Tesla recommends plugging your car in every day for a top-up. But what happens if you don’t or can’t? In this article, we’ll look at how long your battery will last and ways to lengthen the battery life.
Tesla cars can last up to 60-70 days without a charge. Your settings must be limited to allow it to sleep. Tesla recommends charging it ‘daily’ to 90% but sitting without using the battery will only discharge 1-2% per day.
There are a couple of reasons why your Tesla may be sitting idle. You’re going on vacation or maybe you work from home. Let’s look at charging frequency and how it might affect your Tesla.
Going on Vacation without Your Tesla
The most common reason people might worry about their Tesla going flat is when we’re considering taking a vacation. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios where your car might not be plugged in and not receive a charge.
Scenario 1: Vacation for 3-4 nights
Going away for 3-4 nights and leaving your car at home. If you have a home charger you can leave it plugged in, set it to 50% charge and it will not allow your car to drop below that point.
However, if you are like me and have to unplug everything before I go on vacation then your Tesla will be perfectly fine on your return without receiving any charge for the 3-4 days. The best advice is before you go charge it to 90%. Your car will enter Sleep Mode and will only reduce battery life by 1-2% per day. So after 3-4 days, it will still have 80+% on your return.
Scenario 2: Vacation for 2-3 Weeks – leaving your car at home
If you are planning a longer trip, and again leaving your car at home, the same applies. If your car is garaged, then even better, as atmospheric changes can affect your battery life. I would advise when going for longer to make some adjustments to the settings. Take it out of Sentry Mode. This is your security mode. It is unnecessary if your car is safe at your home. Sentry Mode uses approximately 7% of battery per day. Also, turn off the Climate Control for the same reason.
Scenario 3: Vacation for 2-3 Weeks – leaving your car at the airport
Your car will still be ok, but you definitely need to adjust the settings and be aware of its surroundings. Charge it to 90%. Drive to the airport, take it out of Sentry Mode – all airports have security cameras. Disable Climate Control. Think about where your car is going to be for the duration of your vacation, and also think about the climate of where it is going to live for that time.
Park it in the center of the parking lot. Preferably indoors. This will prevent extreme cold or extreme hot while you’re away. More about this is below. You should return from your vacation and your car will still have a charge of approximately 70%.
Things to Avoid When Leaving Your Tesla
There are certain things we need to remember when leaving your Tesla unattended for an amount of time.
Lithium-Ion batteries (Li-Ion) like to be charged to a certain amount and not drop below a certain amount. Tesla recommends the battery be charged to 90% and not fall below 20%. Charging to 100% frequently will reduce the life of your battery long term. However, if you’re going on a trip for a few weeks and unplugging your car, I would recommend charging to 100%, to give it the best start.
Obviously, without your battery, your Tesla is just a shiny piece of art. We know that the more frequently we charge the battery the more it degrades over time however there is a happy medium. Teslas that also are allowed to go completely flat will kill them as much as overcharging.
But the most important thing to remember when going on holiday is that Li-Ion batteries don’t like extreme heat or extreme cold. They need to be kept below 110F but above 32F. At very cold temperatures the car will automatically reduce the number of options available to put all its energy into the battery temperature.
If you are leaving your car at the airport you need to be very aware of this. Many airport lots are outdoors and fully exposed. If you live in a very hot or cold climate, there is a high chance that on your return your car will be flat. If the car lot is sheltered this is a better option, but the best case is for it to be garaged. If your airport facility is outdoors I would advise leaving your car at home and taking a cab to the airport.
Don’t Be Tempted To Check Your Car
Leaving your car unplugged at the airport (sheltered) or at home will be perfectly fine. But because your Tesla is so full of gadgets, and we use them all the time, we will be tempted to use them when we’re on vacation. You can always check your Tesla when you’re not near it, through the app on your phone.
When you’re on vacation, DON’T DO IT! Well, what I’m really saying is don’t do it every day. One, what is it going to achieve? If you are on the other side of the nation and you check your Tesla and it’s flat, you can’t do anything about it until you return.
The other reason, which is more important, is every time you check your car, you wake it from Sleep Mode for about 15 minutes. So that means every time you check it you’re draining your battery unnecessarily. Enjoy your vacation, your car will be fine.
Working From Home
In these unusual times, we live in, many people are now working from home. And probably will continue to, even as the world gets back to normal. Due to this, we are using our cars less than usual. So how does this affect our Tesla and how often we must charge them?
As I said previously, Tesla recommends ‘daily’ charging. But if you’re not going anywhere very often, you may not need or even want to charge every day to save some energy.
You can charge your car to 90% and then unplug it. It will last for 6-7 weeks with no difficulty whatsoever. If you turn off Sentry mode, Climate Control, and Stand By Mode it will last longer. If your car is garaged you can also turn off Cabin Overheat Protection (if your car is outdoors and you live in a hot climate, I advise you to keep this one on).
The great thing about your Tesla is you can decide at any time to plug it back in if you are at home. Unless of course, you live in an apartment complex with no external chargers,
Even so, your Tesla is not going to drain overnight. In actual fact, with everything turned off and as the car goes into Sleep Mode it will last for 60+ days without you having to plug it in.
Although your car may be asleep with all the extras turned off the battery is still working. Computers are constantly checking that the battery is ok. This causes what is known as Vampire (or Phantom) Drain.
This is a slow reduction in the charge of your battery, which most people don’t even notice. Except if you haven’t plugged in for a while or returned from holidays, you may notice a sizable reduction in charge.
The biggest cause of Vampire Drain, assuming you have all the hard hitters turned off, is third-party apps, such as TeslaFi, StatsApp, or Tezlab. Each third-party app is constantly checking in on your car and collecting data. Every time it checks it drains a little bit of battery.
It’s unlikely that it will drain your car completely, but it depends on how long since your last charge. If you’re going on vacation or not planning on using your car for a while I would disable any of your third-party apps. This is easily done, but changing the password on your phone but not updating the car until you’re ready at least.
Your Tesla is a very smart vehicle. Although it performs at its optimum when kept charged at 80-90% on a regular basis, in reality, it will still perform just as well at 40-50%. You don’t need to worry about charging it all the time.
Sometimes life takes over, you’re on holiday, or unwell or we’re living through a pandemic! If you manage your app connectivity and turn off the main drains, your battery starting at 90% will maintain enough charge for at least 60-70 days without any cause for concern.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.