Siraj Raval has used his 2018 Tesla Model 3 to mine for bitcoins in almost every method possible.
He's also linked interconnected graphics processing units, or GPUs, to his Tesla's "frunk," powering them with the car's internal battery.
Raval feels it's worth it, even if it means voiding his automobile guarantee.
He claims he was earning up to $800 per month when the price of ether peaked in 2021.
Bitcoin miner Alejandro de la Torre said that mining with a Tesla is much the same as mining from any other power source.
“The main component is the price of the electricity. If it’s cheaper doing it through an electric vehicle, then so be it,” said de la Torre.
How to mine cryptocurrency with a Tesla
Chris Allessi, who claims to be Wisconsin's first electric vehicle salesman, chose to tamper with his Tesla in 2018.
Allessi, who makes bespoke electric automobiles in his spare time and styles himself as a modern-day Doc Brown, the character from the film "Back to the Future" who retrofits a car into a time machine, is no stranger to such situations.
“I like electricity. I like zapping stuff, building stuff. You give me an electric motor, I give you a finished product,” he said.
Similar to Raval, Allessi has tried out a couple of different ways to transform his Tesla Model S into a crypto mining rig.
Allessi experimented with bitcoin mining by connecting a Bitmain Antminer S9 — a sort of mining equipment designed particularly for minting the world's most popular cryptocurrency — to his automobile battery through a power converter. Tesla's electric battery's voltage is adjusted by the inverter to a level that is compatible with his Antminer.
Allessi has also successfully used the vehicle’s internal firmware to mine for altcoins.
“It was no big deal,” he said of the process. He used the built-in computer and screen in the car to navigate to a web page that he had set up specifically to mine for the popular privacy token monero. “I could run the mining program within the browser,” Allessi explained.
Of all the techniques that Raval has tried, he said the most profitable involves a mix of hacking into Tesla’s internal computer, plus plugging GPUs directly into the car’s electric motor.
“It’s a computer with wheels...It’s so simple to hack into this computer car,” Raval said, who describes the process as essentially hijacking the car’s internal firmware to allow for extra power usage.
Tesla hacker and crypto miner Thomas Sohmers argued this step isn’t necessary.
“The car is already built to deliver over 100 kilowatts, and anything connecting to the car is going to be a fraction of that. There’s no need to do what [Raval] says he’s doing. It doesn’t make technical sense,” said Sohmers.
From there, Raval tethers five GPUs to his Tesla battery, and he runs a hashing algorithm to mine for ethereum.
Professional-grade miners tell CNBC that, in theory, the logistics check out.
“The mechanisms are all there,” explained Whit Gibbs, CEO and founder of Compass, a bitcoin mining service provider.
“You have a power source, you have space, you have the ability to add cooling. There’s certainly enough power provided by the battery to fire up an ASIC and run it,” continued Gibbs.
Profitable but worth the hassle?
Allessi, for example, bought his car before January 2017, which means he's eligible for free and unlimited supercharging for the rest of his vehicle's life.
He thinks that in 2018, he made $10 worth of bitcoin in a 60-hour window, all of which was profitable since he didn't have to pay for electricity.
Even if it was profitable, he claims it was not worth it.
“Why would you want to put that kind of wear and tear on a $40,000 to $100,000 car?” he said. “And right now, even though the price for bitcoin has gone up dramatically, so has the difficulty level...In the same amount of time with the exact same equipment, I’m probably looking at $1 or $2 worth of bitcoin.”
Mining for monero proved similarly fruitless.
“Did it work? Yes. Did it mine anything worthwhile to be able to be profitable in any way, shape, or form? No,” explained Allessi.Raval is more bullish about his Tesla's earning potential.
Raval claims that his vehicle's battery is "bar none," so he gets a lot of bang for his buck, even if he needs to pay to charge it.
Raval's automobile has a range of 320 miles per charge and costs between $10 and $15 to charge. If he drives it for a few hours every day, he will need to charge it once every one and a half weeks, resulting in a monthly expense of $30 to $60.
Raval says he mines for about 20 hours a day on his Tesla battery. Raval has built in various backstops to assure profitability, despite the fact that the price of cryptocurrencies like ethereum is prone to fluctuation.
For one, he stakes his ethereum on “Midas.Investments,” a custodial crypto investment platform that offers him an annual percentage yield of 23% on his investment. He also never cashes out to U.S. dollars so that his crypto nest egg keeps growing.Raval often buys his GPUs secondhand on eBay, which saves him money.
Taking all of these processes into consideration, Raval claims that he made between $400 and $800 each month in 2021, making the enterprise lucrative even amid the crypto down market.
Sohmers, who claims to have been the first to break into the Model 3 in 2018, tells CNBC that such large gains are just not conceivable.
“The best estimate I would have for the hashrate for the GPU in the Model 3 would be around 7-10 MH/s. Currently, at 10 MH/s, that would generate revenue of about $13.38 worth of ether, before any expenses,” Sohmers told CNBC.
Allessi tells CNBC that he doesn’t bother with mining anymore.
“The difficulty is so high...I could make more money working at McDonald’s,” he said.
Allessi did offer one alternative. “If you’re working for a company, you’d be better off hiding a miner up in the drop ceiling than you would be mining with a car,” he said of siphoning free electricity from an employer.But mining cryptocurrency with his Tesla isn't simply a gimmick for Raval. Instead, it's an important aspect of his goal to turn his Tesla into a completely autonomous robotaxi that generates cryptocurrency whenever it isn't driving.
Although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has praised the vehicle's potential to become autonomous robotaxis, Teslas are still a long way from being self-driving. Raval, on the other hand, is optimistic about the future.
“It will use its earnings, from both transportation services and cryptocurrency mining services, to pay for its own expenses, like repairs, electricity costs, and upgrades, as well as invest them into a diversified portfolio of emerging crypto-community networks,” he said.
CORRECTION: The article has been updated to reflect the fact that Siraj Raval has only tried mining for ethereum and bitcoin. Some of the technical details about the way Raval hacked his car have also been corrected. The story has been amended as well to include additional voices that call into question Raval’s mining method.