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Getting By On Public Charging Only In My 6 Year Old Tesla Model 3

I’ve owned a Tesla Model 3 for 6 years, and until recently most of my regular charging has been at home. However, I was rewarded with thousands of miles of free supercharging after my referral led a friend to buy a Tesla. For now, I’m only supercharging.

I am calling this out because there are a growing number of people out there who may similarly be relying on superchargers for a time, or for the foreseeable future, because they do not have a place to charge at home or at work. This could be for a variety of reasons, besides purchasing an electric vehicle without a place to plug it in at home or work. Their circumstances could have changed or their intended arrangements could have fallen through either temporarily or “permanently”. They simply could be between homes, in the middle of a garage or home renovation, etc. This is a story about what it is like, in the suburbs of Seattle, to rely only on publicly available charging resources for a long period of time (at least 9 months in my case so expect a follow up story or two).

There are many things someone may wonder or worry about in such a situation, including the 3 questions I will examine: 

  1. Will supercharging regularly hurt my battery? 
  2. Will it be expensive? 
  3. Will it be convenient? 

First, let’s start with the condition of my battery. As I stated, my Tesla Model 3 is 6 years old. I have close to 49,000 miles on it. Even though I was one of the first several thousand people to ever purchase a Model 3, since the pandemic the amount of driving we do has been roughly cut in half since we no longer commute to work, regularly. When I last plugged in to charge it (6 days ago) the estimated range on a full charge that was displayed in the car said I could drive 303 miles. When I bought it in May of 2018, it said 307 miles on a full charge. I fully realize that my Tesla’s estimate of total range is simply an estimate and doesn’t represent real world results per se (though I am sure I could exceed that range were I to only drive on surface streets for several hours at a time and not exceed about 45 MPH). But it does suggest that after 6 years and nearly 50,000 miles, my electric car’s batteries are ostensibly quite healthy. If after using a supercharger every 7-10 days for months in a row, you can be sure I’ll call out any changes in the cars estimates, since I will be checking this statistic each time I plug in. I will also be tracking how far I drive and how much I charge each month (as I have done every month I have owned my Tesla). Based on everything I have read, and experienced to date, I do not expect supercharging my Tesla 3-6 times a month to have any measurable effect on my battery over the next 9 months or so. I have supercharged as much in the span of a weekend, or even more so in the span of weeks on a 3000+ mile road trip and as far as I can tell, my range loss has been minimal (and still is). When my car was less than a year old, I made an interstate drive of 220-ish miles on a full charge and ended up with about 65 miles of range left on the battery. I haven’t made such a trip in about 18 months, but last time I did (as you can read in the links immediately above) I ended up not doing it non-stop on a single charge (nature called, and traffic!). I simply haven’t had a need to drive my Tesla more than about 150 miles without stopping since then, and as far as I can tell my total range loss is still no more than 10% (and most likely less) after 6 years because on my longest warm weather drives since then, I am still seeing it capable of reaching 275-285 miles on a full charge.

Next, cost. My supercharging experiment is free to me. It would not be the case for someone who isn’t the beneficiary of the reward I have received of course. At my closest Tesla Supercharger it costs 45 cents per kWh to charge. That equates to about $4 per gallon gas for a vehicle that gets 36 miles per gallon (assuming the Tesla gets roughly 4 miles per kWh as mine does). Gas prices vary widely, depending on where you live, but the current national average price is $3.61 according to AAA. Of course, one may drive a more or less fuel efficient gas powered car and the local price of gas may differ as well, but where I live, the gas price is about $4.64, again according to AAA. So even if I were paying for all that supercharging, it would be less than buying gas for a car that gets 36 miles per gallon and that may not be true for where you live or based on what gas vehicle is used for comparison.

Finally, is it convenient? The answer is simply, yes. The nearest supercharger to me is 7.8 miles away (there are non-superchargers even closer, if I wanted to use an adapter) and it is conveniently located near restaurants, department stores, a mall, and a Costco. I could visit any of these while it charges (or briefly before/after visiting one of them while I check my email or catch up on some reading). In fact visiting my Costco to gas up instead (this Costo happens to be the busiest gas station in my entire state) would take me almost as long as it would to charge my Tesla to 80% from 30%. This is because the line to gas up is usually at least 4 cars deep in any lane, if not 5-10. Of course this may not be true where you live, and if I wanted to pay 20-30 cents more per gallon I could just go to a gas station with little or no lines (but I only put gas in my other car about 4-5 times a year so, it’s not a big deal to wait sometimes). 

Since I don’t expect to notice any degradation to my battery during this months long test, and the only cost to me is a very small amount of extra driving time to the conveniently located supercharger, I can’t say that I am just “getting by”. To the contrary, I feel like I am being spoiled a little (by not paying to charge). 

Have you had to rely only on publicly available charging for an EV for any length of time? If so, what was your experience like? Did you find it particularly challenging? What were your take aways from the experience? Please leave any questions or comments below.

Image courtesy of Justin Hart.


Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.