My wife is European, so we live a more relaxed life and take summer European vacations lasting about a month or two. Just kidding — I haven’t taken a full day off in more than 11 years! However, what is true is that we went to Europe for a month and a half this summer to visit my wife’s family and our friends back there. Naturally, one important question before leaving was, “What should I do with my Tesla Model 3 during that time?”
Vampire drain is a thing, especially with a Tesla. Tesla vehicles are extremely “connected,” and different activities can wake the car up and make it use energy. Sentry Mode is particularly energy intensive, especially if it’s being triggered a lot, and while I was definitely intent on turning it off and wouldn’t expect it to get triggered a lot in the garage anyway, I’m old enough to know that all kinds of things can happen and all kinds of things can be forgotten before leaving on a long trip. So, one has to be sure to have multiple safeguards in place. (Note: I did turn Sentry Mode off, so didn’t suffer any electricity drain related to that while gone.) Similarly, “Cabin overheat protection” is a great feature, especially in Florida, since it prevents the car’s interior from getting swelteringly hot, which I assume also helps with the longevity of some interior elements, including the touchscreen. Again, that can be turned off and I did turn it off since the car was just sitting in the dark garage for 6 weeks, but this feature is nested sort of deep in the Tesla options screens and it also could have been left on accidentally, which would certainly have used a lot of energy — even in the garage. The point I’m making here is: when leaving a Tesla for a long time, in my opinion, it’s wise to include in your planning the possibility that your car will leak quite a bit of energy. Ideally, it doesn’t. But this is a possibility.
Of course, I have followed Tesla forums for nearly a decade, so I knew the key recommended practice aside from turning off those potential energy hogs: just plug the car in. Yes, it’s a little scary to think about your large, expensive, battery-packed, computer-on-wheels Tesla being plugged in for 6 weeks (or 3 weeks or 2 weeks or 6 months or whatever). What if something short-circuits and causes a fire?!? (Yes, I can admit that the anti-EV FUD even gets to me sometimes. The little devil on my shoulder loves it.) However, this is what’s recommended, and just as it’s safe in general to plug in and charge your car, it’s safe to leave your car plugged in. Typically, EV drivers do that overnight anyway — it just feels different knowing that it will be plugged in for days upon days, weeks upon weeks. Don’t worry, though. Plug the car in and leave it plugged in.
That’s not the end of the advice, though.
I recently wrote an article about what percentage to charge a Tesla up to on a regular basis. In general, the closer you keep the battery to around 50%, the better. Sure, you can charge up to 80% or 90% if you need to, or even 100%, but if you were in an Olympic competition for battery life, you’d want to keep your car’s battery between 40% and 60%, or 30% and 70%. Given my daily and weekly needs, I have my charge limit set to ~60% and I wait until the battery gets down to 30% or 40% before plugging it in. I decided to leave it at about 60% while we were out of town as well. In the future, I might well put it at 50% — not that it really matters at this point, as I don’t know if 50% provides any real benefit over 60% — but I chose 60% just in case something (or a few things) went wrong and the car didn’t charge and started losing electrons. In the end, any percentage is fine, but it’s not ideal to keep the car charged at a high level (e.g., 90%), and definitely not a good idea to keep it at 100%.
The final thing: initially, I was keeping an eye on the car from Europe by checking the charge level. However, doing so wakes up the car, which uses a burst of energy, so it’s not ideal to nag your car too much just to see if it’s still alive. Let the car sleep. After a few days of periodic check-ins, I could see all was fine and I left Moonhopper alone for much longer periods of time. I also have a security camera in the garage, so sometimes I’d just check the camera feed on my phone to make sure the car and garage didn’t burn to the ground or get broken into by raccoons, rats, or cicadas.
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