improve this number. My numbers are rough and can be improved - hopefully by others that post.

John Cardens (not verified)    February 20, 2024 - 12:57PM

Not sure if I am mistaken but, if you use 60KW for 250 miles in an EV, then you would need approximately 8.75 gallons to cover 250 miles in a normal vehicle. Hence, 60 x 0.16 = roughly 10 USD for 250 miles while 8.75 * 3.3 USD = ~28 USD for the same distance in a normal vehicle. It's a saving of 18 USD per 250 miles.

Another thing to consider would be the lifespan of the EV battery and such to take into account the real savings when comparing both types of vehicles.