Daily Life with the Tesla Model 3: Charging

December 2018. California.

I drive my Model 3 about 50 miles (80 km) a day during the week, and a bit less on weekends. I charge every night in the garage. At the end of each day I pull into the garage, plug in. It’s that simple.

My Model 3 charges for about 2 hours in my garage each night while I sleep.

Note: There continues to be a lot of confusion in the press about how long it takes to charge an EV. I just read a NYTimes article about current electric cars on the market and below each car the author listed recharge time. For the Model S it stated 14 hours. But here’s the thing, if you are the average person you drive about 35 miles a day. Your commute consumes 35 miles of range per day. If you recharge at your home at night – as many EV drivers do – you’re talking about 1½ to 2 hours of charging while you sleep. To be clear, you are not standing around for 14 hours waiting for your car to charge. And when you go on road trips? You use Superchargers with stops of 20-40 minutes every 3 hours (on my last 1700 mile road trip Supercharging sessions averaged 19¼ minutes).

The EPA-rated range of our RWD Long Range Model 3 was 310 miles when we bought it, a software update one year later increased the range to 325 miles (520 km). When charging the Model 3 you can set the car to charge to a specific state of charge (SOC) between 50% and 100%. The car stops charging when it reaches the % SOC you’ve set. Tesla recommends charging between 50-90% for daily driving – depending on your needs – and to charge the car above 90% only if you may extra range on a longer trip.

I set my daily charging level to 60%, which gives me about 185 miles / 300 km of rated range to start each day. After driving Toyota’s Rav4 EV for 5+ years (113 miles EPA rated range), I knew that 185 miles was more than enough for a typical weekday. And with Tesla’s Supercharging network I know that I can quickly add more to the pack if I head out of town in any direction.

I start each weekday with about 185 miles in the pack. More than enough for my 50 miles of daily driving and any unplanned trips.

Most days I get home in the evening with 145 miles / 230 km in the pack, depending on how far and how fast I drove that day – and a few other variables. The 40-50 miles of rated range that I use on a typical day consumes about 15% of the battery’s full charge. So I’m usually cycling between ~45% and 60% SOC on a daily basis.

In terms of kWh, my daily 50 mile commute in the Model 3 uses, on average, 10 kWh from the pack each day. Somedays less, somedays more, depending mostly on weather.

On an average day I drive 50 miles and the Model 3 uses about 10 kWh from the pack.

I scheduled my car to start charging at 3AM each night. I plug the mobile charging cord into the 240V 30 amp clothes dryer circuit in my garage during the week. This provides 240V / 24 amps to the car, ~5.7 kW. That rate of charging stores 23 miles of rated range in the pack each hour. Charging usually takes 2 hours.

Most days I arrive home with ~145 miles of range remaining. Green represents current amount of charge in the pack, arrowhead and white line show that car is set to charge to 60% SOC. I’ve scheduled my car to charge each night at 3AM.

Level 2 charging is about 85-90% efficient. So to replace the 10 kWh consumed each day, the mobile charging cord sends about 12 kWh to the car from the wall. I can download hour by hour electricity usage data from my utility, and this shows the amount of electricity sent to the car during charging. The image below shows that from 3AM to 5AM almost 12 kWh was sent to the car to return the pack to 60% SOC (see yellow highlighting below). You’ll also notice that our solar system made more electricity than we used that day from about 9AM to 5PM (See Solar Power Part 1 & Part 2 for more info on the solar system).

I’ve only charged my car to 100% four times. A December 2018 full charge reported 310 miles of range – full capacity at that time (12,500 miles on the odometer). An October 2019 full charge reported 325 miles after the software update (24,500 miles). Next time I did a full charge was April 2021 and the car reported 300 miles of rated range (42,500 miles). So between Oct. 2019 and April 2021 my rated range estimate dropped from 325 to 300. That’s 8% down from the 325 reading, or 4% from the original 310 miles. The drop seemed to happen pretty quickly. I don’t know if it was related to software updates or just degradation of the cells. I estimate I’ve got about 72 kWh usable remaining. Key word: estimate. I’ll be comparing my pack to other Model 3s over time.

A full charge in Dec. 2018: 310 miles. A full charge in Oct. 2019: 325 miles. And a full charge when the car was 3 years old in April 2021 reported 300 miles of rated range.

Some people who research and develop lithium cells have said that for longevity the best state of charge for lithium ion cells is close to 50%. That state of charge won’t work for many but 60% SOC works for my daily needs so I use that approach for day-to-day driving.

We’ve taken our Model 3 on several regional trips around California and longer trips from the Sacramento area to the Grand Canyon and to Albuquerque. During those trips I set the SOC to 90% and operate between 30% and 80-90% SOC while driving from one Supercharger to the next. That works well for me.

Summary: 60% SOC works for me. Others may need a higher SOC for longer daily drives; may want to be prepared in case of unplanned trips; or maybe just prefer seeing well over 200 miles of range each morning. It’s all good. My example just shows that if you did adopt a similar charging strategy your battery pack will be fine.