Tesla Guide: How to charge a Tesla while on a road trip? – Tesla Maison

Tesla electric vehicles have become more than a vision of the future. They are a clear statement on the viability and affordability of plug-in automobiles today. Model S and Model X cars are becoming more common on highways and roads, not just in large cities. Teslas may still be considered luxury cars, but many are used as family vehicles and primary vehicles. This means they're often taken on road trips.

How can I charge my Tesla while driving? You have a variety of options to charge your Tesla while on the road.

  1. Assume an additional hour for every 5 hours commuted in a gas-powered car.
  2. After plugging in your final destination, you can use the Tesla GPS to find Superchargers automatically.
  3. Finally, you should call hotels in advance to ask about free Tesla chargers. This will allow you to wake up the next morning with a full charge.

If you plan to drive a Tesla, you will need to prepare for your trip. Continue reading to find out everything you need for a hassle-free and safe trip.

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Tesla Drivers and Chargers: Know Your Limitations

Tesla drivers who plan a road trip face the biggest challenge of charging their vehicles outside of familiar and convenient environments like home and work. Teslas and other electric cars (EVs), as they become more popular, continue to be accompanied by a rapid increase in the number of EV charging station installations. These stations can now be found at shopping centers and libraries, office buildings, and even at work.

Tesla owners may have to face some challenges when venturing out of the city, despite EV chargers being available in many urban areas. Tesla owners are all too familiar with "range anxiety", a term coined by Tesla to describe the fear that an electric car's battery may run out before it reaches its destination or a charger station.

The Automobile Association of America, or AAA, in certain markets has a little-known Pilot Program which can dispatch emergency charging trucks for electric vehicles that are stranded.

Tesla Vehicle Driving ranges

To plan a road trip in a Tesla, it is helpful to know the range of the different models.

Tesla's driving range is another attractive feature of its vehicles. Its sleek design and performance are also impressive. Tesla entered the electric car market in a splashy way about seven years back. EV owners could only drive around 100 miles with a full battery charge. Tesla vehicles surpassed that standard significantly, as illustrated below (all miles based upon a full-charge).

  • Model 3- 220+ Miles for Standard Range Vehicle, 320+ Miles for Extended Range Model
  • Model S: 270+ Miles for Standard Range Vehicle, 335+ Miles for Extended Range Model
  • Model X- Range of 238+ Miles for Standard Range Vehicle, 295+ Miles for Extended range Model

Tesla Charging Times

Tesla Supercharger Charging

Model 3 1000+ miles/hour charged
Model S 1000+ miles/hour charged
Model X 1000+ miles/hour charged

Tesla Superchargers charge your Tesla the fastest. Superchargers, which are similar to gas station locations, are found on roads. Typically, they cost between $10 and 15 for a complete charge.

240v Outlet Charger

Model 3 30 miles/hour charged
Model S 23 miles/hour charged
Model X 20 miles/hour charged

Tesla recommends 240-volt charging when at home or not near a Supercharger. Tesla owners are likely to have installed the Tesla Wall Connector, which provides 240-volt and 50-amp power in their garage. This allows them to charge their vehicle as quickly as possible.

Charging 120v Outlet

Model 3 3 miles/hour charged
Model S 3 miles/hour charged
Model X 2 miles/hour charged

If you do not have a Supercharger nearby or a 240V outlet, you can still charge your Tesla with a standard 120V outlet. Standard equipment on all Teslas is the Mobile Connector Bundle. This bundle contains a charging adapter with a 20 foot cable, and a connector that plugs in to a 120-volt wall outlet.

Tesla informs its new customers that the Mobile Connector kit should always be in the trunk to serve as a backup option for charging while on the road. Other than that, the Mobile Connector kit is not an affordable or sustainable option for charging a Tesla in everyday driving. These figures are proof of this.

Yes, that's right. You can get three miles out of a Model 3 or Model S and two miles from a Model X after one hour of charging with a standard 120 volt outlet. If you left your Tesla vehicle plugged to the same outlet over night (10-12 hours), you'd have up to 30 to 36 mile range in your Model 3 or Model S, and 20 to 24-miles on your Model X.

The next day, you may only have time to drop your kids at school or commute to work.

Read More: 2023 Tesla Guide: Can Tesla Provide More Range With Its Current Technology?


Planning Your Tesla Charging Strategy

It's important to plan your road trip charging strategy. Even if your plans don't include hopping from 20 to 36 miles a day, depending on your Tesla model and whether you will have overnight electrical outlets available.

Tesla Charging Stations

Supercharger stations charge electric vehicles exclusively for Teslas. Tesla Superchargers are 120 kW rated and can complete the same task in an hour and fifteen minutes. It is named after this.

Tesla has expanded its Supercharger network rapidly, in response to the growing need for bridging the range gap between urban areas. There are 1,636 Supercharger Stations in North America (the United States Canada and Mexico), with 14,497 Supercharger Connectors.

Superchargers are most prevalent in the Bay Area and Southern California. New York is also a popular area for Teslas.

Most Superchargers have between 8-12 connectors. They are all open every day of the week, 24 hours a day. Supercharger stations can be found in Tesla's website, on the Tesla app for iPhone and Android and on the vehicle's onboard computer.

According to the area you are in and what time it is, you might have to wait a while for a charging spot. Tesla owners agree that it is best to visit Superchargers early in morning before rush hour, or late in the day after commuters are gone.

Annual Supercharger Credit

Tesla will sometimes offer new Model S and Model X owners a 400 kWh Supercharger credit per year to encourage longer road trips. This is equal to about 1,000 miles driving each year. Model 3 owners are not eligible for this offer, but Tesla says that fully charging any Tesla is cheaper than buying gasoline.

Tesla boasts that there are many Supercharger stations in the works. However, most of them are in areas with high traffic and in cities. Any road trip over several hundred miles in the United States will involve significant driving through undeveloped areas.

It's not surprising that road trips are popular because they allow you to enjoy the scenery of rural America.

Public Charging Points

Tesla owners appear to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes charging their vehicles in public charging stations. Tesla owners can charge their vehicles not only at Tesla's exclusive Superchargers, but at an even larger number of universal EV chargers. There were approximately 21,300 electric vehicle chargers in the United States as of April 2019. These stations had over 62,000 charging connectors.

The vast majority of public EV charging station offer Level 2 charging. This is 240 volts power, with amperage ranging typically from 50 to 80. (Level 1 is your standard 120-volt outlet, while Level 3 would be the Supercharger). has a list of all the stations in each state.

Public charging stations accommodate almost all models and makes of electric cars, including Teslas. SAE J1772, also called a "J Plug", is a universal standard charging connector. This is by far the most commonly used charging device at public EV stations.

The Mobile Connector Bundle included with all new Teslas contains an adapter which allows the J1772 model to be plugged into any Tesla. Numerous smartphone platforms and tools are available to help EV drivers find the nearest public charging station. These are the most popular.

  • U.S. Department of EnergyAlternative Fuels Data Center Website is a user-friendly database of EV chargers in Canada and the United States. You can search by location or fuel type. The search engine includes a filter for charging sites that are Tesla-friendly.

You can enter the city of your starting point, the city of your destination, and how many miles you want to go off-course (e.g. 5, 10 miles). The website then shows all the charging stations in the city you have chosen as well at the beginning and end points. The site allows you to download the information and email it to yourself.

  • ChargeHub - Another popular website that provides numerous search filters for you to narrow your results down to meet your specific needs. ChargeHub for instance, lets you specify charging connectors (such as J1772), station brands, charging providers that offer free charging, and hours of operation.

In certain charging locations there are icons to indicate when the connectors are available or if they are being used all. ChargeHub offers a route planning tool for long distance trips.

  • PlugShare - This is a popular online tool used by Tesla drivers. EV charger searches can be narrowed down by filtering them according to power, connector types, amenities, etc.

Plugshare offers a trip-planning feature, which will populate the driving route once the start and end locations are entered. You can also view the entire journey on Google Maps. It is possible to edit the route and add or remove charging stations. The trip planner can even estimate range based on your Tesla model.

  • Google Maps – Among the new features of Google Maps are searching for nearby EV Charging Stations. Google Maps is similar to other online tools in that it will tell you how many charging connectors there are, as well as where you can charge up your Tesla.

You can also use Google Maps to view street views to determine where you need to go in an unfamiliar location (e.g. a road trip).


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What is the Cost of Charging Your Tesla

There are some public EV charging station where you can charge up your Tesla for no cost. However, you'll need to find them and then hope that they are located within a reasonable range for your travel route. Most likely, you'll have to pay for your charge.

In terms of public EV chargers or networks, two payment models are available: the first is the pay-as you-go model, and the second is the membership model. Payment details may vary depending on the network that you are using to recharge your Tesla.

There are many brands that are associated with public charging stations for electric vehicles. These include Valero and Shell.

Certain brands may be concentrated in a certain part of the US compared to others. However, certain networks offer a larger number of charging locations in varying states.

Some EV charging network require registration and linking a new account to a card before the first visit. Others operate on a monthly fee model. In either case, it's best to set up and complete your EV charging network account prior to your road trip.

Here a few prominent public EV charging networks:

  • ChargePoint - By all estimates, this is the largest network of public EV charging stations with more than 6,000 independently owned sites. California has the highest concentration of ChargePoint locations, but this network operates sites in 42 other states.

Initial registration and credit card link are required, but account set up is free, and charging visits can be managed via a mobile app on your smartphone. Since the charging stations are independently owned, the actual charging method (e.g., by usage/kWh or by plug-in time) will vary from location to location, but many sites offer free public charging.

  • Blink - The Blink network operates 1,600+ charging sites in 25 states, with most of the locations in Texas, California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. Initial registration with a credit card is required to open a Blink InCard account. Blink sites charge by the kilowatt hour (kWh), so this is a usage based billing system, much like paying a stated price per gallon of gasoline.

These rates can be found on many EV network charging station locator tools.

  • EVgo - This network of over 700 public EV charging sites is operated by the clean energy division of NRG, one of the nation's largest power producers and electricity retailers. EVgo operates on a monthly subscription model and requires first time users to register. (However, their website also states that EVgo will always take care of an EV driver in need.)

Unlike Blink, EVgo charges by plug-in time, either hourly or by the minute, depending on the location and the time of day. Rates will certainly vary depending on whether you are an EVgo subscriber or simply an EV driver in need of a charge.

As you can see, range anxiety is quickly becoming a thing of the past with the number of Tesla Supercharger locations and public EV charging stations growing by the day. With the amazing connectivity provided by smartphone apps and online tools, many of which display nearby restaurants and retail centers, you can even plan your grocery shopping or grabbing a bite to eat around charging your Tesla.


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Do Your Research

Once you have determined a comfortable driving range for your particular Tesla model and you have calculated the total distance that will be driven to your destination, it is time to utilize the various tools and resources we have discussed. Along your planned driving route, plot charging stops that are within driving reach of each other.

Select Your Charging Locations

Your best option will always be a Tesla Supercharger station as it will provide the shortest charging time, so consult the Tesla website or the smartphone app to see if there are any sites along your driving route. Even if it requires a slight detour (e.g., 10 to 15 miles), the time you lose driving will be more than made up by the quicker charging time compared to public EV charging stations.

Speaking of which, since there are a far greater number of public EV charging stations than Tesla Supercharger sites, chances are very good that you will be visiting them. As you research viable charging sites, be on the lookout for Level 2 charging with J1772 connectors (and make sure that your Mobile Connector bundle in the trunk has the adapter).

Be ever mindful of the length of charge time and the correlating driving range that you will achieve. Unless you are fortunate to have a Tesla Supercharger station or two along your route, do not expect to fully charge your vehicle while on the road. You will be piecemealing your driving sessions to arrive at your final destination, so you need to plan your charging stops accordingly.

Planning a charging stop to coincide with a meal break, a little sightseeing, or even some shopping would enable you to make the most of your charge time.

Choosing Your Lodging

Statistics show that nearly 80% of all EV charging takes place at home, and this should be your guiding light when planning your road trip. Your greatest opportunity for charging your Tesla as fully as possible will be overnight at your lodging location.

We've already seen that charging from a 120-volt wall outlet, even overnight, will not boost your driving range significantly. On a road trip, charging time is a premium. For this reason, it may be worthwhile to select a hotel that offers Tesla charging onsite, or at a minimum, Level 2 J1772 charging.

While various online tools do have search filters for EV charging at hotels, it would be best to confirm with a simple phone call. It is worth noting that figures pertaining to the number of Tesla and public EV charging stations do not include restricted access charging sites, which would include those on hotel property as they would be accessible only by paying guests.

What if You Go off the Grid?

What if electricity isn't available for long stretches during your road trip or at your final destination (for example, overnight camping at a remote location)? While common sense dictates that you charge up as much as possible before venturing off the electrical charging grid, it would also be prudent to consider other charging options in the event that electricity is not readily available.

If you live in an area that is prone to weather-related loss of power or an area that is susceptible to wildfires and, therefore, subject to fire-preventive power shut-offs by the utility companies, then perhaps you are familiar with portable power generators.

Basically, a portable power generator supplies electricity via a gas-powered engine that powers an on-board alternator to generate your own electricity on demand.


Read More: 2023 Tesla Guide: Is The Tesla Model 3 An Ideal Family Car?


Can you Charge a Tesla with a Portable Generator?

The answer is yes, but in order to do so, you will need a portable generator that meets very specific requirements, and you will need to follow a few specific steps.

Portable Generator Requirements

Tesla vehicles are technological marvels, and to protect highly sensitive and potentially vulnerable components from damage, certain safeguards have been built into each Model S, Model 3, and Model X. Basically, we need to defeat these safeguards in order to charge your Tesla with a portable generator.

  1. The portable generator must be an inverter to deliver a pure sine wave output. All Tesla models require clean power, and if the Tesla's sensors detect a modified or lesser sine wave, they simply will not allow the vehicle to charge because what they sense as potentially dirty power could result in damaging electrical surges. By converting DC (direct current) power into AC (alternating current) power, an inverter generator mimics the electricity that is fed into our homes from the utility companies.
  2. The portable generator must be properly grounded. Another safeguard implemented by Tesla's engineers is that the incoming power must be from a properly grounded source. If the vehicle's sensors detect non-grounded power, they will not permit the Tesla to charge. With certain models, the generator's frame or chassis adequately serves as a proper ground as detected by the Tesla's sensors.

It is recommended that when charging a Tesla from a portable generator, the amperage setting on the generator be set to low initially, and gradually increased to 28-30 amps. Also, the generator should have a minimum output of 1500 watts.

Choosing a Portable Generator

All things considered, two portable power generators come to mind as possible options for charging a Tesla in an emergency situation:

  • Generac IQ2000 - This is a gas-powered, inverter generator with a sustained output of 1,600 watts. It measures 20" x 13" x17" and weighs 47 pounds and would easily fit in the trunk of all Tesla models. It has a fuel capacity of 1.06 gallons. It is touted as one of the quieter power generators in its class.
  • Champion 9200W - Although this inverter generator satisfies our two requirements, it measures 48" x 40" x 30" and weighs nearly 250 pounds. It would not be a viable option for a Model 3 owner due to the small trunk opening on that vehicle, and would not leave much room for luggage or any other travel items in a Model S or Model X.

However, it does boast a 7.7 gallon fuel tank and can operate at 9200 watts. This generator is considerably loud (owner's manual likens it to being near a vacuum cleaner).

It is important to note that while a portable power generator can charge a Tesla vehicle, it is not as effective or efficient as conventional charging methods. Even with hours of continuous charging from a portable generator, your Tesla may only achieve 20 to 30 miles of driving range, which would may be enough to get you to a charging station or a somewhere to plug in your Mobile Connector.

Portable Generators and Gasoline

Another important consideration is that most portable power generators run on gasoline, which means that for continuous operation (i.e., lengthy Tesla charging session) the generator's gas tank will need to be refilled, perhaps repeatedly. Furthermore, there are significant safety concerns associated with transporting containers of gasoline in your vehicle.

Even with the safest gas containers money can buy (also known as "Jerry cans"), there are significant safety concerns when transporting gasoline in a closed container.

  • Gasoline is highly flammable, but perhaps the greater danger is the extremely volatile and potentially explosive fumes.
  • Gasoline emits carbon monoxide, which is itself odorless and potentially deadly with prolonged exposure in an enclosed area.
  • Gasoline spills will produce a noxious odor that will linger for days, if not weeks.
  • Handling gasoline requires the utmost care and attention. Prior to opening the cap on a gas container, it is recommended that you ground yourself by touching metal to avoid sparking from static electricity.

With carefully selected equipment and with a little know-how, it is possible to charge a Tesla with a portable generator. Whether this charging method is feasible for a road trip however, is debatable. As an emergency means of charging your Tesla in the event of power loss at home, however, it seems to be a worthwhile investment.

1 comment

  • Paul Safran

    Like any car, gas, or electric, travel planning is essential. Whether gas or electric, cars need refueling. I’m in the market for a 2024 Tesla Series 3. Anxiety is part of the driving experience. The best answer is: Do your homework before leaving home.

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