Car rental agency

What happens when you park a Tesla for three months?

My wife and I have a summer spot at a camping community in Connecticut. When we owned a Nissan LEAF, it sat in our carport in Florida for three months. During this time, it lost approximately 2% of its battery charge. But the LEAF was not a “computer on wheels” like a Tesla is. So when we went up north this summer, we were curious how much battery power our Tesla Model Y would use before we got back.

Fortunately, the Tesla app makes it easy to stay in touch with your car at all times, so we were able to monitor things from afar. Before driving off, I charged our Model Y (aptly called Wylie – every car should have a name) to 86%. Then we headed to the airport.

I was a little nervous, not because I thought there would be a problem, but because it was something new in my experience. I didn’t want to worry about Wylie sitting around with a completely drained battery for weeks or months. We have a neighbor who has agreed to drive the car every few weeks. I showed my neighbor how to hook it up, but he wasn’t comfortable doing it, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

After a week I checked Wylie using the Tesla app. The battery was at 84%, which gave me a hint that my concerns were unrealistic. After a month, it was 79%. After 2 months it was at 71% and when we got home last week the battery still had 64% charge remaining.

Park a Tesla for the summer

There are several things you should do before parking your Tesla for an extended period. First, turn off any features that can consume power, such as automatic cabin temperature control (which prevents the temperature inside the car from exceeding 40°C/104°F until ‘at 12 hours after leaving the car). Dog mode, camping mode, etc. should all be disabled. Sentinel mode is a matter of personal choice, but depending on how often it is triggered, it can consume a lot of power. Wylie was parked under a carport that protected her from the sun in a 24-hour secure condominium. There aren’t many rogues wandering around who might decide to mess with it.

If it was parked at an airport or other public facility, you might want to enable sentry mode for your own peace of mind and to have a video recording if miscreants create mischief while you’re away. I can’t report how quickly Sentry mode drains the battery because I didn’t turn it on while I was away. (Editor’s Note: Sentinel Mode can drain the battery by a ton. We lived in an apartment complex where there was a lot of foot traffic around the car and the battery drained quickly when sentry mode was on. I guess it would be the same at an airport.)

My neighbor used to drive the car a few miles every two weeks, mostly to remove rust from the brake discs and keep the 12-volt battery charged. The heat is harder on these batteries than the cold, so I wanted to make sure they survive the Florida summer.

He used my Tesla key card to gain access to the car and it took him a few tries to get it to work. He assumed he was supposed to hold it in front of the camera on the door jamb, which someone unfamiliar with the car might assume is the correct method. The first time he checked the car he called me and I walked him through the process.

Then at the end of August, he called me to tell me that he couldn’t lock the car when he was done driving it. There were workers in the area and he didn’t want to leave the car unlocked. Rather than imposing his bonhomie, I simply locked the car remotely using the app. He thought that was really cool.

Lessons learned

Wylie used about 25% of its battery power during the three months of parking, or about 8% per month. So if you’re worried about leaving your Tesla unused for a while, don’t be. Remember to shut down systems and features that may be consuming more power and walk away.

Having a carport or a garage is an undeniable plus. Cars parked in sunny Florida can easily reach 120°F inside, or even higher. It’s not good. In fact, when I checked the app, Wylie never got over 85 degrees indoors all summer. As noted above, there’s a feature that will automatically turn on the air conditioning if the cabin temperature gets too high, which is good, but if AC is running steadily, battery power will drop accordingly. Other than that, leaving your Tesla unattended for a long time shouldn’t be a problem.

When my wife and I returned to Florida a few days ago, there was Wylie sitting right where we left him. We were able to go up and get groceries without drama. The tire pressure monitor said it was time to put some air in the tires so I found an air pump (I carry a battery powered air pump in the trunk but it’s a bit slow) and I aired. All 4 tires were at 38 psi, which may seem like a lot, but the sticker on the driver’s side B-pillar says 42 psi is recommended. Once I added about 5 pounds of pressure to all 4 tires the light went out and everything was fine.

Model Y’s Holiday Takeaways

Since my experiment represents a sample size of one, extrapolating my results is problematic. Still, I had no problem leaving Wylie parked for 3 months, which is comforting since my wife and I go up north every summer. Having my neighbor take the car around the block twice a month was nice but not necessary.

What I found, however, was that my neighbor was completely baffled by the touchscreen. He couldn’t adjust the AC temperature or activate the windshield wipers or listen to the radio. I know Hertz and other rental companies order a bunch of Teslas and I wonder if their customers are happy with the “computer on wheels” experience. Most of us get into a rental, adjust the seat and mirrors, drop it in the car and drive off. Using a Tesla requires a tutorial.

I have to say, after owning Wylie for 9 months, the touchscreen is my least favorite part of the Tesla experience. Maybe it’s because I’m older and my brain has atrophied, but my son-in-law has had a Model Y for 2 years now and my daughter is hesitant to drive it because it’s still unknown land to her. Maybe she inherited her father’s limited brain capacity.

I walk the reddit EV Forum regularly and recently saw a post from someone who swapped out a Model Y for a different electric car and was thrilled to have real buttons on a real dash again. For me, the Tesla touch screen is not intuitive. He forces me to do what he wants me to do rather than what I want him to do. I know Tesla sells billions of cars worldwide, which makes me an outlier I guess. But when I read that Tesla was considering removing the two remaining joysticks, I shake my head and ask why.

Elon thinks of a car as just a horizontal elevator. To me, it’s so much more than that and I wish Tesla would stop sanitizing the driving experience to the point where a lot of driving fun is squeezed out of the experience. Your mileage may vary. See dealer for details.


 

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