In-depth reviews

Tesla Model 3 review – MPG and running costs

The Tesla Model 3 is finally on the road, but away from the hype we debunk what is, electric or not, one of the most fascinating cars in decades

Evo rating
  • Incredible, otherworldly performance with some genuine dynamic nuance
  • Still feels underdeveloped and poorly constructed

Electric car efficiency numbers might often promote overall range rather than MPG as a defining factor, but like their petrol compatriots, electric cars also use energy at different rates from each other based on a Wh/mile (Watt-per-mile) rating. Like with MPG ratings, these numbers are greatly affected by the conditions, (weather particularly in electric cars) but are useful as a standardised comparison. At its most efficient, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus uses electricity at a rate of 251Wh/m, while both dual-motor cars use electricity at more like 291Wh/m. For comparison, the BMW i3 and i3S use only slightly more electricity per mile at 298Wh/m, but then they are both rear-wheel drive and only feature the one electric motor.

More stark is the advantage the Model 3 has over smaller rivals, such as the Nissan Leaf (324Wh/M) and Kia e-Niro (301Wh/m). It’s the sheer inefficiency of the big European SUVs that shocks most though, with the Jaguar I-Pace using 443Wh/m and the Audi E-tron a whopping 455Wh/m. The 3-ton-plus Tesla Model X Performance uses 396Wh/m for context. Charging a Model 3 is also less of a cost-free experience than its bigger siblings, with Tesla’s Supercharger network on a cost-per-use basis for all Model 3s, while charging at home can vary widely based on a whole variety of factors.

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Actual running costs will still be remarkably low considering the performance though, and maintenance will also be low thanks to the electric motor’s lack of moving parts. Peel apart the innards of an AMG hot-V V8 and you’ll realise how simple an electric motor is in comparison – something that’s surely in the Tesla’s favour in the long run, regardless of actual build quality.

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