Tesla Charging Stations vs. Gas Stations

Tesla Charging Stations vs. Gas Stations

I’m not sure why some journalists want to compare Tesla charging stations to Gas stations, but let’s do a (semi) fair comparison for fun.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are 121,446 gas stations in the USA.

As of the start of 2014 there are about 22,000 Tesla Model S cars in customer’s hands in the USA (Maybe another 3,000 in Europe). I estimate at least 95% of USA owners charge at home (i.e. their own fueling station).

So ignoring Superchargers, we already have 22,000 * .95 = 20,900 fueling stations just for the Model S. In less than two years, that number should grow beyond 60,000, or about half the number of gas stations in the USA!

Now some may point out that home chargers are not the same as gas stations. That is definitely true, as few ICE vehicle owners have a gas pumps installed in their house, and fewer still bother to leave their house every morning with a full tank like we can with home charging.

With home charging you never have to wait for a pump to be available at a busy gas station, breathe those carcinogenic fuel vapors, and endure poor weather while you pump. In fact, often you have to drive out of your way to refuel at a ‘convenient’ gas station wasting time and fuel.

Of course, at the gas station you get the privilege of paying 3-4 times the cost of the same fuel needed by the Model S. I’m also not aware of any ICE owners who can fuel for free at home with solar panels.

It’s clear to me that Tesla charging stations are quite a bit better than gas stations!

tes-s | January 22, 2014

Another way of looking at your 95% number is 95% of charging is done at home or other parking location, so EVs need 5% the number of fueling stations.

lealm | January 22, 2014

I would like to know what the difference is between charging a Tesla Model S at home when compared to Charging it at a Station?
Also, I would like to know if Tesla will offer "battery swaps" in order to recharge in a reduced time frame (maybe even quicker than stopping at a Gas Station to refill a Tank.

Your time is much appreciated.


cfOH | January 22, 2014

I plug in each day (I've never charged my MS anywhere but home in the 7 months I've owned it). That adds about 5 seconds twice a day, or about 70 seconds per week. Over a year, that's almost exactly one hour spent refueling my car.

When I drove an ICE car, I refueled on average once per week and it took about 5 minutes per stop (not including time to drive to the gas station), or about 4.3 hours spent refueling.

Of course, I've probably spent way more than 3 hours answering questions about the car in parking lots over just the past 7 months, so it's probably not a net time savings. But, I can definitely say that I'd rather talk with folks about EVs than stand beside my car at a gas station.

petero | January 22, 2014

Yeah, but can you buy Gummy Bears, chewing gum, and Lotto tickets in your garage?

I still have to visit the gas stations for my four other ICE cars - a very over rated experience.

jordanrichard | January 22, 2014

Marcelo, charging at home can be done at night while you are sleeping. Car is just sitting there anyways. At home also, you are paying less for the electricity than you would at a local public charger.

The Superchargers have far more voltage and amperage going through them than you could have at your house. Hence the much faster charging.

The whole battery swap idea...... I don't see that being as wide spread as the SC. The SC take up no parking real estate since they are essentially posts up on the curb. A battery swap would require quite an elaborate ($$$$$) in ground system. This would involve quite a bit of excavation.

The Model S wasn't designed to be an "eye for an eye" replacement for an ICE. There are some things one will have to do different, like plan out road trips more than you would with an ICE. However this is really no different than one going from driving a gas car to a diesel. Diesel is not available at every gas station, so one has to take that into account when traveling.

SamO | January 22, 2014


1. Difference between home charging and Supercharging?

The Tesla can charge at home at a rate of 30mph (single charger) or 60mph (dual onboard chargers). Superchargers can refuel at a rate of ~300mph.

2. Swap? Tesla claims this is coming "soon" but there are many doubters. Very likely to find out sometime this year. Stay tuned.

jd3tm | January 22, 2014

I like the math in this drives home what will happen in the future.

there are still a lot of issues to work for apartment dwellers, of course; but, it's interesting to think about what this means to the Gas station economy!

I wish there were some actual data from places, say, in Silicon Valley, to see what kind of impact MS is having on the Gas station economies of the area (if any). It's probably imperceptible at the moment but will become visible within a few years I would think.

Personally, I used to fill up my Prius at the same Gas station for literally 6 years due to convenience. I haven't even stopped in "for lottery tickets" since November 2012 when I got my MS.

Maybe we could map out which gas stations we used to use and no longer to see if there are any that might actually be impacted?!

Anyone got a map of Gas stations in Silicon Valley?


bp | January 23, 2014

The big difference between having a long range EV and any other vehicle (which includes short range EVs, ICEs, natural gas or Toyota's new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle) - is that for Tesla owners, most charging is done overnight at "home".

Since most daily drives should be within the range of the Model S, there is a relatively small need for charging stations within the cities where owners live.

Charging stations will primarily be needed to support long distance drives - between cities and for overnight stays when away from home.

This greatly reduces the number of stations needed to support Tesla owners vs. all other vehicles on the market today.

ChristianG | January 23, 2014

The main defference between gas stations and charging stations is that it's hard to make money with charging stations.

AmpedRealtor | January 23, 2014

I have about 5,000 miles on my car. In my previous car, a Prius, I would have visited the gas station about 11 times to drive the same distance. How long does it take to fuel a Prius, pay at the pump, etc.? Three minutes? So I've already saved over 30 minutes of my life that would have been spent staring at a gas pump while inhaling fumes.

If my previous car was larger, with a bigger tank, I would have wasted even more time. As it stands, I will end up saving over an hour in a year by plugging in at home. So that's an hour I can spend at superchargers and still be on par with an ICE vehicle for wasted time.

Mathew98 | January 23, 2014

@AmpedRealtor - You forgot to factor in the time to travel to your local gas station, waiting in line for the pump (during unexpected rush hours?), and the return trip home. It's way more than 3 minutes per fill up.

hsadler | January 23, 2014

Before, I had to stop at gas stations.
Now, I get to stop at gas stations.

Aside: Lottery tickets, gummy bears, etc can be bought at grocery stores. (Now, if we can figure out a way to not have to stop at grocery stores.)

tes-s | January 23, 2014

@hsadler - Amazon? That is Jeff Bezos' vision.

Apartment charging? Same as home charging - the car has to be parked somewhere; that is where the charger would be.

Low CG | January 23, 2014

I haven't been to a gas station in months . . . but the wife and kids still have to do that chore with their cars (poor girls). Wonder if gas stations are still as unpleasant as they were. Hmmm. Well, guess I'll never know.

Captain_Zap | January 23, 2014

I have to admit that I have been to a gas station twice in over a year.

I had to use the restroom and everything else was closed on a holiday.

I bought a lottery ticket for myself and another for each person working at the gas station on that day. I hope they were lucky ones. Mine wasn't. | January 23, 2014

Yep, I had to go to the gas station twice since I got my MS a year ago. Each time I needed a gallon of gas for my lawn mower.

The other poor guys at the gas station were spending $80 for a fill up. I think they must have been envious of my $4 fill up.

I expect to replace the mower this year for electric mower and avoid gas altogether!

Roamer@AZ USA | January 23, 2014

It is interesting that you actually have to own a Tesla to realize how nice it is to always have a full tank.

Future_owner | January 23, 2014

@TeslaTap- Changed to an electric mower (and weed trimmer) years ago after I literally pulled a muscle in my back trying to get my stupid ICE mower started one day. I know it's somewhat apples versus diamonds but similar experiences switching to electric mower that owners express when switching to EV: No more gas (or full gas can), instant on/off, no fumes, less noisy, almost no maintenance (mower blades and cleaning dirt off only). Waiting for Model E then I can kiss my gas goodbye!

BrassGuy | January 23, 2014

Two trips to gas stations since I got my S85.
1 for the inspection sticker, as Watertown SC couldn't do it.
1 for fuel for my portable generator when the power went out 2 days ago. It felt like a betrayal putting a can of gas in the car!

renwo S alset | January 23, 2014

Gas stations still play a very important role in our economy, they tend to leak and thus provide employment opportunities to those who have to clean it up. | January 23, 2014

Another gas station plus is they look great in movies when they blow up (although I have yet to seen this happen in person).

MNGreene | January 23, 2014

@TeslaTap, Battery powered lawnmowers are awesome! No fumes, quiet, never going to the gas station for gas (remind you of anything?). My self-propelled Black&Decker will do 45 minutes + on a charge (minimal degredation in battery life after 2 years). If I mow longer than that the battery and I will both be at zero power, so no range anxiety for me. | January 24, 2014

@MNGreene - Sounds like you have the exact model I've been tracking! No need to mow this time of the year here, so I've been hoping for the B&D self-propelled one to go on sale.