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Opinions: Model 3 w/o Home Charging or Garage

Hi all,

I'm considering buying/leasing a Model 3 (long rang or performance) as my first electric car. I'm pretty excited about the prospect, but there are a couple items I'm curious about and how it may impact the vehicle - hoping the users here have some opinions or thoughts you would be willing to share.

Some quick info about my potential situation: we live in Minneapolis, MN (cold winters/snow); we street park/no garage; no current access to at home charging (conversations with landlord pending). Our questions are as followed:
1. Can super chargers be used as the primary source to charge your battery? If I go into the office I'll be able to charge at a level 2, but until, and if, we can reach an agreement with the landlord for garage charging access, or an appropriate NEMA plug outside the home, super charging will be the main source. I understand also the recommendation to charge to 80-90% and not 100%.

2. How harsh are cold temperatures to the battery power/range if parked outside all winter? Again, we rent a duplex, so do not have covered/garage parking. I understand there will be battery drain on the vehicle by simply sitting out in the cold, that its generally important to precondition the vehicle, and that even having the car plugged into a standard outlet would help keep the battery warm, but is outdoor parking in the Minneapolis winters generally a bad idea for this vehicle?

Thanks for the opinions and insights.
 
Where in MPLS? No question it's best to have the ability to charge where you park overnight for any EV. However if you have level 2 available where you work that can be a good substitute for at home charging. I bought my first EV because I had level 2 chargers available at work. You said "if" you go in to the office though so I assume like many of us you are working at home so maybe you can't count on work charging on a regular basis. As far as exclusively supercharging, there are superchargers around the twin cities at Targets and a couple are at HyVees, figure out what's nearby. If you shop at those stores or don't mind shopping there on a regular basis you could make that work. Supercharging will degrade your battery a bit faster than level 2 charging in the long run. You don't want to let the car sit at a 100% charge. When I charge at home I set the limit to 90%, many other owners prefer 80%. If I used superchargers exclusively I'd probably set the limit just above 90 since you will be driving it right after charging.

Honestly, if you can't plug in where you live in the twin cities, won't be going to the office regularly, and don't want to either wait at superchargers or don't want to spend any time in Target/HyVee, then you might want to reconsider buying a Tesla (and probably any other EV). There are some decent hybrid options.

On the coldest days I've found range is reduced about 30% (I park in an uninsulated garage). The car will use battery power to keep itself from getting too cold but it's really the cold weather impact on driving efficiency that is the biggest drain.
 
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RayK

Safety Score 90 (Was 96!)
Apr 5, 2016
3,080
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San Jose, CA
A1: Yes but you will be straining your battery and possibly accelerating its capacity loss. DC charging (i.e. Supercharging) is hard on the battery but if you mainly charge with L2 at work it should be okay. Right now I'm at a ChargePont CHAdeMO station charging my 3. Doing it this way I'm limited to a maximum of 45kW, instead of the 72kW I would get at a local urban Supercharger. I don't have home charging and am retired so I don't have the option to use the free L2 where I used to work. I've been doing this for 3 years and my 100% range is down to 299 miles (from 315 when new).

A2: I live in the SF Bay Area. I don't know what cold is.
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
8,627
11,212
Boise, ID
I'm going to start with the second question:

2. How harsh are cold temperatures to the battery power/range if parked outside all winter?
Well, not harsh. Cold is actually pretty healthy for batteries to sit in. Heat is more of a problem for just ongoing aging degradation.
I understand there will be battery drain on the vehicle by simply sitting out in the cold,
A little, but not too much. It's kind of a temporary thing, where you can't get as much energy out of it while it is cold, but much of that comes back as it is warmed up. It doesn't just actively heat the battery while it sits out there parked. The other factor here is just that energy consumption is going to be insanely high when you start driving, so it's going to suck down a lot of juice and run out your range a lot quicker. It's not bad or unhealthy for the battery, but you're going to notice that a drive of 15 miles from a cold start may use 30 or 40 of the so-called "rated miles" of energy on the display. Efficiency is going to be pretty bad there, and you will be recharging more often than you think.
that its generally important to precondition the vehicle,
No, definitely not, if you don't have it plugged in. There's nothing useful that does for the battery and is just going to waste a bunch of extra energy. That's for your comfort, if you want to get it heating for 5 minutes before you get in, that can feel pretty nice. Also, the "regenerative braking" you hear about, where it uses the motor to slow the car and recharge energy, that's going to be limited in Minnesota when it's cold--not really any getting around that, because the battery can't recharge at high power when it's cold. I live in Idaho, which is not as bad, but it's just a given during the winter, that it won't regen much.

and that even having the car plugged into a standard outlet would help keep the battery warm,
Again, it won't just sit there heating the battery to keep it warm for no other reason. If you try to charge from that, it will try to use that energy to warm up the battery first to enable it to charge, because it really won't charge when the battery is well below freezing. And the problem with a low power 120V outlet like that is that it just has so little power, it may draw energy trying to warm the battery outside in the Winter for several hours before it could even begin to charge--or even never get warm enough. So if that's all you would have available, I don't know if I would try that. Just let it sit and go to get some real charging that has significant power.

Now for the first question:
1. Can super chargers be used as the primary source to charge your battery?
Sure, certainly can, but there are downsides. It is harder on the battery, always doing fast charging, so it will have some capacity degradation over the years faster than cars that mostly use non-fast charging.

The other issue is going to be the cold problem. If it's been down in the single digits or below 0, and you get in and drive to the Supercharger and plug in, it won't begin charging right away. It's still going to have to draw energy from the Supercharger and just sit there warming up the battery for 15, 20, 30, ... minutes before it can begin charging, and that will be slow at first because it's still cold and then can speed up some as the battery continues to warm up.

So depending on if there is something for you to do to fill your time near where the Supercharger is, that may become annoying with an hour or so to kill once or twice a week when charging is slow in the cold like that.

So a lot of the recommendations to really have a place to plug in for EV ownership in cold locations boils down to it not being about the car's health, but more for the owners' sanity because it's so annoying if you don't have it.
 
One of the great conveniences of having an EV is "refueling" at home overnight (or during the workday) without having to go to a "fuel" station except on long trips.

However, if you do not have that kind of convenient "refueling", then even fast charging is less convenient than refueling a liquid fuel car. In addition, electricity from fast chargers can often be significantly more expensive than electricity at home (or subsidized workplace charging).
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
8,627
11,212
Boise, ID
I’ve used superchargers in sub zero temps and while the charge rate will ramp up slower it will start charging soon after you plug in.
OK, that may be an aspect of the newer battery chemistry that is used in the 2170 cells in the Model 3 and Y. I was not exaggerating with my numbers about 20 minutes or more. That's literal on the older Model S and X batteries. I knew someone from Cali, who came through Boise, charged at my house some and then went on to Twin Falls for an overnight stay at a hotel in Winter. This never even occurred to them, and the car sat out and froze overnight, so in the morning, when they thought they would just quickly hit up the Supercharger and go, they were shocked at this 20-30 minutes of no charging while it simply ran the battery heater.

So maybe they've got a more forgiving battery type now that has a wider cold temperature charging range.
 
I've had my M3LR for 20 months. Picked it up in December 2020 and didn't have home charging for at least six months, most of which were winter weather (Western NY).

I lucked out that there's a Supercharger between my home and work (60 mile round trip commute). I stopped there 2 or 3 times a week for those first six months. Since I was new to the car and an EV, I didn't mind sitting in the car during those times... and games help.

The battery doesn't necessarily drain due to cold, but it won't run as efficient until the battery warms up. The car itself is a *great* Winter vehicle... Warms up quick (the cabin) and handles well in the snow.

I, too park outside. Although I do have home charging now, it's outside in my driveway. Once again, it's a great Winter car. I used to remote start my ICE and let it run for 10 minutes until it shut off... then repeat twice (for a total of 30 minutes of idling) just to get into a warm car. The M3 is warm within just a few minutes and doesn't need to run an engine to do so.

Long term, I do think you're going to want home charging. If you can L2 charge at work, that may suffice. There's a real nice feeling about having your own "gas station" at home though.

Be aware that there are new solutions hitting the market for EV charging that may simplify your struggle:

One thing I've noticed not parking in a garage... the M3 paint is not on par with other manufacturers. Acid bird pooh is starting it etch into the clear coat. My last car (entry level Chevy) was parked in this same spot for 8 years with no paint problems.

Overall... the car is great. I'm convinced there's no car I would rather drive. Congratulations!
 
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A2: I live in the SF Bay Area. I don't know what cold is.
I live in San Francisco and don't know what cold is either. In regards to street parking and not being able to charge, I've relied on Level 2 at work and supercharging primarily and it works fine. In San Francisco there are a ton of Tesla's parked overnight in the street (with street parking permits so we can assume they don't live in a garage) and with only 2 superchargers within the city (but tons around the Bay Area), we're all surviving.

The cold is what I cannot comment on, especially if you're street parking overnight. I've seen random IG reels and videos of Tesla door handles being frozen and inoperable in the snow, or cars that have trouble opening because the layer of ice on the door windows prevent them from sliding down for the door to open. If this is just standard winter car logistics that you know how to address, then that might not be a problem.
 
If you're thinking of using an extension and 120V outside in the winter, you'll not get much of a charge if any.
As the energy will go to heating the battery.
This is true, and it's a total waste of electricity in my opinion. The downsides to a "cold soaked" battery are primarily:
  1. It's less efficient
  2. Regen breaking is reduced or completely off
Driving the car for a bit resolves both of those issues. If your commute is attainable with the reduced range, then #1 doesn't really matter that much. Regarding #2, a recent update makes the car emulate regen braking with the friction brakes when regen braking is reduced. That essentially "solves" #2.


I've seen random IG reels and videos of Tesla door handles being frozen and inoperable in the snow, or cars that have trouble opening because the layer of ice on the door windows prevent them from sliding down for the door to open. If this is just standard winter car logistics that you know how to address, then that might not be a problem.

Yeah, these things happen to all cars in the winter. Preheating the cabin for a while helps. I've had to chip away at ice from the charge port, but I believe newer models have heated charge ports as well as heated wipers.
 
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This is true, and it's a total waste of electricity in my opinion. The downsides to a "cold soaked" battery are primarily:
  1. It's less efficient
  2. Regen breaking is reduced or completely off
Driving the car for a bit resolves both of those issues. If your commute is attainable with the reduced range, then #1 doesn't really matter that much. Regarding #2, a recent update makes the car emulate regen braking with the friction brakes when regen braking is reduced. That essentially "solves" #2.




Yeah, these things happen to all cars in the winter. Preheating the cabin for a while helps. I've had to chip away at ice from the charge port, but I believe newer models have heated charge ports as well as heated wipers.
I have a buddy who took his 2019 Model 3 LR up north in the winter. He arrived at his chalet with 10% charge he plugged into 120V and thought he would have lots of charge 3 days later when he was leaving. It was a mild -25° C outside.
3 days later he didn't have much more...seems that the charger was only able to keep the battery warm while adding a minimal charge.

He did manage to limp into a town and find a L2 charger. He has since upgraded his chalet and now has a 14-50 plug.
He said lesson learned.
 
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In your shoes, I'd do some random checks of the local Supercharger at the times you think you'd like to charge and see how busy it is. I'd also map out alternate charging locations both fast and slow that you might have access to if you can't use your closest choice. Is it feasible to park at any local L2 stations, then come back home (by foot, bike or Lyft) to work, or work in a nearby coffee shop or library while you get a charge? That might be a nice alternative to use, at least part of the time.

You don't mention what kind of daily/weekly mileage you normally drive. That would have a lot to do with my decision. So would the Supercharger location. Can I charge and get my groceries at the same time (or at least the same trip)? That would help a lot.
 
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RayK

Safety Score 90 (Was 96!)
Apr 5, 2016
3,080
3,182
San Jose, CA
<snip> It was a mild -25° C outside. <snip> (bolding and enlarged font size mine)

A2: I live in the SF Bay Area. I don't know what cold is.
OT: I went skiing up at Whistler, BC around 1985. It was a miserable day with high winds, blowing snow and near zero visibility almost to the base. I don't think that it was below 0° F (-17° C) 🥶. I swore then: never again in those conditions. You Canadians have a strange sense of mild.

Back to the topic at hand.... @NewGuyAl If you can manage to find some J1772 (L2) outlets around town, that might be a solution, albeit maybe a fairly long time spent at that site charging, for the lack of home charging. I used to charge at work about twice a week. We were supposed to be limited to 4 hour sessions which was good enough to get about 100 miles in the tank. If you are mostly in a WFH situation, and can get into the office for at least 4 hours, it might be a way you can survive for the time being.
 
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Reliable and available charging is the key. While SC is faster but how busy is the SC near you ? How about your office, is the L2 charging for you only or it is available for anyone? It will be bad if you really need to charge but the charger is occupied and not available for a while…
 
Thanks for all the insight - really appreciate the thoughts here.

I live within a 10min drive of 2 supercharging stations at Targets in my area and my office has several level 2s throughout the campus. I typically go into the office 2x/week - my office is 16miles away, so i have this option too. I'm considering a M3 or MY Performance because I don't do a lot of driving for commuting purposes, mostly errands, pleasure driving, and trips - I'll get the car potentially sooner than doing the LR versions (hefty price to pay for additional speed/wheels and "earlier" delivery). I'll likely lease if I do the M3, so don't have too much concern over the 3yr period if the battery has some decline due to supercharging. I also don't mind having to wait/shop at Target 1-2x/week to charge.

I'll discuss with my landlord the possibility of a 14-50 plug outside for the winter, but if I'm reading everything correctly -
1. supercharging is fine for primary use but there will be some battery efficiency loss over the course of the vehicle (no problem as my first Tesla will likely be a lease)
2. 120V charging is not worth the energy in the winter, but I will assume its okay for the coming fall to provide slight charge
3. Regen braking, "cold soaked battery", and efficiency/range will be impacted in the winter, but otherwise okay to park outside
4. Likely consider PPF or ceramic coating to protect the paint (if i consider purchase over lease)
4. Preheating in the winter will help the battery receive a charge should I need to go to a supercharger. This will "potentially" combat my battery warming vs starting a charge at the station.
 
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RayK

Safety Score 90 (Was 96!)
Apr 5, 2016
3,080
3,182
San Jose, CA
Based upon your commute distance to work and the frequency, I'd say that you could charge there once a week and that should be okay for around town use of the car; barring any time limitations on the use of the L2 chargers at work. If you plan to take longer trips, then "filling up" at one of the local Superchargers will be a good option. Also know that if you lease, I believe that Tesla does not offer any buyout options at lease end. If you fall in love with the car and want it as your own, your lease payments will not help you.
 
If "on campus" is the U of M, get yourself setup with a chargepoint account and RFID card. Then you can just plug in with the J1772 adapter that comes with the car and hold your card up to the reader and you're charging. They are reliable chargers and work quite well. You can also set up alerts from the app to let you know when charging has stopped.

If you get free or even discounted parking at the L2 charger locations on campus you are golden as there is no charge to use them above the parking fee.
 
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