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How much does it cost to charge a Tesla in Australia?

Owners have the choice of using a Tesla home charger, a notionally “free” Destination Charger or the awesome Tesla Superchargers

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla in Australia? Well, if you were an early adopter and bought one of the first Teslas sold, anywhere in the world, it was a pretty attractive-sounding offer - “free Supercharging - forever”.

Sadly, like most things that sound too good to be true, this nation-spanning network of free charging stations began charging Tesla owners back in 2017.

Today, your Tesla charging cost depends on where and how you’re getting the power to top up your battery, and ranges from around $20 to $30.

Considering that the other oft-quoted figure is that electric vehicles only cost about as much to run as your fridge, this is a slightly higher number than you might imagine. Still, depending on your choice of Tesla, that cost should get you around 500km, which means it’s still a lot cheaper than a petrol car.

It’s just not free, unless you’re one of those early adopters. All Teslas ordered before January 15, 2017, get to keep their free lifetime Supercharging guarantee, and that offer goes with the vehicle, even if you sell it on.

Some owners who bought their cars before November 2018 were also given 400kWh in annual charge credits for free.

How do you charge a Tesla and what does it cost?

It takes 30 minutes for the Model 3 to reach 80 per cent with a fast charger. It takes 30 minutes for the Model 3 to reach 80 per cent with a fast charger.

Owners have the choice of using a Tesla home charger, a notionally “free” Destination Charger (at hotels, restaurants and shopping centres) or the less common but far more awesome Tesla Superchargers, both of which show up on the map in the car’s satnav, conveniently (there are more than 500 Destination Chargers in Australia, with perhaps as many as 40 Superchargers, according to the company, covering the journey from Melbourne to Sydney and even on to Brisbane).

The Destination Chargers are a clever bit of marketing synergy created by Tesla. Basically a hotel or a restaurant or a shopping centre, which would have an interest in your stopping and staying for a while to spend money, can have one installed, but then they are generally stuck with the cost of paying for the electricity you are downloading while you are on their premises.

Fortunately for them, and sadly for you, it will take quite a while to get anything useful out of these “free” Destination Chargers (hotels and restaurants may well demand that you spend money with them if you want to plug in). Typically these chargers only provide between 40 and 90km of ranger per hour, depending on what kind of charger they are, but “not fast” is a pretty accurate description.

Your Tesla recharge time will obviously be shorter at a sexy, super-fast Supercharger than it will at a Destination Charger, which is fairly similar to the one you’re likely to have at home, but the trade-off is that using the wall charger in your garage is now significantly cheaper. And at home is where most Tesla owners do their charging.

In January, Tesla announced that it was raising the charges for electricity at its Superchargers by 20 per cent, from 35c per kWh to 42c per kWh. 

This means it now costs $5.25 more to fully charge a Model S with a 75kWh battery, at $31.50. 

"We’re adjusting Supercharging pricing to better reflect differences in local electricity costs and site usage," Tesla helpfully explains.

"As our fleet grows, we continue to open new Supercharger locations weekly, so more drivers can travel long distances at a fraction of the cost of gasoline, and with zero emissions.”

So far, the Supercharger highway in Australia stretches from Melbourne to Sydney and all the way on to Brisbane.

Tesla was also at pains to point out, globally, that “Supercharging is not meant to be a profit centre”, which is another way of saying that it didn’t really think through the idea of giving power away for free, forever, and it’s now realised it might be able to turn a buck or two out of it after all.

Charging at home, by comparison, is generally going to cost around 30c per kWh, or just $22.50 for a full charge. 

These are round figures, of course, and may be effected by how you get your electricity - a solar system attached to a Tesla Powerwall would be notionally free for example, at least in ideal conditions - and what size battery your Tesla has. 

The latest Model 3, for example, comes with 62 or 75kWh batteries, depending on how much range/power you prefer.

As to the always vexed question of whether we’re paying too much in Australia, it can be tricky to compare to the US, where Tesla also raised its prices early in 2019, because different States charge different amounts. And, incredibly, some States charge by the minute you’re plugged in rather than the usual kWh. 

In terms of how many kWh it takes to charge a Tesla, Superchargers can provide a 50 per cent charge in about 20 minutes (based on an 85kWh Model S), while a full recharge, which Tesla suggests you should do at home, so as not to lock up its Superchargers too long, presumably, will take around 75 minutes

Obviously to fully recharge an 85kWh battery it needs 85kWh of power, but the speed at which it reaches that is very much based on the charger you’re using.

Of course, it's not that simple in the real world, because there are unavoidable losses in the charging process, so it actually takes slightly more power than you might think. The analogy would be that, despite the fact your car has a 60-litre tank, if you really empty it out you might get slightly more than 60 litres in there.

In round figures, it costs about $US22 to fully charge an 85kWh Tesla Model S in the US, at a Tesla Supercharger, which is about $A32. So, for once, we’re not really paying over the odds.

Even if look into the cost of doing the charging at home in the US, you’ll find that electricity averages out a about 13 cents per kWh, meaning a full charge is around $US13, or $A19.

There are certainly more expensive places to charge a Tesla in the world. According to insideevs.com Australia is one of the cheapest, while Denmark $US34, Germany $US33 and Italy $US27 are among the most expensive.