How To Charge Your Tesla: All The Details You Need To Know


How To Charge Your Tesla: All The Details You Need To Know

Whether you are a new Tesla owner or a prospective Tesla buyer, you may have some questions about charging the Tesla.  How much does it cost to Charge a Tesla is one question that may come to mind? How do you charge the Tesla on long-distance Trips? 

How do you charge your Tesla?  To charge a Tesla, it’s important to know the following:

  • Charge a Tesla to 90% 
  • Leave a Tesla plugged In
  • A Tesla can be charged for as little as .03 c.p.m.
  • Charge the Tesla daily
  • A Tesla cannot be overcharged

Owning a Tesla is more than a driving experience. The ability to drive right past a gas station, knowing that you don’t need to go in there, is just one of the many benefits of owning a Tesla. Tesla has been popular since the release of the Tesla Roadster, leaving people with questions about the charging system.  We will answer all of those questions and more in this guide. 

Should You Charge Your Tesla To 100?

There is not a definitive answer to exactly how much you should charge your Tesla. It depends on a number of different factors, including how long your trips are, and the model that you have. 

Unless your daily trip is over 200 miles away, there is no need to charge the Tesla to 100. Most models recommend a charge cap of 80-90% with a bottom cap of 30-40%. Elon Musk himself has recommended charging the 30% range. (opens in a new tab)”>Tesla to an 80->30% range.

Tesla recommends setting a daily charge limit on your tesla so that it won’t go over that limit. This will also lower your charging costs overall, as it costs more to charge the battery from 90%-100%. It could be best for your Tesla battery to keep the charge between 30-70% if your commute is shorter. 

If taking a long-distance trip, the consensus is to charge enough to get to the next station. Leaving a small buffer of about 10-12 percent will help to ensure that you don’t run out of juice. Planning accordingly is, obviously, the best solution to not run out of electricity. 

Can You Overcharge Your Tesla

Tesla has a Battery Management System that is installed in every battery pack. Because of that pack, you cannot overcharge your Tesla. 

Inside the Lithium-Ion Battery pack are three main components to the Battery Management System. 

  • Cells: The individual cells that make up each lithium-Ion battery
  • Modules: Clusters of Lithium-Ion batteries together in a systematic sequence. 
  • Cooling system: The system that cools off the individual modules as they charge

The connections that bring the entire battery pack together have sensors on them to monitor each individual cell. The sensors send information back to the battery monitoring system, and the system tells the battery how to respond. 

Using this technology makes it impossible to overcharge your Tesla. Tesla has built-in a security system to not allow overcharging to happen.  This system prevents what is known as trickle charging. Most systems will charge at a rate of 4.3 Voltz per cell. After the top charge is reached, the system only charges to compensate for self-discharge loss.  Your Tesla will only recharge at a specified point of 4.03 volts to replenish the discharged amount allowing you to keep a full battery. 

What Kind of Battery Does Tesla Use?

Tesla has chosen to use a Panasonic cylindrical lithium-ion battery for its efficiency and lower cost per unit. This battery is manufactured in several different standardized sizes, including AAA and AA, C, D, etc. Tesla chose this option mainly because of the high performance that the cylindrical cell offers. 

The cylindrical cell has a higher density but is difficult to place into modules. If something goes wrong with a single cell, then the other 7,000 cells can help pick up the added weight of the damaged cell. Even during a crash, if some of the cells are damaged, the Tesla can still operate on the remaining working cells. 

There are single cylindrical cells packed into modules or clusters of cells. Connecting these cells via a Buss connecter, allows Tesla to send and receive data about the individual cells. Since each individual module has a voltage rating of only 25 volts, the risk of electric shock is very minimal. This makes it safe for the human touch, meaning you don’t have to worry about electric shock if you come into contact with a module. 

Each cylinder is connected to the bus-bars by a single wire that acts as a fuse. Using a cooling system to manage the temperature of the battery, these cells can last for a long time without losing the charge. 

Should You Leave Your Tesla Plugged In?

The Saying Goes “ A Happy Tesla is a Plugged in Tesla,” according to Torque News. If you are using it daily, you should plug it in daily. If you are only using your Tesla one or two days a week, you should still plug the Tesla in and set the charge limit appropriately. 

You cannot really overcharge your Tesla or wear the battery down by charging it too much.  There are safety protocols in place to ensure that you do very little damage to the car with normal daily use.  The battery management system that comes with every Tesla will help you keep your batteries in good condition. 

Charging your Tesla when the battery is warm will give you the most efficient charge that you can get. A Cold battery will charge slower, and a warm battery will charge faster. Also leaving the tesla plugged in after it has charged completely does no harm to the Tesla. 

You won’t lose range on a charge if it is plugged in too long. Tesla recommends that you leave your Tesla plugged in when not in use. If going on a trip, there is no need to set a lower charge limit on your Tesla, and it won’t help your battery life in the least amount. 

How do I know if my Tesla is Charging?

Tesla has a nice color-coding system that you can find on their website. It explains what all of the different charging lights mean and what functions they are serving at the time. 

The different options are 

  • White: The charge port door is open.  You can insert or remove the charging cable when you see this light. 
  • Blue: Your Tesla is aware that the connector has been plugged in and connected.  At this point, it should establish a communication with the charging system. 
  • Blinking Blue: This light just indicates that it is establishing a connection with the Charging system. 
  • Blinking Green:  The light you want to see when you are expecting your Tesla to be charging. The blinking green light indicates that the charge is in progress. 
  • Solid Green: The car is completely charged        
  • Solid Amber:  The connection from the plug to the car is not fully plugged in.  You should remove and reinsert the charge plug to the vehicle
  • Blinking Amber: Your Tesla is charging but at a reduced rate.  If you see this light, check the connection to the wall and other areas. 
  • Red:  There is a fault detected, and your vehicle is not charging.  Look at your instrument panel where your Tesla should indicate what is wrong. 

These lights are universal, whether you are using the home charger plugs or the supercharger stations on the road. 

Portable Charging A Tesla

Disappointedly, there is not a stand-alone product, such as solar panels, that is strong enough to produce enough electricity to where Tesla would move any more than 1-5 miles per day’s charge. Although the thought of a portable battery pack is appealing, it simply is just not possible. 

The concept of solar charging a car has been a discussion since Toyota released solar panels on one of their Prius models. This was more of a gimmick, as the only thing they did was run the accessories on the car. Solar panels simply do not produce enough energy to charge the battery pack for Tesla. 

Sparkcharge is a company that has recently come out with a convenient battery pack to charge Electric vehicles on the road at a rate of one mile per minute. However, it isn’t yet clear whether they are available for residential purchase, or commercial use only. 

The other concern with the Sparkcharge is having the capability of charging a Tesla for an affordable price point. With all of the supercharger stations popping up around the country, the spark charge may not need to ever charge a Tesla. 

Can you Take a Tesla Across the Country? 

The short answer is yes, you can drive a Tesla across the country. There are many places to stop and charge your Tesla along the way from California to New York and everywhere in between.  You can use Tesla’s trip planner to plan your route. 

Some critics claim that it adds a lot of time to your route, and it does add time. Considering a trip from central California to Maine in a gas-powered vehicle is rated for 48 hours through Google Maps, but the same trip is 65 hours on Tesla’s planner because of charging stops. 

Planning your trip out may take an extra few minutes, but not a few hours. You have more stops, and if you treat your charge stops as pit stops, then it won’t really add too much extra time to your trip. If you are stopping for the night, just make sure where you plan to stop will allow you to use the plugin. 

However, if you follow the charging stations, you should not need to plug-in from an outlet. You can always check websites like PlugShare for any charging stations in or around cities that you plan on visiting. 

Dealing with Range Anxiety

Range anxiety is the idea that you will run out of electricity before you reach your destination or charge area. Similar to the idea that you will run out of gas before reaching the next destination. Gas stations are on every corner or at least one in every town in the US. 

Charging Stations, however, are not as popular and can be farther in between. This is really something that you don’t need to worry about with your Tesla, As they can go for a minimum of 250 miles on a full charge. If you do happen to find yourself without power, on the side of the road, you would need to be towed. 

With Apps like Plugshare, you can always find a reliable charge station, and even more so with a Tesla. Tesla has a feature inside the map system that will let you know, and route you to the nearest charge station well before you run out of juice. 

If you are going out of town, just plan your trip appropriately, and charge your Tesla before you leave. Make sure you bring some added connectors with you in case you decide to spend the night in an area that doesn’t have a Tesla supercharger station. 

What Does it Cost to Charge a Tesla?

Depending on the model of Tesla, and the current rate of Electricity per Kilo Watt Hour (KWH), It can cost anywhere from $11.47 to $15.29.  Solar Reviews does a great job of Breaking down these costs on their site.  

This chart below will compare the costs based on the national average cost per Kilowatt and the national average cost per gallon of gas. 

ModelKWH/Tank sizeFUELRangeCost to FillCost Per 100 MilesCost Per Mile
Model 375Electric310 Miles$11.47$3.7$.037
S100Electric370 Miles$15.29$4.13$.041
X60-100Electric295 Miles$15.29$5.20$.052
Gas Car (ICE)12 Gallon TankGas350 Miles$31.44$8.90$.089

You can see that it is significantly cheaper to operate a Tesla vehicle over a gas-powered Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. 

How much Does it Cost to Own A Tesla? 

The average maintenance costs on Tesla over a five-year period are around $2800. That is an impressively low maintenance cost in comparison to other gas-powered machines. The average person will spend only $712 per year to pay for fuel in the Tesla. 

A Gas-powered motor at current gas prices would costs around $1200 per year just in fuel. Tesla will also retain a higher value over a 5-year period at 17% estimated by Kelly Bluebook.  Federal Tax Credits are also available but will be disappearing soon. 

One of the most expensive annual costs on the Tesla is the annual insurance, costing on average $3,300 per year in insurance premiums.  Companies are saying that you just can’t restore them to their original condition, a dent may cost $15,000 to fix. 

Tesla boasts a 4/year 50,000-mile comprehensive warranty and an 8 year/unlimited mile battery warranty on all new Model S and X Teslas and 8 year/100,000-mile battery warranty for the Model 3. The Model S and X also come with an annual 1,000 hours of supercharging time at any supercharge station nationwide.  

Maintenance costs on a Tesla are significantly lower, as it is mostly just tire rotations and systems checks. 

Do Tesla’s Work Well in The Cold

One of the major gripes about owning a Tesla is the battery power below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. There is virtually nothing that Tesla can do to combat this issue simply because of the lithium Ion batteries that are used.

All cars will perform differently in colder climates.  In some climates the lead-based batteries have to be completely removed in order to use them the next morning. Some towns even recommend using an electric battery blanket in order to save the battery of your gas-powered car in Sub-zero temperatures. 

Considering what Tesla is up against in the cold weather, being a few miles off in terms of predicting the range the car will go is a small problem to combat. 

Although you may experience a slower charge time or a miscalculation of the distance remaining, Tesla does great in arctic climates overall. The alternative is that the lithium Ion batteries cannot be charged at all in sub-zero temperatures.  Due to Tesla’s Battery Maintenance System, you don’t have to worry about this because the maintenance system takes care of the battery temperatures for you. You just may need to start your Tesla and let it warm up a bit before charging it. 

How Often Should You Charge A Tesla? 

The General consensus is that you charge your Tesla nightly up to 80-90% fully charged. Lithium-Ion Batteries have some tricky physics behind them, to say the least. The first 20% and the last 20% are the trickiest parts. 

Too little electricity or too much can cause damage to the batteries, or cells. Keeping your daily charge, around 90% is the most recommended solution. You also don’t want to keep your Tesla anywhere near 100 or 0. 

If you choose to go a different route, some people only charge their Tesla Weekly after 200-300 miles. This is okay, but not the common practice. Some people feel that a 50% charge is sufficient and will keep the battery life lasting longer.  The only issue with this logic is that 50% of the battery never sees electricity. 

If it is a 4-cell lithium Ion Battery, then only 2 cells are being used. Charging to at least 80% ensures that you are not overcharging or undercharging the battery. The safety cutoff ensures that you are not paying for charging hours when your Tesla is not charging. 

Can I Use Solar to Charge my Tesla? 

With the recent acquisition of Solar City by Tesla, the question comes as no surprise as to if you can use solar to charge the Tesla.  Yes, it is estimated that you would need to add roughly about ten full-sized solar panels to make it work. 

Considering the costs associated with adding ten solar panels to the house, and how much It would cost to just use the wall outlet, it is cheaper not to use solar if you already have a system. You would be adding an additional $2,000 just for the panels, and possibly another $2,000 for installation, not including getting city permits. 

If you currently do not have a solar system in place at your home, then it may be beneficial to consider getting one. The cost of obtaining a solar system is a sunk cost at this point, meaning that you would incur no additional cost if you chose not to include the Tesla in your estimation. 

Since you are going to spend the money anyway (Sunk Cost), your cost of charging your Tesla on solar just decreased dramatically. You would probably save money at this point, and if you somehow wind up going back to an ICE vehicle, you would still have the added power production from the solar panels. 

Charging Lithium-Ion Batteries 

Unlike lead or acid-based charges, the Lithium-Ion battery charges slightly different. If there is constant current, the rate in which the battery is fully charged will increase or decrease with the voltage. The higher the voltage, the quicker the cells charge in the battery. 

Usually, this happens in spurts or levels that are pre-determined by the engineers that designed the battery pack. Lithium-Ion batteries also do not typically have a trickle charge system like found in the lead-acid system. 

The Lithium-Ion battery system cannot accept any overcharge, so limiting the amount of charge to a certain level is set up by the engineers also.  

Gimmicks to prolong battery life simply do not work. Most high capacity systems charge at a rate of 4.3V per cell. The average Tesla has about 7,000 lithium-ion cells in its battery.  This would mean that to charge the Tesla instantly, you would need 30,700 Volts and enough amperage to transport the electricity to the battery.

How Long Do lithium Ion Batteries take to charge? 

Lithium-Ion batteries only charge to capacity, and will not accept anything over the capacity of electricity it was designed for. The Lithium-Ion Battery is said to be fully charged when the current inside reaches a decreased level of 3-5%. 

Most manufacturers only recommend charging to 80% capacity to avoid overcharge and prolong battery life. At higher voltages the charge rate increases; however, the efficiency will stay the same at around 99%. 

Lithium-Ion can only be charged with low voltage because they cannot accept a high voltage input.  The way to fast charge is to avoid the “Saturation charge” area of a Lithium-ion battery. This usually charges the battery to about 85% of capacity in a relatively short time frame. 

You always want to use the appropriate charger for any lithium-Ion batteries. When the battery is first plugged in, the first portion of the battery charges really fast. As the battery fills, the voltage rate per cell decreases, making the current decrease, slowing down the charge.  This is how Tesla’s Supercharger works. 

Self-Discharge and Lithium-Ion Batteries 

All Batteries will self-discharge at some point, and the process of self-discharging comes at different rates depending on a number of different factors. 

Lithium-Ion batteries lose electricity asymptotical, which means that the longer it sits, the lower the rate in which it leaks. 

The self-discharge rate on a Lithium-Ion Battery goes like this: 

  • 5% in the first 24 hours
  • 1-2% per month 
  • +3% for the safety circuit 

This means that if you left your Tesla unplugged but charged at 80% capacity for an entire month. You would have lost only 10% of the full charge and would be around 70% charged.  Let’s say you left it for a year, unplugged, It would still have about 40% left. 

The temperature also affects the discharge capacity, as well. You can lose up to 20% if the temperature is at around 77 Degrees Fahrenheit. If you keep the charge between 40 and 60%, you would only lose 4%.  

Tesla’s Brightly-Charged Future

Tesla’s strong point isn’t in developing cars but in developing energy efficiency. It is more about the experience than the actual product itself. As taxes continue to rise and oil eventually becomes scarce enough. The only thing left is going to be clean energy. 

With Tesla’s ability to change consumers’ minds about the entire driving experience, they have developed an extremely brand loyal customer. Tesla is not going to stop with just selling cars to private owners. 

Tesla is an engineering company, and it is lighting the future of energy efficiency for many customers. The luxury features that we receive in the private vehicle market are widely available in other transportation markets. Tesla seems to be reverse-engineering the entire industry.

The more that the experience changes the way consumers expect driving to be like, or want it to be like, the more Tesla will capture the market share. After all, who wants to stop at a gas station every 200 miles anymore?  

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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