Charging has got to be the most discussed topic on Teslas because there are tons of contradictions floating around about charging best practices.
Considering this is still fairly new technology, maybe we can just chalk it up to growing pains with electric vehicles.
There are differing opinions on charging type, length, how far to drain the battery before charging…and the list goes on.
But don’t worry, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide for charging your Tesla Model 3.
We’ll also cover multiple scenarios for those who are charging on the go, those who can’t charge at home, and those who are away for long periods of time. We’ll even tackle charging for different battery types.
First, let’s kick it off with our list of Tesla Model 3 charging best practices to keep your battery and your vehicle running smoothly:
Top 5 Tesla Model 3 Charging Best Practices
#1 – Set a daily charging routine.
Just like exercising or dieting, establishing good charging habits from the beginning will pay off in the long run.
Consistency is key, and it will help your Tesla’s battery pack last longer and slow down the process of battery degradation.
The ideal routine consists of you charging your Model 3 daily at home with a low-voltage wall charger.
This will keep your battery topped up and ready for commutes and longer trips without having to rely on Supercharging, which can put more stress on your battery.
Also, electricity rates tend to be lower during the evening, which will help both your wallet and your battery.
It might seem like overkill to charge every night, but as the Tesla manual states, the most important way to preserve your battery is to leave your vehicle plugged in when you’re not using it.
Model 3 has one of the most sophisticated battery systems in the world. The most important way to preserve the Battery is to LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE PLUGGED IN when you are not using it.Model 3 Owner’s Manual
#2 – Max out at 90%.
Just like with your cell phone batteries, experts recommend avoiding charging to 100%.
A new Model 3 owner tweeted to Elon Musk, asking how much charge she should put in every night.
He said that 90%–95% is the way to go.
There are lots of debates out there, but one thing to keep in mind when finding your charging sweet spot is that regenerative braking doesn’t kick in if the battery is close to 100%.
You’ll want to take advantage of regenerative braking and all that stored energy you can recoup from your own driving — especially if you drive downhill often.
Regardless of what number you settle on, just know that 100% every day is not ideal. Most owners say that anywhere from 80% to 90% is perfect for them.
#3 – Don’t dip below 20%.
The new failing grade for charging percentage minimums is 20%.
If you’re constantly draining the battery below the 20% mark, it can lead to lower battery performance over time.
If you don’t need the entire range of the battery, don’t use it. Even if you come home with 50% charge, it’s fine to top up to 80%–90% again.
Plugging in often is recommended. There’s no need to deplete the battery completely before charging.
There have even been horror stories of Tesla owners effectively “bricking” their Tesla battery through some very poor charging practices, including frequent drainings.
Best to avoid either extremely low or extremely high charging percentages.
#4 -Precondition the battery.
Another way to preserve your battery life while maximizing range is to precondition it.
Canadian channel Tesla Canuck walks you through how to do this — as well as winter tests that show the significant difference precondition can make.
This will bring the battery up to its optimum temperature while preventing significant range loss.
It is a great feature in the extreme cold of winter when the battery might have to work overtime to get to a decent temperature for receiving charge at a good rate.
If it’s chilly outside, you’ll want to activate the preconditioning feature to get your battery set to an appropriate temperature prior to driving or Supercharging.
#5 – Follow these Supercharging tips.
Tesla recommends preconditioning about 10–20 minutes prior to Supercharging your vehicle.
To maximize your time at the Supercharger, you’ll want your battery to be at an optimal temperature and ready to accept charging at maximum speed.
This is not only great etiquette for not taking up too much time at one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations but also the best way to treat your battery if Supercharging is your only option.
Another great tip is to arrive at the Supercharging station with a lower state of charge. Anything over 70% and you’ll be charging at a much slower rate.
Aim to get there with around 30%–50% to maximize your time there.
It’s important to remember that frequent use of Supercharging is not the goal.
Not only does it cost nearly twice as much as home charging, but also leads to quicker battery degradation as it’s asking a lot of your battery to accept charge at such a quick pace.
It’s totally okay once in a while if you’re hitting the road for an adventure or you just need a quick fix on your commute. But for the most part, you’ll want to stick to your daily home charging routine to save battery life.
What to Do if You Can’t Charge at Home
Not everyone lives in a house with a nice temperature-controlled garage perfectly set up for at-home charging every night.
Lots of multi-unit dwellings are considering or have already installed at least a few chargers in their parking facilities.
But sometimes home charging just isn’t an option for those in an apartment or condo.
Here are some Tesla Model 3 charging best practices if you’re away from home.
- It’s going to take a little more planning on your part to accommodate.
Download charging apps like PlugShare to find out where the closest stations are located near you. Visualize your commute and figure out how much you’ll be driving to plan your charging events ahead of time.
- Try to pick a level-2 home-based or public charging station like your work, your relative’s, or any location where you’ll be driving the most.
For instance, several public spaces and work parking lots now have charging stations set up so that you can charge while you’re at work instead of overnight.
- The Tesla Destination Charger network is great for those on the go because these chargers have a lower charging speed than Superchargers, making it more suitable for long-term use.
Maybe you can top off at the gym on your way home or at the grocery store. Or maybe even your favorite restaurant.
If none of your favorite destinations have chargers, consider requesting one. If the owners are receptive, they may recognize this as an opportunity to attract more customers.
What to Do with Your Tesla Model 3 if You’re Away on Vacation
As mentioned, plugging in often is recommended, but sometimes that’s not going to be possible, like if you’re going away on holiday.
But Tesla points out that the battery is designed to maintain itself and will not overcharge when plugged in for an extended period of time.
Here are some tips if you’re headed out on vacation and your Tesla will be sitting idle:
- Make sure your Tesla is plugged in before you leave. Remember, Tesla’s rule is ABC: Always Be Charging. The on-board charging monitor will ensure the battery is kept in a safe charge state.
- Don’t let it sit at 100% charge for extended periods. Make sure you’ve got the max charge level set at around 80%–90% like we mentioned above.
- You can choose to leave the car idle and unplugged. It’s not considered best practice, but there’s mounting evidence that at warm temperatures it won’t have that much of an impact, just a small battery drain.
Vampire Drain Is a Real Thing
We’ll quickly touch on phantom draining or vampire drain as it’s called if you decide to simply leave the vehicle unplugged and inactive for days.
That little bit of charge that you lose daily when unplugged is nicknamed vampire drain since it’s a slow sucking of energy.
It happens because your Tesla is almost always running the onboard monitoring systems to check the health of the battery and the vehicle, so power is always being consumed even if the car is turned off.
It’s a really insignificant amount as evidenced in this forum thread on Tesla Motors Club where owners noted only a 1% loss over 6–7 days.
Though keep in mind that if you leave your vehicle parked in the public (with Sentry Mode on), the drainage can be larger.
How Battery Type Affects Charging
Batteries are not the same across the globe in your Model 3.
Just earlier in 2021, Tesla announced it will be changing the type of battery cells it uses in all its standard-range vehicles.
It’s switching to the lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cathode in its batteries, just like they already use in their China-built models.
It’s a more stable battery chemistry, but the cells are less energy-dense, which means they offer lower range for the same weight as other cells.
Another downfall is that they are more affected by cold weather, so preconditioning will become even more important to get that battery temperature warmed up for charging.
However, the new chemistry apparently allows for charging your battery up to 100% without worrying about long-term degradation. Chinese social media and Elon himself agree.
Here’s a great video from the Torque News YouTube channel that walks through the best charging practices for the Model 3 with an LFP battery.
Many are skeptical of the claims that 100% charge will not affect battery life, so we might need some more real-world testing to prove it over time.
Final Thoughts: Tesla Model 3 Best Charging Practices
Keep an eye out as the new Model 3’s roll out with the LFP battery to see if these best practices can be updated.
For now, the tips and best practices laid out above should have you turning into a Tesla charging guru.
The 90-20 rule, combined with a well-planned daily charging routine that keeps you off the Supercharger network as much as possible, is your key to keeping your Model 3 battery in tip-top shape.
And for those with no at-home charging option, careful planning and frequent visits to Level 2 Destination Chargers will do the trick.