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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Tesla Charging On The Road


Summer is right around the corner. That means road trips! After a year with little to no travel, it will be nice to stretch out on the open road. 

If, like me, you drive a Tesla. You have a long-range EV with access to a vast Supercharger network. And you have access to (the less discussed) destination charging network at restaurants, hotels, and other points of interest. In addition to all of this, Tesla has adapters that allow you to charge up at CHAdeMO stations like the West Coast Electric Highway. There's even a CCS adapter (coming soon to N. America) that will allow your Tesla to charge up on the Electrify America network.

If you find yourself so far off the beaten path that none of these will work for you, you still have an option, guerilla charging.  

Guerilla Charging: what it is and what it's not

When you have wandered off into an area devoid of charging stations, you may need to charge up at a campground or from a friend's dryer outlet. When that's the case, you have just stepped into the guerilla charging zone. 

Before we get into the details, I want to clarify that by guerilla charging, I mean being resourceful and having the equipment to get the job done. I don't mean stealing electricity or cutting locks to gain access. If you'd like to charge up on someone's property, just ask; explain how much electricity you'll use and offer to pay for it. "I'll be using about 60 cents worth of electricity per hour and I'll be here for ~90 minutes. I'll gladly pay you for it and you can have a soda from my cooler if you'd like one."

You should know that charging from a 240V outlet is a lot slower than charging at a Supercharger, so plan to spend some time there: bring a book, go for a hike, make some new friends, or catch up on some sleep, there are lots of options. 

Tesla Gear You'll Need

Your Tesla came with a mobile charging connector (MCC). Older versions of the MCC included an RV outlet (NEMA 14-50) and a standard US home outlet adapter (NEMA 15-5), the current version of the MCC only includes the 15-5 adapter. This standard US household outlet is the slowest of all the options at 2-4 miles per hour, it is really only useful for overnight/multiday charging. So if your MCC didn't include the 14-50 RV outlet adapter, you'll need to buy one from Tesla here

Adapters You'll Need

Now that you have a 14-50 on the end of your portable Tesla charging connector, you'll need adapters to be able to plug it into the sea of 240V plugs that are out there. It might seem like 240V is 240V and one plug should be enough; if only it were that easy. There are 240V plugs for dryers 1994 and prior, 1995 - 2011, and 2012+, there are welder plugs, range plugs, twist locks, 2-pole 3-wire, 3-pole 4-wire... a dizzying array. The below chart summarizes the most common 240V outlets nicely. 


The good thing is that nearly all of them are a subset of the 14-50 so with an adapter, you can plug into them. When you are shopping for adapters, you want to get high-quality parts with the right gauge of wire and molded (rain-tight) connectors. You could be charging for hours and low-quality part could get hot and slow down your charge rate (or worse). 

I found adapters at the AC Works Store on Amazon that appears perfectly suited for Tesla use cases. 

They have locking adapters, air conditioner adapters, welding adapters, marina adapters, and more. 

If you will be charging at campgrounds, one of the most important adapters to have is the TT-30 to Tesla adapter. There are other TT-30 to 14-50 adapters but they do not all work with EV charging equipment. The TT-30 adapter at your local RV shop will not likely work for a Tesla (or any other EV). So make sure to one that specifically says that it is made for EV (or Tesla) charging (like the one from the AC Works Store). 


Prepare Before You Go

I made an adapter kit, I bought a bright orange backpack and filled it with various adapters. This lives in the frunk of my Tesla and I find it reassuring to know that I can plug into nearly any outlet on this continent. You might not want to go that far, but you might want to at least have at least two (14-50, the TT-30), as well as an adapter for that weird outlet in your father-in-law's garage.

Remember that you don't necessarily need to charge to 100% on these charging stops. Use the Lagom method; charge so you can safely make it to your next destination.

Disclosures: 
This article contains affiliate links 
I am long Tesla

2 comments:

  1. Tesla has so many 240 destination and 400vdc Super Chargers you will be all set. The Super Chargers are also half the price of other charging spots.

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    Replies
    1. You are correct that the Supercharger network is vast. Certainly the best one out there today. For most people, most of the time, it is all that you need. This article is for the few that like to go far off the beaten path but still want to drive electric.

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