Did you know that the average Tesla vehicle loses approximately 30% of its battery capacity within the first 100,000 miles? This is not phantom drain but still is interesting :-). A Tesla is a great investment that saves you money on gas, but it can be frustrating when your Tesla’s battery drains for no reason. This makes charging it more expensive and could damage the vehicle over time. What is Tesla phantom battery drain, and how do you manage it?
Phantom drain happens when a Tesla sits overnight or longer while idle and the battery passively drains. Small degrees of phantom drain is inevitable, but you can reduce it by not using third-party Tesla apps and tweaking certain Tesla settings to improve energy efficiency.
In this article, I’ll be going over relevant info about Tesla batteries, including how to maintain, test, and generally take care of your Tesla battery. I also touch on topics like if it’s bad to drain Tesla batteries, how many miles a typical Tesla battery charge will go for, and more.
- What Is Vampire or Phantom Drain?
- Stopping Phantom Drain on Your Tesla Battery
- Why Is My Tesla Losing Charge So Quickly?
- Ways To Improve Tesla Battery Life
- Leaving Your Tesla Plugged In All the Time
- Completely draining a Tesla Battery
- Amount of Tesla Energy Loss Overnight
- The cost of a Tesla Battery Replacement
- Saving Your Tesla Battery While Driving
- Reducing phantom drain in Teslas
- How the weather affects phantom drain
- Tesla has a feature called “Scheduled Departure”. Use it!
What Is Vampire or Phantom Drain?
When your battery slowly drains for no apparent reason while your Tesla is parked, the culprit is most likely phantom drain or vampire drain. These terms are colorful names for a slow, passive drain on your car’s battery.
While some of the onboard components can cause a phantom drain, the OEM’s app and third-party apps can also drain a small amount of electricity when they interface with your Tesla’s system. If your car remains parked without a recharge over a long period, many of these small energy drains accumulate into a surprisingly large loss of battery.
Stopping Phantom Drain on Your Tesla Battery
You can’t eliminate phantom drain completely because it’s partly because of the car’s default electronics. Your Tesla will experience a noticeable loss of battery or ‘miles,’ as displayed in your car’s Energy app, especially in extreme temperatures.
To prevent phantom drain in areas with extreme weather, park and store your Tesla in a climate-controlled parking area.
Phantom drain can be very inconvenient if you’re in a location with limited access to a Supercharger or even 240v charging capability. With a regular 120v charger, a Tesla may take days to charge.
This isn’t feasible in all situations, especially with time-sensitive matters like vacations, work, family matters, and more.
Thankfully, it’s fairly simple to prevent and minimize the amount of phantom drain so you don’t have to worry about your battery dying when you least expect it.
Here’s what you can do to reduce phantom drains:
- Turn on energy saving under the power management screen.
- Uncheck ‘always connected.’
- Turn off Smart Preconditioning if it isn’t very cold outside.
- Always keep your Tesla charging when at home.
- Avoid apps that connect to your Tesla.
- Use only the official Tesla app to connect to and interface with your Tesla.
- If you use TeslaFi, consider revoking its permissions, changing your Tesla password, or uninstalling the app. This app frequently pings your Tesla, potentially causing a lot of drain over time.
Why Is My Tesla Losing Charge So Quickly?
Teslas naturally lose battery capacity over time, but not much of it. Teslas are expected to retain 90% of their original battery capacity at 200,000 miles. This means you shouldn’t have a rapidly discharging battery, not unless something is wrong.
You’ll normally lose 1% to 3% or more per day when the Tesla is parked because the systems in the car as well as any Sentry Mode or external apps you have enabled are still running.
Also of note is that Teslas will use energy to heat the battery on a very cold day, and to cool down a battery on a very hot day. Cold days take more energy for the Tesla to warm up the battery versus the car cooling it on a hot day.
In the very cold winter months, this issue can affect your battery’s efficiency by as much as 30%. As a rule of thumb, you should expect lower battery efficiency when it’s cold, and to a lesser degree, when it’s very hot. If you live in extremely snowy winter conditions, make sure your garage has proper heating to avoid battery drainage.
Calculating Your Tesla Battery Degradation
The most accurate way of calculating how much your Tesla battery has degraded is to charge your car to 100%, then drive it until the battery has died according to EPA standards, and compare your numbers.
EPA standards are what your Tesla’s system uses to show your estimated miles left, not the actual number of miles left. That’s because Teslas can’t adjust for driver behavior and other battery degradation factors. So you have to use the standard as your baseline, and your actual numbers as the result; compare the two to get your degradation rate.
If you get less than 200 miles out of an estimated 300-mile battery charge in normal or warm weather, your battery is likely very degraded. It’s important to conduct this test during warm weather because, in the winter, cold temperatures can make the battery use much more power. Therefore, it may seem like the battery is degraded when it’s not.
Testing Your Tesla Battery Health
From your energy screen, you will need to check three things in order to calculate your Tesla’s estimated battery health. These are your AVG consumption, projected range, and battery percentage.
How To Calculate Tesla Battery Health
- Multiply the AVG consumption by the projected range.
- Divide the answer by 1000. The result is your available kWh.
- Divide your kWh by your battery percentage using decimals—.27 is 27%, .15 is 15%, and so on.
- The final result is your actual available kWh.
- Compare it to the estimated number to determine degradation—a large deviation means a high degree of battery degradation.
Again, do not conduct this test in very cold weather, as the results won’t be accurate: the car uses more energy than normal just to regulate the battery’s temperature. To get the most accurate results, you should do this in a warm garage or shady driveway.
By the way, I wrote a related article about Tesla Batteries – Cooling and Heating. I went into detail and explored all the cooling methods and if Teslas can overheat. Check it out!
Ways To Improve Tesla Battery Life
A big way you can improve your Tesla’s battery life is to adopt efficient driving techniques. Driving in certain ways can use excessive amounts of energy from the battery, but it’s crucial to know what you can do to improve your Tesla’s battery life.
- Use regenerative braking as often as possible.
- Charge your battery daily.
- Don’t let the battery get too low. Irregular charging can reduce battery capacity.
- Avoid stop-and-go driving with lots of starts and stops.
- Avoid driving uphill on an inclined surface.
- Keep your Tesla in a climate-controlled parking area during hot and cold months.
- Turn off Sentry Mode
- Use air-conditioning or heat moderately to drain less energy from the battery.
Leaving Your Tesla Plugged In All the Time
Tesla itself says to leave your Tesla plugged in whenever you aren’t driving it, if possible. Tesla also notes that it’s best to use low-voltage chargers on your Tesla—120v and 240v are the typical choices. The supercharger or 480v charger should only be used when you need to charge fast.
There’s no electrical advantage to letting your Tesla battery drain all the way to low levels before charging it. In fact, leaving the battery charging will help it retain some heat and improve starting. Unlike old-school batteries, you can leave your Tesla charging and the onboard computer won’t allow overcharging to damage your battery.
A big plus when keeping your Tesla at 90% charge or higher is that regenerative braking will activate. It’s a unique way of displacing the energy generated by your brakes and converting it back into electrical charge, prolonging your battery life in the process.
Regenerative braking comes standard on all new Tesla models as of 2020, instead of optional as it had been. It improves energy efficiency on all Teslas.
Completely draining a Tesla Battery
It’s bad to leave Tesla batteries uncharged for extended periods of time. As is the case with many other types of batteries, leaving them dead for many weeks or months can accelerate battery degradation. It means the battery will lose some of its capacity, and won’t last as long.
For the most part, it’s recommended to leave your Tesla charging when parked as often as possible. You may not have a charger at work, but you should be fine as long as you plug it in when you get home.
Amount of Tesla Energy Loss Overnight
Typically, a Tesla will lose anywhere from 1% to 3% overnight in normal conditions if it isn’t plugged in. This number rises with exposure to extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, and usage of apps that connect to your Tesla.
If you’re seeing phantom drains of more than 5%, you should consult your Tesla’s settings to ensure that energy saving is on and that Sentry Mode isn’t enabled.
Please note that Sentry Mode’s protection may outweigh its power drain in some situations. If you’re in a suspicious place where you don’t feel safe, turning Sentry mode on is probably more helpful than the bit of battery it uses.
The cost of a Tesla Battery Replacement
According to The Drive, a Tesla Model 3 battery replacement generally runs you about $16,000 if your car is out of warranty. This price includes a couple of items that go with the battery, including a wiring harness and battery coolant.
If the battery has stopped working and you are covered by a warranty (like the 8-year guarantee for a new Model 3), you probably just have to call Tesla and explain the situation.
Sometimes Tesla won’t accept the warranty if it deems that the failure is due to ‘driver error’ or other conditions. For the most part, Tesla only covers manufacturer defects that occur within 8 years of purchase.
Saving Your Tesla Battery While Driving
While driving, there are many things you can do to prolong your driving range and battery life. These are generally driving techniques, although weather plays a role too.
Here are some factors that drain your battery:
- Making frequent and short trips.
- Braking a lot, aka ‘stop-and-go driving.’
- Driving uphill a lot.
- Very cold weather.
- Driving at very high speeds.
- Using heat or A/C.
Reducing phantom drain in Teslas
To reduce phantom drain in Teslas, owners can adjust certain settings in their cars. Here are some detailed instructions on how to do so:
- Go to the Tesla app on your smartphone and log in t`o your Tesla account. Navigate to the “Controls” tab and select “Power Management”. In the Power Management screen, you will see several options to reduce energy consumption, such as turning on energy-saving mode and disabling Sentry Mode and Summon Mode when not in use.
- Additionally, you can also turn off Smart Preconditioning, which uses a lot of energy to heat up the battery and cabin in cold temperatures. Instead, you can use the “Cabin Overheat Protection” feature to keep the cabin temperature at a comfortable level without using too much power. Check out this article that I wrote about Cabin Overheat Protection to gain some helpful knowledge.
- To further reduce phantom drain, you can also disable third-party apps that connect to your Tesla. These apps can consume a lot of energy and cause significant range loss over time.
- Instead of using third-party apps, it is recommended to use the official Tesla app for mobile access to your car’s various functions. To do this, go to the “Settings” tab in the Tesla app, and select “Connected Third-Party Services.” Then, revoke permissions for any third-party apps that are connected to your Tesla.
- Another feature that can help is to put the car in “sleep mode” by going to the “Controls” tab and selecting “Settings.” Under “Vehicle” select “Auto Sleep Mode” and set the car to go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity.
- Finally, Tesla owners can also reduce phantom drain by keeping their car’s software up to date. Tesla occasionally releases updates that improve the energy efficiency of its vehicles, so it’s important to check for updates on a regular basis.
By making these adjustments to the settings on your Tesla, you can reduce phantom drain. It’s worth noting that this may not completely eliminate vampire drain, but it will minimize it. Also, it’s worth noting that these instructions may vary depending on the model of the Tesla you have.
How the weather affects phantom drain
Cold and hot weather can significantly affect the battery performance of Teslas, leading to increased phantom drain or vampire drain.
In cold weather, the car’s battery management system uses a lot of energy to warm up the battery and cabin, which can result in a significant loss of range. On the other hand, in hot weather, the car’s battery management system uses energy to cool down the battery, which can also lead to range loss.
To manage this, you can use built-in features like Smart Preconditioning, Cabin Overheat Protection, and Sleep Mode, which allows the car to maintain a comfortable temperature while parked, without using a lot of energy.
You can also use power-saving modes to reduce energy consumption, such as Sentry Mode, Summon Mode, and Dog Mode, which deactivate certain functions when the car is parked. Additionally, you can avoid using third-party apps that connect to the Tesla, as these apps can consume a small amount of energy while you interface with the car’s computer system.
Overall, managing battery temperature is crucial to maintaining the longevity of Tesla batteries and maximizing the number of miles of range. You should be mindful of the outside temperature and adjust your charging habits accordingly, to ensure you have enough charge to get through the next day. With the right settings and charging habits, you can minimize the impact of extreme temperatures on your batteries, and enjoy your Tesla with less range loss.
Tesla has a feature called “Scheduled Departure”. Use it!
If you’re looking to reduce phantom drain or vampire drain, you can utilize a new feature called “Scheduled Departure”.
This feature allows you to set a specific time for the car to turn on Climate Control, so the cabin temperature is at an optimal level before your departure, reducing the need for the car to use a lot of energy to heat or cool the cabin when you start your trip.
This in turn will help to maintain the battery temperature and reduce the range loss from the standby mode of the computer system and 3rd party apps.
It is accessible via the Tesla App and can be set up with a few simple steps.
It’s worth mentioning that this feature is especially helpful for Tesla drivers living in cold climate areas or during winter months where the cold battery and cabin overheat protection can consume significant amounts of power, which can be a big problem for those who park their Tesla in a parking lot or on the street on a regular basis.
With Scheduled Departure, you can set the cabin temperature to its desired level before you leave home, avoiding the need for the car to consume too much energy to reach the desired temperature.
Additionally, fleet managers of the Tesla fleet can also use this feature to schedule the cabin temperature of their vehicles before the next day, which could be a great way to reduce energy consumption and maintain the battery power for the next day’s use.
This feature is not limited to Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y, but is also available on other electric cars like the Porsche Taycan, which also consumes a lot of energy to maintain the cabin temperature in cold or hot weather.
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