I must come clean upfront: I am a Baby Boomer.
I grew up during a time when so-called muscle cars really had muscle. There’s never been a better sound to these ears from a non-human source than sitting at an intersection when a 1967 Pontiac GTO, or a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, pulls next to me. The rumble from the V-8, gas-guzzling engine permeates my ears, and I watch slack-jawed as the entire car vibrates from the potential under the hood.
Today, while muscle has returned to the U.S. automobile industry, with 700 horsepower Hellcats and Demons, Shelby Mustang GT 350s, and Camaro ZL1s, hybrid power plants and all-electric vehicles led by Elon Musk’s Tesla, get more press.
Tesla touts looks, speed and technology that matches any gasoline-fired vehicle, but also mathematics, proving it costs less to charge a Tesla, than to fill the gas tank of a comparable car, Kallanish Energy reports.
Maybe – but maybe not. Last week, an article in the publication Techspot raised legitimate questions about whether a match still favors Tesla.
Charging rate jumps
The electric-vehicle maker recently announced what would have averaged a 33% increase in its Supercharging station rates, ironically happening during a time of tumbling gasoline prices, according to energy technology website Electrek.
Since Oct. 10, the national average price for regular gas has fallen 23%, to roughly $2.25 a gallon, according to consumer gasoline website gasbuddy.com.
The drop comes as Tesla also ends its so-called referral program, which provided free Supercharging to qualified buyers. Effective last November, all new Tesla owners must pay the new, higher rates at Supercharging stations.
Price increase rethought
Following a very vocal outcry from its adherents, Tesla rethought the 33% charging price increase, and backed it down about 10%, from $0.31 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), to $0.28/kWh, on average.
Based on average prices, a fill-up and a charge cost nearly the same, running $27 and $28, respectively. (At $0.31/kWh, charging would have been $31.)
Yet, in many states the price of a gallon of gas remains far below the national average, which alters the math in favor of gasoline.
Low gasoline prices hurt comparisons
For example, at Jan. 27, you could find regular gasoline for as low as $2.14 a gallon in Pennsylvania, $1.66/gallon in Texas, $2.01/gallon in Florida, and $1.50/gallon in Oklahoma.
Using those prices, it’s cheaper to fill a car with regular gas than its batteries with electricity at a Supercharger station.
Industry analysts also question whether some of the recent cost comparisons are fair, claiming key factors and certain nuances are being overlooked.
For example, most Tesla owners charge at home — where rates are cheaper — not at the public Superchargers. On the other hand, most homes aren’t wired to handle 120 kW chargers, which are likely not cheap to install.
Premium gasoline price has dropped
Tesla backers also say when comparing cost, consumers should pair Teslas with equivalent-cost luxury vehicles – Teslas aren’t cheap.
That’s fine, but the Tesla website uses $2.85/gallon for premium – hi-test to Boomers – gasoline, when doing its price comparison. According to AAA, there currently are 33 states in which the average price for hi-test is under $2.85/gallon.
There’s also the matter of the status of the federal electric vehicle tax credit, which had been as high as $7,500, but which depends on how close the manufacturer come to selling 200,000 vehicles since 2010. Tesla actually went over the 200,000-vehicle mark in the third quarter of 2018.
So the Tesla backers and gasoline guzzlers continue verbally sparring, “my car’s better than your car.”
Both are correct – it all depends what a buyer wants. For me, give me that V-8-shaking GTO or ‘Cuda. I like the feel.