The energy question is a bit tricky, so let’s start with a simple question: How many power plants did Tesla sell a few generations before he came along? A couple of estimates suggest that most of his energy output would come from coal and natural gas. Since the first Tesla cars began to appear, most major U.S. electric utilities (electric power utilities) have been converting to hydrogen fuel cells, with the U.S. Department of Energy now reporting that the country has a hydrogen refueling network of approximately 16,000 stations. In the 1950s, most people had been running with gasoline all their lives for a fraction of what they used to spend on gasoline.
So just how much does electric utilities save on fuel, and how much is a power plant cost?
There are lots of competing claims, so we’re going to use this simplified one — that a Tesla Model S car used about a quarter-pound per day of gas — as a reference point. There are a few caveats, the most important of which is that every single person who drives one of those new cars would still be spending about the same number or dollars a day on gas. However, a Tesla car also has a higher mileage than a regular car, which means that some gas savings would become more significant as the miles went on.
At the time these Model S cars first hit the streets, the Energy Department estimated that the cost of energy used by a car on a highway trip would cost around $1.23 per mile. Tesla says that the cost of energy it produces using hydrogen on its network, then and now, has been closer to $1.50 a mile; the Model X is cheaper still.
But Tesla doesn’t just save on fuel and fuel costs. The company also makes money selling cars. Tesla’s cost of producing vehicles has fallen significantly over the last eight years, and in April of this year Tesla made a large equity-buyback announcement. It still doesn’t make any profits, but it’s clearly making money nonetheless, since sales have grown from $1 billion at the beginning of 2013 to over $2 billion last year.
Tesla is now working to make itself even more profitable, and to make sure that the vehicles it sells today have better battery-pack life and more power than the vehicles it sells tomorrow. According to Tesla’s most recent earnings report, on average, the electric cars it sells today have a life expectancy of 7.4 years, and that’s what many people regard as
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