Charging a Tesla: Everything you need to know

One of the first questions asked by someone inquiring about a Tesla is, "how does electric car charging work?" It turns out that range anxiety and charging concerns tend to be underlying worries when considering EV ownership for the first time. While other automakers are slowly working to resolve these concerns, Tesla has a significant competitive advantage when it comes to charging.

Source: Like Tesla

So how do you charge a Tesla?

Charging a Tesla is just like charging your phone. You plug it in, leave it alone, and fuhgeddaboudit. Sure, there are more details for the tech-savvy, but the typical driver doesn't care. Do you know your iPhone's charge rate and power consumption? As long as it's fast, convenient, and easy, it shouldn't matter that much to you. We'll go into some detail regardless, but if you want to go electric and find some of the numbers below a bit confusing, just know a Tesla goes fast, drives far, and charges quickly.

Where do you charge a Tesla?

You can charge your Tesla right at home. This remains the easiest and most commonly used scenario — although living in an apartment or condo sometimes might require other solutions. While we've gotten in the habit of stopping at a Shell station to fill up gas-guzzlers powered by an internal combustion engine, with electric cars you usually just charge in the comfort of your own home.

How long does it take to charge a Tesla at home?

In most cases, a Tesla will fully charge overnight. The speed at which your Tesla will charge at home will be dependent on your outlet. For the bulk of owners, installing an outlet outside or in your garage is the first step before taking delivery of your Tesla. When speaking with an electrician, let them know that Tesla recommends a NEMA 14-50 outlet. That's a 240V outlet on a 50 AMP circuit breaker. This will charge a Tesla Model 3 at a rate of roughly 30 miles per hour. If you already have a 240V plug installed nearby for clothes dryer or something else, Tesla offers adapters for the majority of outlets.

Souce: Tesla

If you want to charge a little faster and have a 60 amp or greater circuit available, you can purchase a Tesla HPWC (high performance wall connector). This is a hardwired device capable of charging at speeds up to 44 miles per hour depending on the vehicle and amperage. This is not really necessary unless you require very fast charging turnaround — the time difference is unrecognizable when you wake up with a full charge the next morning regardless.

Source: Tesla

Note: Model Y charging data in the above table is similar to Model 3

If you're ever in a jam, your Tesla also comes with an adapter for a standard 110V outlet. This is the same outlet your phone, laptop, and nearly all your other appliances use. Charging through one of these is extremely slow as a 110V outlet doesn't provide all that much power. You can expect to get about 3 miles of charge per hour. Charge loss is a factor in all charging options but if you're just plugging in nightly, this is the only one you'd see impacted significantly.

What about road trips?

If you take a road trip, Tesla has built up its own charging infrastructure, the Supercharger Network (see below), to accommodate long distance travel. In addition, an ever-growing group of hotels and other locales have installed Tesla's destination chargers. Also, with charging adapters, you can use most third party charging networks as well.

Tesla Supercharger Time

Tesla has their own charging network dubbed the Tesla Supercharger Network. With over 1,826 charging stations world wide, it stretches the entirety of the United States as well as other countries around the globe. You can travel just about anywhere on major highways with no need to worry about a charging location. This is a bit different from charging at home as it's super quick.

Source: Tesla

Tesla Supercharger times are dependent on a few factors. In general, you can expect an 50% charge in approximately 20 to 30 minutes. If someone is parked next to you, that time increases as they'll share your same circuit. These particular Superchargers charge at between 120 kW and 250 kW and are often located alongside regularly-travelled highways.

Tesla has begun an upgrade to their Supercharger Network, Supercharger V3. This upgraded version will charge at a 250 kW rate with no charge splitting. All Model 3s and Model Ys can take full advantage of these charge speeds. In addition, 2021 Model S and Model Y can also charge at 250 kW. Supercharger V3 is beginning to roll out and plans are in place to upgrade all current Superchargers, eventually.

Source: Tesla

And finding Superchargers with your Tesla doesn't have to be a guessing game. Although there are online route planners, they're really not necessary. Your Tesla's built-in navigation is aware of your battery life and will route you towards Superchargers automatically when needed. 

Are there Tesla chargers in big cities?

Tesla's solution to city charging is their Urban Superchargers. These are slightly smaller, designed differently, and charge at a 72 kW rate. These chargers are not split if someone is beside you and take approximately 45 minutes to charge.

What about overnight stays on vacation?

You can typically find a destination charger or a third party charger at a wide variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other vacation destinations. Simply park your car, plug in, and charge overnight. But what about that little cabin in the woods? You can still make it work. Sure, you might need some charging adapters and an EV-specific extension cord, but as Kim (from Like Tesla) proves, you'll still be able to juice up your Tesla.

YouTube: Like Tesla

How often do you have to charge a Tesla?

For the vast majority of owners, you'll just plug your car in overnight every day. But the answer to this question is fully dependent on the owner's lifestyle and personal driving patterns. In the United States, the average person only drives 37 miles a day. If your particular driving style is similar to this, you might not want to go through the "hassle" of plugging your car in nightly. Some people who live in apartments or have no access to convenient charging will simply plug in their cars elsewhere once a week or so.

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?

Charging an electric car is less costly than filling up the average gas car, but exactly how much savings depends — it's highly contingent on where you live (and charge) as each location has different pricing for electricity. The range is anywhere from 9.66 cents to 32.45 cents per kWh but the national average sits at 13.34 cents per kWh. Assuming perfect charge efficiency, it takes $13.34 to charge a Tesla Model S to 315 miles of range. Today, a Mercedes S Class costs about $50 to fill up its approximately 450-mile gas tank. So if you crunch the numbers, a Tesla can save you some serious money on fuel costs.


An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever