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 free roadside assistance for the first 4 years or 50,000 miles.

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.” 
  • Watch for the snowflake icon. When your battery is cold, you’ll need to wait for the battery to warm up in order to use all of its energy. 

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 To Have A Tesla Towed

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

However, it is your responsibility to provide instructions to the transporters on how to safely tow your vehicle. Luckily, your vehicle’s owner’s manual comes with instructions for vehicle transporters that you can hand over. 

It’s good to be in the know about your own car though so the three most important things to remember are: 

  • Flatbed Only Transport by anything other than a flatbed is not covered by the warranty. 
  • 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 emergency brake and keep your vehicle in neutral, you will need to activate tow mode. Placing your vehicle in neutral is not enough as getting out of the car can 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

An update in 2019 allowed Model S and Model X vehicles an extra range. According to Motortrend, the Model S was originally offering 265 miles of range back in 2012. Now with the newest update, the Model S can drive up to 370 miles on a single charge due to a newer engine. Below are the EPA’s estimated ranges for each of the newest Tesla models: 

2019 Model 3

Model 3 Standard Range220 miles
Model 3 Standard Range Plus250 miles
Model 3 Mid-Range264 miles
Model 3 Long Range310 miles
Model 3 Long Range AWD322 miles
Model 3 Performance310 miles

2019 Model S

Model S Standard Range 
(no longer in production as of July 2019)
285 miles 
Model S Long Range370 miles
Model S Performance348 miles

2019 Model X

Model X Long Range328 miles
Model X Performance305 miles

2019 Model Y

Model Y Long Range AWD280 miles
Model Y Long Range RWD300 miles
Model Y Performance280 miles

Cybertruck (scheduled to enter production in 2022)

Cybertruck Single Motor AWD250 miles
Cybertruck Dual Motor AWD300 miles
Cybertruck Tri-Motor AWD500 miles

Can I Increase My Tesla’s Range?

Using a few energy-saving tips can increase how long you can drive your Tesla for on a single charge. 

  • Maintain your speed. A steady speed can truly increase the range, and the slower you go, the longer you can drive. 
  • Use range mode. This increases the range of your Tesla by limiting energy toward extra features. Turning range mode on will decrease the power of your AC/heating system, turn off the daytime running lights, and transfer the majority of power to your front engine to conserve energy. 
  • Use the standard brake setting. Tesla, like most electric vehicles, uses regenerative braking, which allows power to return to your battery when your car is cruising, or you apply the brake. 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 energy-saving mode (if available for your model). The original Model X design had an energy-saving mode that would stop your battery from draining while idle. In newer models, this feature is part of the car automatically.
  • Use seat warmers instead of the heating system. While range mode will decrease the power of your AC/heating system, turning it off completely will allow you to conserve energy. If you’re cold using the seat warming feature, uses less energy than the heating system. 
  • Keep your vehicle aerodynamic. Remove any car attachments you’re not using, like a bike or roof rack, in order to increase aerodynamics.
  • 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 app analyzes your driving patterns and makes suggestions on how to improve your driving range. 

How Much Should I Charge My Tesla?

Tesla recommends not charging your vehicle above 90% or letting the battery drop below 20%. Chargers automatically stop when your battery hits 90% to ensure no damage is done. 

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. 

Nightly charging is recommended to maintain the battery.

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 Model S and Model X vehicles, if you press the charge button 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 supercharger is 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 charges. 

Superchargers are part of the DC fast-charging network and are meant to be used as quick charging stops. Superchargers are limited outside of major metropolitan areas, so planning before long trips is a must. 

Tesla charges users of superchargers by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). For a full charge at a supercharger, it typically costs $22. 

Destination Chargers are meant for longer charging times and are usually a part of hotels, shopping centers, or parking garages. These chargers operate on level-2 charging. 

Some destination chargers charge a flat fee as they are owned by the business that operates the charger. 

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. 

Using the adaptor, Tesla came with you can connect to any electric vehicle charging station or regular outlet. RV parks are recommended for charging as well as they’ll charge your car faster than a typical residential outlet. 

You can use electric vehicle charging station locator apps like EVConnect or Plugshare to find a full map of level 1 and level 2 chargers near you. 

Don’t forget your 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 ChargingDC Fast Charging
Tesla Model S75kWh280-375 miles4 days, 4 miles of range per hour6-30 hours30 minutes*
Tesla Model 375kWH254-329 miles24-34 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 hours, 4 miles of range per hour9.5 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 not recommended for Teslas, but it won’t hurt the car or battery. 

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 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.
  • 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?

The easiest way to find a public charging station near you is to download an app like PlugShare. Once you’ve entered your location, you’ll be able to see the closest charging stations to you, but not all charging stations are created equal.

  • Blink Network is located in 25 states with a larger concentration on the west coast. 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 6,000 sites in 43 states, 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.
  • Tesla Superchargers and Tesla Destination Chargers are specific to Tesla owners and do not require any card or membership. Tesla owners simply pull in and plug into one of the 492 superchargers or 3,000 destination chargers. Cost is usually determined by kWh but varies by state. 
  • The Electric Circuit is the largest public charging network in Quebec, with more than 1,300 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. 

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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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