Tesla Charging & Driving Tips

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By William Goodwin FNP

As a new owner of a 2016 Tesla Model S 90D for about 6 months now, I have fine tuned a few things that have really improved my driving experience and efficiency. I want to share with new Tesla owners or anyone else who might be interested.

Charging: I was charging to 90% nightly, as this is what the car’s previous owner told me he did. He charged nightly at 10A on his L2 charger (which normally would put out 32A) “to preserve the battery life.” I noticed when starting out with 90%, my regenerative braking was throttled back, weak and anemic, causing me to have to hit my friction brakes often, until I got down to about 84%. Then it would kick in nice and strong and allow for predictable nearly one-pedal driving, which I like. I changed my nightly charging to 80% (225 miles of range) and started preconditioning on a scheduled charge at 32A. My regenerative braking is full strength right out of the driveway now, gaining me 6 miles of range as I descend my mountain road every morning. My cabin is warmed by the charging (who else noticed that?) and I am leaving it at 32A because the car is designed to handle 72A nightly per Tesla, so I think 1/2 that amount is safer still. Maybe I will reconsider going back down to 20A or 10A, but I feel more confident with a faster rate (in case of one of my frequent power outages in VT).

Preconditioning: I noticed that starting out in early mornings below 72 degrees without preconditioning the batteries, my regen braking was throttled way back to nearly zero for the first few miles! I had to use my friction brakes practically the whole way down my mountain each morning. This equated to an additional 6 mile range drain on the batteries per my daily 25–30 mile commute. I wasn’t recapturing the inertial regeneration because the batteries were cold. Since I started preconditioning, I only use 18 miles of range on my 25 mi commute. That’s a pretty big gain. I don’t know how much extra it costs me on my electric bill to “precondition” versus “charge” that amount of range, but I am watching it and can’t see any additional appreciable electric usage on my charging. Will keep an eye on it and update later after a full month.

Driving Style: I initially was very afraid to “floor” this vehicle, as the power frightened me on my first try! LOL. However, I got used to it, and started enjoying the thrill and adrenaline rush of all this power and speed. Later, I noticed my 15 mile average efficiency was 350 Wh/mi, which is kind of pathetic. So I started driving reasonably, keeping my foot off the floor and using regen braking 99% of the time. My efficiency is now 200–220 Wh/mi avg. I have to think that this is a much better way to “preserve the battery life” versus charging at a paltry 10A. This machine is designed to supercharge at 135 kW, so I think I’m fine there. I know romping on the accelerator is very hard on the power system, so I’m going to stick with my new self-imposed “chill” driving style (still in normal mode in case I need or want it).

Range Mode: I discovered that range mode simply reduces the power to the HVAC system, leaving more electric charge for driving. Now that winter doth approach, I will turn this off when the mercury drops below 32°F on a regular basis. The HVAC in range mode is okay on a chilly day, but rather anemic below 40°F. I had a very frightening experience with my windshield suddenly icing up after using the wipers, completely whiting out my view! The defrosters made almost NO difference! Thank God for Autopilot! (Yes, I panic stopped, but whew!) So, my plan is to turn range mode off and keep the cabin at 68°F. Then use the seat and steering wheel warmers as adjuncts. I will let you know how this goes and how it affects my range. My commute is only 30 miles, so not a big deal if it is reduced by 50% or more! Plus, preconditioning my batteries should help on my morning trips as well.

Climate Control: Speaking of my HVAC, I started using the “Schedule” feature to warm the cabin while plugged in prior to my morning commute. Using the L2 adapter, it warms up my car but maintains the range at 225 miles (80%) exactly. I don’t plug in at work, so I’m going to just have to deal with that, but at least 50% of my trip gains that benefit. I can pre-warm prior to my commute home, but that uses battery power, requires the phone app, and I often turn it on at the last second, where it really makes very little difference anyway.

Charging Network: I noticed that even over the past 6 months of ownership, there are a lot more Teslas on the road. This means a lot more people vying to charge. Here is some etiquette …

  • Only charge what you need, don’t fill up unless you must. It takes too long and keeps others waiting.
  • Don’t plug in directly next to another person charging on the same bank unless you have to. This cuts their charge rate and yours. (For example, an 8 bay station with 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B are sharing the transformer. So if somebody is plugged into bank 1A or 1B, try to use another bank that has both A and B vacant. You will get full speed and not affect the charge rate of the other driver. This only applies to 150 kW Superchargers (V2), though. This is not true when you are at a V3 Supercharger (250 kW). They do not share power. Also, Urban Superchargers (72 kW) do not share power. If you tap on the Supercharger pin on your map in the car, it should indicate the type of charger you are using (150, 250, or 72 kW).
  • If you find a defective charger, call Tesla (877-798-3752) or report it using your Tesla App under Roadside Assistance. This helps all other drivers. Ask the facility if you can place one of their cones in front of the defective bay. If they don’t have cones, tie the charging cord in a knot around the top of the bay as a sign of trouble. Nothing is sadder than watching person after person try to charge only to discover the bay is defective.

This happened to me and nobody was reporting it, placing a cone, or even trying to warn other drivers! I was on a road trip and decided to charge at a specific station near the thruway with about 20% charge left. When I got there, two bays were dead and there was a long, disorganized line of people vying for the spots as they emptied. I left that crazy scene heading for the next nearest station 59 miles away.

The photo at the top is a screenshot of what I had left once I got to the next station. The car was yelling at me the whole way to drive under 65 mph to make it to my destination, so I slowed to 55 mph just to be on the safe side. My power consumption dropped to 200 Wh/mi! If you are ever running low on charge, just DRIVE SLOWER and you can really stretch it. The slower you go, the less power you use. But put on your flashers for safety if you are driving slower than the flow of traffic! I also heard, but don’t know for sure, that Tesla built in some range below 0 mi for those of us who like to push things. I hope to never find out for myself. It was very nerve wracking even with 17 miles of range left!

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