What Happens When a Tesla Battery Dies on the Road?


What Happens When a Tesla Battery Dies on the Road?

No one wants to run out of fuel on the road. For gas-fueled car owners, this can involve an inconvenient walk to the nearest gas station or calling a friend to bring you a gallon of gas. Typically, though, you know what to do in that situation.

What happens when a Tesla battery dies on the road? If your Tesla battery truly hits zero, there’s not much you can do except call a flatbed truck to tow you to the nearest charge station. Luckily, all Teslas come with roadside assistance for the first 4 years or 50,000 miles. It’s a small fee to use the “Out of Charge” towing service, but they will tow you directly to the nearest charger with ease.

For Tesla owners, this situation can be brand new. You can’t just walk to the gas station and fill up a can. And it’s not as easy as calling a friend to bring you a bit of electricity. So, let’s talk about what you can do – and how to avoid getting into this pickle in the first place. 

Tesla Low Battery Warning Signs

Each Tesla’s navigation system shows where the closest superchargers and destination chargers are along your route. The system also displays your battery charge and an estimate of the mileage you have left before empty. 

If you miss these meters getting low, more warning signs are engaged:

  • If your battery is low and you are driving out of range of a supercharger, your Tesla will alert you. 
  • If you are near your destination but low on battery, your Tesla will advise you to slow down to conserve battery power. It will recommend a speed repeatedly until you reach your destination. 
  • When you get to the last 10% of your charge, your battery icon will turn from yellow to red.
  • When your battery gets below 10% while idling (i.e., if you forgot to charge your car overnight), a notification will be sent to your Tesla mobile app. 
  • When your car reaches 5%, a large notification will appear on your main screen reading “Charge Now.”
  • If you continue to drive after that point, the car will slow down and become sluggish until it finally gives you the instruction to “Pull Over Safely.”  

So, that is quite a bit of fair warning.

Fortunately, if your Tesla completely runs out of battery, you’ll still be able to use the 12V battery to open the charge hatch and switch the car to tow mode. 

How Do You Tow a Tesla?

Contacting Tesla’s Roadside Assistance is the first step to getting your vehicle towed. They will send a vehicle transporter to move your car.

You can call Tesla Roadside Assistance at 877-798-3752 or contact them via your Tesla Smartphone App.

Tesla Roadside Assistance covers Flat Tires, Lockouts, and Breakdown Towing for free, but Out of Range Towing is a small fee.

Towing a Tesla is a bit different than a traditional car. Here are a few things to know:

  • Flatbed Only: Teslas must be towed using a Flat Bed tow truck only.
  • Disable “Self-Leveling”: If you have a Model S with air suspension, you will need to activate “Jack Mode” to prevent the vehicle from self-leveling during transport. If not activated, the car can come loose from the flatbed. 
  • Activate “Tow Mode”: To turn off the automatic emergency brake when exiting the vehicle, and keep your vehicle in neutral, you will need to activate “Tow Mode”. Placing your vehicle in Neutral is not enough because getting out of the car will trigger Auto-Parking and the emergency brake.

How Far Can My Tesla Drive?

As with traditional gas vehicles, the range of a Tesla depends on how you drive the car and your environment. The range of a Tesla is an estimate of how far your Tesla can drive on a single charge. 

Most estimates are based on going an average of 65 mph, so going faster than that will limit your range. Tesla reports the following factors that can also limit your range: 

  • Stop-and-go speeds
  • Short trips
  • Uphill travel
  • Inclement weather such as rain, snow, or headwinds
  • Low tire pressure
  • High use of heat or A/C system

Tesla vehicles range is constantly improving. To see the current maximum range per charge, see Tesla’s website.

Can I Increase My Tesla’s Range?

Using a few energy-saving tips can increase your Teslas maximum range per charge. 

  • Maintain your speed. A steady speed can truly increase the range, and the slower you go, the longer you can drive. 
  • Use “Chill” mode. This increases the range of your Tesla by limiting the acceleration power, thus using less electricity. You’ll still be one of the fastest cars from the red light, but it will be considerably slower than “Sport” mode.
  • Use the “Standard” regenerative brake setting. Tesla, like most electric vehicles, uses regenerative braking. This allows power to return to your battery when your car is coasting, or braking. Tesla has two options for its regenerative brakes: Low and Standard. Standard may take some getting used to, but it is far more energy-efficient.
  • Use seat warmers instead of the heating system. If you’re cold, using the seat warming feature can keep you warm while using less energy than the heating system from the air vents.
  • Keep your vehicle aerodynamic. Remove any car attachments you’re not using, like a bike or roof rack.
  • Don’t pack too much. The less weight the car needs to carry, the less energy it needs to expend getting you to your destination. 
  • Pay attention to your driving habits. All of these tips are useful in a pinch, but the most important factor in conserving energy is understanding how you are expending your vehicle’s energy while driving. Tesla’s energy page on the touchscreen shows you how efficiently you’ve been driving.

How Much Should I Charge My Tesla?

Tesla recommends not charging your vehicle above 90% or letting the battery drop below 20%. Be sure to set your charging limit to 90% or lower to automatically stop charging once it reaches the limit.

It’s also recommended to only use high voltage chargers like superchargers for short periods of time and only when necessary. A low voltage charger is much better for your battery’s longevity. Nightly charging on a 120v or 240v charger is recommended for the best battery longevity.

Tesla Charge Port Color Guide

The light surrounding your Tesla’s charge port can communicate quite a few things with you:

  • White – The charge port door is open, but no connector is inserted. Or, it could indicate that the latch is released, and the connector is ready to be removed.
  • Blue – Your car detects that a connector has been plugged in.
  • Blinking Blue – Your car preparing to charge, or a charging session is scheduled to begin at a specified time in the future.
  • Blinking Green – Fast: Charging is in progress. Slower: Your car is approaching full charge. 
  • Solid Green – Charging is complete.
  • Solid Amber – The connector is not fully plugged in. Realign the connector to the charger port and insert it fully. 
  • Blinking Amber –  Your car is charging at reduced current (AC charging only)
  • Red – A fault is detected, and charging has stopped. Check for an error message.

Interested in a colorful Tesla surprise? On some newer Tesla vehicles, if you press the charge button on the charger handle ten times in a row quickly, your charge port will flash in rainbow colors. 

How To Find The Nearest Supercharger

While driving your Tesla, the nearest superchargers are displayed on your navigation screen. 

If you’re outside of your Tesla and need to do some research on supercharger locations, you can use the Tesla mobile app or navigate to tesla.com/superchargers

You can even plan out a route, and your charging stops by using tesla.com/trips.

Supercharger vs. Destination Chargers

Tesla operates two types of charging stations meant specifically for Tesla drivers: Superchargers and Destination Chargers. 

Superchargers are part of the DC fast-charging network and are meant to be used as quick charging stops. These are Level 3 chargers, meaning they can charge between 300-1000 miles per hour. Superchargers are limited outside of major metropolitan areas, so planning before long trips is a must.

Tesla Superchargers charge users by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). For example, a full charge at a Supercharger typically costs about $15-$20, or $0.25kWh.

Destination Chargers are meant for longer charging times and are usually located at hotels, shopping centers, or parking garages. These are Level 2 chargers, meaning they can charge between 30-40 miles per hour. 

Most destination chargers are complimentary, especially at hotels if you are a guest. However, some destination chargers charge a small fee, or they require you to pay for parking in order to use them.

Where Else Can I Charge My Tesla?

Teslas can technically be charged using just about any outlet, but using a residential outlet is going to take you a very, very long time to charge. Standard wall outlets are Level 1 chargers, meaning they can charge between 3-5 miles per hour. For at home, overnight charging, this is pretty common.

You can bring the charger cable that comes with every Tesla with you when you travel. This way you can always plug into any outlet on the road, and pick up charge for free. Tesla even sells a 240v outlet adapter, so you can bring that with you too and plug into 240v outlets for faster free charging.

If you’re camping overnight at a campsite with an electric plug-in, this is a great time to have your 240v charger handy! Plug in and charge to full overnight, included for free with your camp site fee.

Don’t forget your charger and adaptor!

How Long Does It Take To Charge My Electric Vehicle?

How long it takes to charge an electric vehicle can vary anywhere between 30 minutes to multiple days, depending on the size of the battery and the speed of the charging point. 

ModelBatteryRange Between ChargesLevel 1 ChargingLevel 2 ChargingLevel 3 Charging
Tesla Model S100kWh348-396 miles87-99 hours6-30 hours30 minutes*
Tesla Model 382kWh267-358 miles67-90 hours8-11 hours40-60 minutes*
Nissan Leaf40kWh168 miles20 hours4-8 hours30 minutes
Smart EQ forfour18kWh99 miles11.5 hours5 hoursNot available for this vehicle
Chevy Volt18kWh53 miles14 hours9.5 hours1 hour 20 minutes
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV14kWh28 miles5 hours3.5 hours80 percent in 25 minutes

Teslas operate a little differently in that their fast chargers are called Tesla Superchargers and can charge a Tesla in 30-40 minutes. The Supercharger map is built into the Tesla navigation system. Level 1 charging is recommended for daily, overnight, charging to keep your Tesla topped off. If your daily commute only uses 50 miles per day, a standard Level 1 charger at home can make those miles up overnight with ease. 

What Are The Different Types of Charging for an Electric Vehicle? 

There are three main types of electric vehicle charging: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 DC Fast charging. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, these are:

  • Level 1 charging is most common for home-use, with it only requiring a regular 120-volt wall outlet. This level of charging is most useful if the vehicle will be parked for several hours.
  • Level 2 charging works about six times faster than level 1 charging. Most public charging stations are level 2, and you can opt to have one installed in your home as well. This level of charging is most useful if the vehicle will be parked for at least an hour.
  • Level 3 DC Fast charging stations can deliver some electric vehicles up to 80% of its power in 20-30 minutes. This charging option is not available for all-electric vehicle types; most plug-in hybrids can only charge at level 1 or 2.

What Are The Top Electric Vehicle Charging Networks?

Beyond Tesla Superchargers and Destination Chargers, there are plenty of 3rd party chargers surfacing as well. Here’s a list of electric vehicle charging networks:

  • Tesla Superchargers and Tesla Destination Chargers are specific to Tesla owners and do not require any additional membership. Tesla owners simply pull in and plug into one of the thousands of Superchargers or Destination Chargers. Cost is usually determined by kWh, typically about $0.25 per kWh, but varies by state.
  • Blink Network is located in nearly every state nationwide. Blink does not charge any membership fees, but the charging station can cost roughly from $0.40 to $.80 per kWh depending on the state.
  • ChargePoint is the largest charging network with over 100,000 chargers nationwide, so setting up an account with them is highly recommended for all-electric car drivers. Most ChargePoint locations are free, but some owners in different locations do charge.
  • eVgo is primarily centered in Texas but has locations in Tennessee, California, and Washington, D.C. as well. A membership card is required, but their company states they “will always help an EV driver in need of a charge.”
  • SemaConnect is a Maryland-based charging station company that operates in about 20 states with over 1,000 charging stations. Cost is determined by the property owner, but a membership card is required. 
  • Electric Circuit is the largest public charging network in Quebec, with more than 3,400 stations available in Canada. The rate for the use of a level 2 charger is a flat fee of $2.50, no matter how long you use the station.

Do You Need a Back-Up Gas Powered Car?

Whether or not you can truly give up your gas vehicle and opt completely for a Tesla, or other electric vehicle, truly depends on your lifestyle and how careful a planner you are. 

Are you the type of person likely to forget to plug their car in at night and can’t be late to work while your car charges? You’d likely benefit from having a backup. 

Or you may be worried about being able to make it across long-distances. With electric vehicle charging stations becoming more prevalent, this is becoming less of an issue for electric vehicle drivers. 

If you need a car for a long-distance trip away from electric vehicle chargers, it may be cheaper to rent a car than have to deal with the maintenance of another vehicle you’ll only use for infrequent long trips.

Hopefully this article has helped you learn all about Teslas and what to do if the battery dies while you’re on the road. 

Tesla Discounts:

Greg Gottfried

The articles here on ThatTeslaChannel.com are created by Greg Gottfried, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. Being a Tesla owner allows Greg to fact-check information and personally try new scenarios out before publishing an article explaining the process.

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