3 Years & 80,000 Miles With My Tesla Model 3 — Battery Degradation, Maintenance Costs, Etc.

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We were totally excited on October 22, 2019 when we drove our Tesla Model 3 Long Range away from the Tesla Salt Lake City Delivery Center.

We’ve just passed our 3 year anniversary! Our odometer as I write this reads 80,821 miles. I wanted to determine how much battery degradation had occurred over that time and mileage, so I recently set the charge limit to 100% — for the first time since we bought the car — to do a range test. I always set the charge limit to 80% at home and only occasionally go as high as 90% on the road. I’m trying to be as easy as I can on the battery. Most of my charging is done at home on level 2 charging, which is the easiest on the battery. But we have traveled to Utah to Wisconsin (and back) 3 times, to North Carolina and back once, and to Southern California and back once, so we have about 12,000 Supercharger miles logged (which are more stressful on the battery). When I checked the range at 100% charge, it gave me 287 miles (462 km). The EPA range of our car new was 310 miles. That’s 92.6% of its original range, or 7.4% battery degradation, after 3 years and more than 80,000 miles. Note: I now realize that all you have to do is set the charge limit to 100% and it will give you the range estimate. You don’t actually have to charge to 100%.

Yesterday, I made a more real-life estimate of my current range. If you go to the Trips heading on the main menu in the car, one of the results is miles since your last charge. When I reached 0% charge, the distance since last charge was 251 miles, with the car doing a mix of city and mostly freeway driving at 70 mph. This is a measure of current range that doesn’t depend on Tesla’s algorithm — but does depend on what kind (speed) of driving you’ve been doing. If we compare that to the 310 mile EPA range of the car, we get 81% of its original rated range. If we use that measure, my car has lost 19% of its range in 3 years and 80,000+ miles. Wow! That’s a lot! The degradation would be less if you believe that Tesla’s EPA range of 310 miles for the Model 3 Long Range is unrealistically high. You would also need to do this test when the car is new to compare, if you want to get an accurate figure by this method. New Model 3 Long Range cars have an EPA range of 358 miles. So, I can’t just run to a Tesla delivery center to check on a new car. However, the next time I visit a delivery center, I will compare the EPA rating with the in-car 100% computer estimate for a new car to see how different/similar they are.

Editor’s note: Again, note that the speed at which you drive will affect your range. If you drive at about 25 mph, your car can go hundreds of miles further than a normal mix of highway & city driving, whereas if you drive 90 mph on the Interstate, your car will go a far shorter distance than its generally estimated range.

How did I get the state of charge down to zero and “below”? Over two days and two trips to Salt Lake City, my state of charge (SoC) on arriving home was 11 miles. Then I drove around my neighborhood in big circles until the SoC was zero miles. At that point, the distance since the last charge read 251 miles. I heard that the car wouldn’t be dead at zero miles but would eventually go into “Turtle Mode.” The car performed normally as I drove around the neighborhood in smaller and smaller circles. My car went into Turtle Mode at 264 miles (after 13 more miles). Using that figure, I calculate 264/310 = .85, or 85%. That’s 15% range loss over 3 years and 80,000+ miles if you want to count that way — not quite as bad. It also means you can safely drive down to zero charge in emergencies.

My experience with Turtle Mode: I thought Turtle Mode meant that the car would only go a short distance at 3 or 4 mph. I wanted to be sure to make it home, so my neighborhood circles got smaller and smaller. I was driving 25 mph when I observed the car would no longer accelerate when I pushed on the accelerator, but my speed stayed at 25 mph. I only needed another few hundred yards to reach my driveway and my charger. I started to back into the driveway when the car stopped dead with my car sitting crossways in the middle of the street. I called a neighbor and we tried to push the car and it wouldn’t move — it wasn’t in neutral and I couldn’t shift. The flasher lights still worked but little else. It also failed to steer. My neighbor has a Chevy Volt and had recently bought a big emergency generator that he offered to bring over. At that point, I realized I was close enough to my house to get 110V power. I popped the frunk — thank God that still worked — and got out my Mobil Connector and 20 ft extension cord that I keep there for emergencies. I already had a 50 ft extension cable hooked up in the garage, so I started charging at 7kW. Remember, I am still sitting crossways in the middle of the street, but it was 11 o’clock at night, so only one car came by while this was going on. Miraculously, after only 5 minutes (I swear), I was able to back up the 30 ft into my driveway to reach my charger.

Lessons learned for running totally out of charge: After you reach zero SoC, it appears that you have approximately 10 more miles at ~25 mph before your car goes into Turtle Mode. Danger: My car ran only ~300 yards at 25 mph in Turtle Mode before it stopped totally dead. My advice: After ~10 miles, stop in a safe place and put the car in neutral. I think it is safe to tow the car a few miles, but you won’t be able to steer it if you let it go dead completely.

The biggest reason I bought the Long Range version of the Model 3 is that I knew we would be making at least one 3000 mile long-distance roundtrip every year. Our Model 3 is our 4th electric car, after 80 mile, 110 mile, and 150 mile range Nissan LEAFs. I bought a special air mattress and schemed for years how to drive our last Nissan car across the country, but with the short range, slow recharging speed, and lack of CHAdeMO chargers en route, there was no way it was going to happen. In fact, I ended up shipping my Nissan LEAFs across the country three times using diesel-powered car carriers.

I’m 82 and I see our Model 3 as the last car I will own. For that reason, I have been especially kind to the battery. I’ve heard that the fastest degradation of the battery comes in the first years of life, so I’m hoping I won’t have another 7% (or 15%) range loss in the next 80,000 miles. I have been traveling cross country with two 55 lb full-suspension mountain ebikes on back, which kills the aerodynamics of the car. Superchargers are usually spaced 70–100 miles apart on my route, which I can make easily, but the couple 130 mile separations are a stretch. As my battery continues to degrade, I may have to purchase more $6,000 ebikes so that I won’t have to haul them back and forth. Even as the battery degrades, I should still be able to make the cross-country trip for many years.

My wife and I are still just as thrilled with our Tesla Model 3 as we were when we took delivery three years ago. The ultra-smooth and quiet rocket-like acceleration and multiple software updates culminating in Full Self Driving (Beta) has kept us excited ever since. In all our long-distance driving, we have never found a Supercharger full or out of order. They are simple to use. You just plug in and Tesla bills your credit card automatically. We are able to drive the same 500 miles per day that we did with our gasmobiles.

Tesla Model 3 Maintenance Costs

My full warranty ran out at 50,000 miles.

My battery and drive system warranty will run out in another 40,000 miles at 120,000 miles.

I’ve ignored the incessant advertising from Car Shield to buy an extended warranty. I’m going naked because I’m counting on the simplicity of electric drive compared to the complexity of a gasoline motor system and transmission to keep maintenance costs to a minimum. I have also taken care by limiting the state of charge of my battery to between 20% and 80% as much as possible to keep my battery healthy. I charge to 90% about an hour before long trips, but I have never charged to 100% previously.

I had to replace one squeaky front suspension joint which was covered by the warranty. My routine maintenance costs have been for tires and wheel alignment. At this time, my alignment is perfect, as Tesla measured 5 mm everywhere on all four tires. My brother claims there is no way they measured 3 places on each tire, so most likely they made a few measurements with a gauge and extrapolated with visual observations. They recommended against tire rotation. I’m still on my third set of tires, but I will be due for new tires soon. I have spent $1143.37 on tires and a total of $480 for wheel alignment twice. I still have tread after 30,000 miles on my no-name $565.44 Kenda Vezda tires. You would need to spend well over $1000 for the equivalent of the original-equipment Michelin tires. My bargain-priced tires have lasted significantly longer than the original tires, and when new performed just as well. As the tires have worn down, the road noise has gone up. It is significantly annoying at this point. This would be true of any tires, and I’m not sure that the one-inch of foam glued into the original-equipment tires makes much difference.

I recently had my first non-warranty repair. I had noticed a “loss of power” warning and a hard speed limit of 60 mph a couple of times over the last year. I told the service department in Minneapolis about it when I took my car in for glass replacement a few weeks ago. They asked me for the exact time of the incident and proposed the replacement of the rear Superbottle for $503.50. I understand it regulates the temperature of the motor and the battery. I believe on newer Model 3s it has been replaced by the Octovalve.

I do 95% of my L2 charging in my garage at 32 amps and 28 mph. I estimate my fueling costs are about 1/4 the price of gas for a similarly size car when others are paying $5/gal for gas.

Please let me know your experiences with high-mileage Teslas in the comments section. Also, have I made the battery degradation estimates properly?

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 123 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler