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How to get the most range out of your Tesla + how weather affects range

Last modified: 2017-08-07

10 min(s) read

For most trips just get in your car and drive because the Model S and X have more than enough range for 90% of trips without having to worry. If you have a home charger or a destination charger you’re visiting then you will leave with 80-90% of your battery each morning anyway which is often enough for 130-300 miles (depending on your battery configuration and speed).

  • Speed is king, the slower you go the longer you drive. It’s really that simple. Basically, you want to keep the acceleration neutral wherever possible and maintain speed. Both noticeable acceleration or regeneration of brakes indicate a waste of energy when at cruising speed.
  • Time the end of charging to finish just before you leave, this keeps the battery warm which helps with consumption
  • Switch on range mode
  • If driver and/or front seat passenger only in the car use seat heating over vehicle cabin heating.
  • Buy a bigger battery if you need the range
  • Keep aero as efficient as possible (no roof racks or bars if you can help it).
  • Drive as smoothly as possible, sometimes TACC / AP is not the most efficient at this but often TACC will be.
  • If you do not have a software restricted battery then there is little point in charging above 95% as the last 5% takes too long to do and you would get more kW in the same time at the next Supercharger.
  • Keep weight down, so remove any items that are not required for the journey.
  • Inflate tyres to their correct pressures.
  • Regen brake as much as possible, so brake at a level where you don’t need to actually press the pedal.
  • Remember that NEDC is hopelessly optimistic. Expect to get around 80% of the NEDC max range in normal UK motorway driving at 70mph
  • If a choice between a 2 bay Supercharger site and a bigger SuC site go for the bigger one as it will probably give a little bit more power
  • Ignore jealous Audi drivers
  • Just drive smooth and easy, and no speeding. It’s that simple. Or buy yourself some speeding time with a short supercharger stop.
  • At a Supercharger site if a car is already there try to connect to one that is not part of a pair to get a faster charge e.g. if he is on 1A then connect to 2a or 2b rather than 1B.
  • Give yourself more time
  • Note that the on board Nav assumes your destination will have charging. If not then ensure you arrive with enough to get to the next Supercharger/charger after your destination.
  • If you need the range try driving in the slow lane at 60-65; I tend to find that gives you another 5-10 % of battery!
  • We used a warm battery,  and a low but tolerable speed.
  • Satnav top half of your screen and energy trip bottom half will help you quickly see your energy performance and teach you to drive efficently.
  • It makes little difference if you drive at 60, 70 or 80 you will still average around 50mph if you take into account the idle time taken to recharge at the next Supercharger.
  • Take your time, enjoy the journey and don’t fill to the top at every stop
  • Don’t accelerate hard up a hill. Take it easy going up hill. You can also use downhill momentum by speeding up (within legal limits) to provide you with momentum to go up the next hill with less power.
  • Anticipate the road by looking ahead. It can help you avoid going to a complete standstill. Setting off from a standstill will always use more power than speeding up from a low speed.
  • Charge when you can, not necessarily when you need to.
  • Multi-day trip: make sure where you stay overnight has charging available and you have the adapters to use it. Make sure you have a full charge by morning, then time charging stops to coincide with eating breaks. Do that and you’ll never have to wait for the car to charge.
  • Plan ahead and have a contingency plan
  • If the outside temp is below 20 degrees then keep the climate control on but turn off the a/c. Saving is noticeable. Maybe 10 wh/mile.
  • I average 650kwh or so when staying around town, but typically don’t find it a challenge to keep around 300 or under when doing a long trip. I get almost mile for mile out of the range it predicts. Normally 260miles for the 280 stated in my 90, I might be able to eek out that last bit but frankly, I don’t need to or care enough. Maybe one day!
  • You can turn off the Tesla from being “always connected”. Downside is that it means your phone app won’t connect, and the LTE can take a while to connect when you drive, but this can help reduce vampire drain (ideal if parking overnight without charging)

In car / on the go planning of routes should be done with:

  • The in-car navigation system, this will automatically route you via superchargers. It’s important to remember it will not direct you to other chargers in the UK & Europe and this means you might miss fairly fast and possibly more en route locations such as a Chademo charger.
  • ABetterRoutePlanner.com offers in-car routing as well, ideally you should set this up on a desktop computer first and then open it in the in-car browser.

Desktop planning of routes should be done with

Does weather & location affect range?

Yes just like a petrol car the weather can affect range massively, but often it’s more noticeable in an electric car, here are few bits of info regarding various weather conditions:

  • Cold temperatures
    • Cold air is denser which can reduce range of all vehicles by up to 10%
    • Cabin heating is often required for cold temperatures, full heating at full power and on the hottest temperature with the car not even moving would empty an 85kWh Tesla battery in around 10 hours but of course, nobody needs full power heating for that long so expect 5-10% loss in range for most driving situations for a comfortable 18.5°C cabin temperature. A simple trick is to preheat the car whilst it’s still plugged in, this will draw most of the power from the grid instead of the battery.
    • Battery heating is automatically done for 0°C to -20°C temperatures and may continue to run even when driving for a short period of time until the battery is up to temperature. Getting up to speed will help to keep the battery warm but of course that will also affect range.
    • Regen braking is often reduced when the car is between 0°C-10°C, the battery will soon heat up enough to allow some/full regen.
    • Below -20°C the car will continue to heat the battery for the whole journey, you will see significant battery drain at this level especially at low speeds. Preheating the car and/or ending the charge just before you set off will help with on the road range.
    • Charging at low temperatures can also take much longer as the car has to heat the battery enough before it will accept a charge, this is also true with superchargers (a supercharger cannot speed up the battery heating process as it’s limited by the battery heater).
    • If starting a cold journey from a supercharger you might consider driving the car for a few minutes to help preheat the battery before a quick supercharge over breakfast etc, this will help your range later on in the day but might not be needed if your next supercharger is close enough not to need the extra efficiency.
  • Wind
    • If you imagine you’re driving at 70MPH with a 30MPH headwind you’re effectively doing 100MPH which obviously will negatively affect your efficiency. If you’re travelling back the same route later in the day and the wind stays the same you, of course, will be able to recover some of that lost energy but sods law would mean it probably wouldn’t happen.
    • A cross wind will also negatively affect the aerodynamic shape of the car which will hurt your efficiency however it’s difficult to counter this so little can be done unfortunately.
    • Drafting (aka driving behind a lorry) will potentially improve your efficiency and range as the headwind is negated however doing so safely can be tricky but even keeping 1-2 car lengths away can positively affect your range, just be extremely careful.
  • Rain / Wet ground / Snow
    • Often rain is the forgotten enemy of car efficiency as it can negatively affect range by up to 30%, often it’s not the actual rain that causes the issue but the rain that is left on the road surface that your tyres are having to push you through that wastes energy.
    • The only real way to increase your efficiency in wet conditions is to slow down
    • Snow is very similar to rain and will force you to use up more energy. The Tesla due to its weight and often AWD capability is superb in the snow but your range will suffer. Best to travel during peak traffic times to increase the likelihood of good road conditions.
    • Winter tyres will aid grip in wet/winter conditions but might not help with efficiency.
  • Altitude
    • Unlike a petrol or diesel car that is trying desperately to breathe fresh air an electric car simply doesn’t need it so works actually better at a high altitude due to the thinner air and less drag!
    • If you ever want to setup a drag race in your favour then do it at the top of a mountain against a petrol car!
    • The only problem with a high altitude is you’ve had to get up to that height somehow and most likely this was by driving inefficiently to the top. You will gain some range on the way down thanks to regenerative braking but it will never be more energy than what you used to get to the top in the first place.
    • Keeping regen and braking to a minimum when going downhill will give you the best efficiency but if the hill is too steep you will obviously need to brake for safety, using regen braking only will be best but sometimes this isn’t possible.
    • The car navigation and energy graphs do a great job of showing you your energy efficiency, keep an eye on this just like you would on normal flat trips and adjust accordingly.
  • Hot temperatures
    • The A/C uses far less energy than the heating system so you have less to worry about compared with a cold day.
    • A common trick is to keep the A/C off and just allow the flow of air through the car vents to keep occupants at a reasonable temperature
    • The battery does require cooling but often the ambient air is sufficient unless you’re using full performance modes
    • Keep the windows shut for the best aerodynamic drag efficiency at normal speed, at low speed you might consider dropping the windows and turning off cooling but in reality, you probably will prefer the non-petrol contaminated cabin air instead of opening the windows for the horrid smell of burning dinosaurs.
    • Panoramic sunroof can be vented when driving or more importantly when parked to let out some of the hot air
    • The Tesla doesn’t allow you to open all windows from the key but if you’ve got 5 minutes before a trip on a long day a great idea is to open all the windows and boot to let the car cool down. This will save you putting on the aircon so early.
    • Keeping the car plugged in and remote cooling will draw power from the grid instead of the battery if you must use the A/C, doing this before you set off will help with range.
    • In extremely hot temperatures the car battery management system will keep itself at a safe temperature which will use up energy as it runs the cooling fans etc. It’s important to remember this if you’re parking it at an airport or similar for several weeks.

Image courtesy of Tesla Owners Italia who hit over 1000KM on one charge

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