Car of the Year: Tesla Model S

November 4th, 2012
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  The Yahoo! Autos Car of the Year is a limited production car from Elon Musk's Tesla Motors.

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Follow up:

The primary reasons given by Yahoo's panel of auto experts for the selection was the high performance level of the car in a package which has blown away the mileage limits that have hampered previous all-electric models.  Cars produced by Nissan (Leaf) and GM (Volt) have limits of 38-80 miles between charges.  The Tesla Model s gets 300 miles between charges for the largest battery pack option.

The Tesla is also a luxury sedan, not a spartan commuter car.

The other difference between the Nissan and GM models vs. the Tesla is price.  The former have base prices under $30,000 while Tesla starts their base  prices at $50,000 and for the most expensive models can exceed $100,000.  A Model S sedan, well appointed, with the 300 mile range battery pack lists for  $69,900.

The car is comparable to many luxury sedans that are in the $50,000 +/- range.  Thus, the price is quite competitive for Tesla.  The cost of gasoline for 100,000 miles at 25 mpg and $4 a gallon is $16,000 and the reduced service maintenance costs for electric vs. internal combustion systems (ICE) is likely to be $2,000 to $4,000 over 100,000 miles.  That puts the Model S comp price at the equivalent of $50,000 +/-.

And, when it comes to performance, the lower center of gravity of the Tesla combined with the high torque performance that gives 0-60 mph in 4.4 to 5.6 seconds, depending on model, cannot be matched by most of the ICE sedans on the market today.

Of course the competitor ICE cars will not have to have a battery pack replacement.  The estimated life of the lithium ion battery pack could be as little as 100,000 miles.  That is the warrantee specified by Tesla for the smallest battery (40 kWh battery has a 8 year or 100,000 mile, whichever comes first).  The cost and frequency of replacement has not been determined by Econintersect.  Whatever that cost is could move the Model S above the $50,000 equivalence point.

John Lounsbury


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  1. Thomas Fisher says :

    Interesting that the battery will last only 100,000 miles. Do you have a source for that? Because honestly it looks like a made up number.

    The 40kWh battery pack is warrantied for 8 years and 100,000 miles, but nobody expects it to need replacement the moment it is out of warranty. The 60kWh pack has an 8 year 120,000 mile warranty and the 85kWh pack has an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty.

    In terms of the actual physics, the Tesla batteries are temperature controlled and will rarely experience deep discharges (which degrade battery life).

    Li-ion batteries routinely average 1,200-1,500 full cycles when averaging 50% depth of discharge. This is probably the level of stress that the 40kWh battery will be under, because it only has ~140 mile range and it will often be driven 70 miles between charges.

    With 1,200 cycles that gives the 40kWh pack an estimated life of ~168,000 miles (1,200X140).

    The 60kWh pack wont be under that level of stress because 70 miles between charges is only ~33% of it's capacity (~210 range). But even assuming it is stressed in the same way it has an expected life of ~252,000 miles.

    The 85kWh pack is clearly a different animal, which is why it has an unlimited mileage warranty. Assuming an average of 70 miles between charges puts its depth of discharge at closer to 25% than 50%. At 25% DoD battery life is 2,000-2,500 cycles.

    With a typical range of 265 miles, 2,000 cycles gives you an estimated life of 530,000 miles.

  2. Admin (Member) Email says :

    Thomas Fisher - - -

    Many thanks for pointing out our error.

    The article has been updated based on your comment. The 100,000 mile number came from the Tesla Spec sheet ( and represents the warrantee for the smallest battery pack option.

    It was incorrect to have stated that 100,000 was the expected life of the battery systems. Obviously the warrantee is likely to be only a fraction (perhaps 1/2, 2/3 or 3/4) of the expected average life. The warrantee certainly is compatible with your estimate 168,000 mile life expectancy for the 40kWh system.

    John Lounsbury



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