When most people think of Tesla, they think of its bombastic and eccentric CEO Elon Musk and mid-range to high-end electric vehicles that can travel 270 to 400+ miles per charge. However, several people are leveraging the large lithium-ion battery packs inside their cars to mine for cryptocurrency, according to a new report from CNBC.
Teslas are Point A to Point B vehicles, so you’d be forgiven if cryptomining didn’t immediately spring to mine for usage cases. However, given that the current Model S features a 100 kWh battery pack, it’s possible to harness that energy for mining under ideal circumstances.
In the case of Chris Allessi, he uses a Bitmain Antminer S9 ASIC that is powered by his Model S’ main battery via a power inverter to mine for Bitcoin. Alessi also alleges that he used his car’s central processor, a pokey Intel Atom-based SoC, to mine for Monero using the built-in Tesla web browser. However, we’d imagine that it’s not worth the effort due to the more fruitful prospects of Bitcoin.
But is it really worth it to use your Tesla as a mobile cryptomining platform? Well, it depends. For Alessi, charging his Model S is free for the life of the vehicle using Tesla’s vast Supercharging network. This perk was available to all new Tesla vehicles purchased before January 2017. So, in essence, he’s able to mine for Bitcoin while not taking a hit on one of the most expensive components of the cryptomining equation: ongoing electricity costs.
While it’s technically possible to mine for Bitcoin with all the requisite hardware, Alessi argues that it’s not worth it in the end, adding, “And right now, even though the price for Bitcoin has gone up dramatically, so has the difficulty level.”
For Tesla owners who aren’t so lucky to have free and unlimited Supercharging available, the benefits and profit potential are even more dubious. Siraj Raval, who owns a 2018 Model 3, claims he netted between $400 to $800 per month last year mining for Ethereum. Raval’s setup is a bit more complicated. It involves hacking the Model 3’s internal software to gain direct access to the CPU, then piggybacking five [unnamed] GPUs that tie into the vehicle’s main battery.
“It’s a computer with wheels,” Raval claimed. “It’s so simple to hack into this computer car.”
But there’s only one problem; unlike Alessi, Raval doesn’t have access to unlimited Supercharging. So that means he must rely on charging from the grid at home, which of course, adds to his monthly utility bill. So whether Raval uses his Model 3 to mine or plugs a mining rig directly into a wall outlet at home, he’s paying for the electricity used to mine for Ethereum.
One must also remember that the lithium-ion battery pack in Teslas (and all other electric vehicles) degrade over time. According to Tesla’s estimates, its batteries will lose roughly 10 percent of maximum charge [PDF] after 200,000 miles. So for a $50,000 Model 3 Long Range with a 358-mile range, you’d be looking at a loss of nearly 36 miles during that span. Mining for cryptocurrency could potentially hasten that wear depending on how crazy people get with their hardware setups, which again begs the question, “What’s the point?”
“Why would you want to put that kind of wear and tear on a $40,000 to $100,000 car?” Alessi told CNBC.
Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom’s Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.