You bought a Tesla – Congratulations! But now what? If you are anything like me, you probably knew more about your new Tesla than the Tesla employee who gave you the orientation about your new car when you took delivery. You are a member of several Tesla forums and Facebook groups and have watched countless Tesla videos on YouTube. The names Zac and Jesse and Kim and Ben and Trevor and Bjorn and Brian (etc, etc) mean something to you. If this is you, you can stop reading right now, because you already know all this stuff. 🙂
If that is NOT you, and you are new to the world of Tesla, keep reading, because I have some simple tips for newbies like you.
Set your daily charge limit to 80%. Plug your car in when you get home for the day and forget about it. Only charge above 90% prior to starting a road trip, and use the “Scheduled Charging” option in your car to time things so your car will reach 100% not too long before you plan to leave for your trip. Tesla batteries don’t like to sit too long near 0% or 100%.
Don’t be a creep! Creep mode is an option that allows your Tesla to mimic a gas car, where it will slowly move forward without you pressing the accelerator (note I didn’t call it a gas pedal). Many people like this, because it is familiar to them, but please trust me and embrace your EV! The car should only move when you tell it to by pressing the accelerator. This may feel a little weird for you for a day or two, but I promise you will come to love it.
Set your regenerative braking to the max setting. Regen braking is one of the coolest things about electric cars. It will feel weird to you for a little while, but you will be used to it and will love it in no time. Basically, when you life your foot off of the accelerator, instead of coasting, the car will start to slow itself down with the motor, recapturing that energy and putting it back into the battery. Cool, right? In time, you will find yourself almost never touching the brake pedal, basically only when the car is moving under 5 mph as you approach red lights and stop signs. This means even your brakes will last ages before needing to be replaced – Score!
OK, this is the big one and one of my very few complaints about Tesla. As far as I can tell, Tesla’s navigation system optimizes for fewest charging stops instead of (the much superior, IMO) shortest total trip time. Personally, I would much rather make more short stops to stretch my legs than fewer long stops, especially if doing so meant I would get to me destination sooner. If you agree, instead of using Tesla’s navigation to plan your charging stops, use a third party tool like A Better Route Planner. This really is a better route planner. You plug in your starting point (can be “current location”), your final destination, any waypoints you want to hit along the way (Tesla’s Nav doesn’t support this either), and enter all sorts of additional variables like what model car you have, extra weight in the car, air temperature, goal arrival percentages, etc – it’s a very thorough list. Anyway, plug everything in and push the button, and your route will be magically planned for you and you will get to your destination much sooner than you would have if you did what Tesla’s navigation suggested.
The main reason this works is because Tesla batteries charge very quickly from 0%-50% and then they start slowing down and continue to slow down. Going from 99% to 100%, for example, probably takes as long as from 10% to 25%. So the idea is to drive the bottom of the battery instead of the top. What I mean by this is instead of hitting Superchargers at 50% and charging up to 90%, it would be much faster to arrive at 10% and charge up to 50%. Either way, you add 40% to your battery, but the former will take much longer than the latter. So for an ideal road trip, you’ll “fill up” at home before you leave but then only supercharge enough to make it to your next stop (with some room to spare – I like to arrive with about 10% remaining). Charge to 50% or 60% or whatever it will take for you to make it to your next planned Supercharger stop and have about 10% remaining (A Better Rout Planner will spell this all out for you), and then continue on your way, repeating this process until you reach your final destination.
To give you a real life example of this, driving from Florida to Pennsylvania (and back), Tesla’s Navigation wanted me to stop to charge 4 times in each direction for about 4 hours of total charging time. But using A Better Route Planner to plan my trip instead, I ended up stopping 8 times in each direction, but for only about 2 hours of total charging time! So I got to stretch my legs, use the restroom, and grab a bit to eat twice as often and still managed to arrive at my destination nearly 2 hours ahead of time.
Hopefully I have explained this well enough. Not understanding this “bottom of the battery” driving is one of the biggest mistakes I see new Tesla owners making. In summary, use A Better Route Planner and trust it!