posted on May 4, 2019

Going the distance in a Tesla

Driving a Tesla sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Zipping through traffic with the nimble Roadster, gliding into tight parking spaces with the Model S, or packing up to go on a long road trip with friends in the Model X, everything sounds great. But how do you make sure your batteries don’t run out of charge? What do you need to know about Tesla batteries, today and in the future?

Batteries are the lifeblood of electric vehicles. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy, EVs (electric vehicles) help reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and smog, while reducing ecological damage. So if helping the environment is important for you, well, checking out a Tesla might be a good idea.

Tesla batteries are some of the most advanced lithium-ion batteries out there. But like anything new, you might have some questions like which Tesla batteries have the longest range, or can Tesla batteries be recycled, or even questions about the battery’s life cycle — that could impact your decision to drive a Tesla.

Or maybe you’re looking to list your Tesla on Turo, but are afraid the wear and tear might not be good for the battery. Here are the answers to five common Tesla battery questions.

What type of battery do Teslas use and how are they made?

Electric cars are the car of the future, ostensibly. And while it may be a few more years before the majority of the population are pulling into charging stations instead of their gas counterparts, the trend is certainly headed in that direction. 

Leading the EV pack is Tesla, whose cars all run on lithium-ion. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter than past battery technology, and they hold their charge for a lot longer, too. Lithium-ion batteries are made from raw materials including nickel, copper, lithium and related minerals that are currently mined all over the world.

Lithium-ion batteries are also rechargeable. And thanks to Tesla’s network of supercharger stations, as well as Tesla’s New Home Charging Station that can plug in anywhere, you don’t have to worry so much about running out of charge.

Which Tesla has the longest range?

On a full charge, Tesla ranges can span from 260 miles in a base Model 3 to upwards of 370 miles for the new Model S Long Range (100D). According to MY EV, an online marketplace dedicated to electric vehicles, Tesla currently owns the top spots for longest-range EVs. The Hyundai Kona Electric comes in at number four with a range of 258 miles.

More cars are expected to join the list of EVs able to drive more than 200 miles on a single charge. But with Tesla planning on adding four more vehicles into the EV race, (the updated 2020 Roadster is expected to have a range of 600+ miles), Tesla is in a position to help drivers go the distance (no pun intended).

Are Tesla batteries recycled?

Yes! This past April, Tesla announced plans to open its battery recycling center at its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. This is a move away from years of sending old batteries to third party recycling centers, many of which are located outside the US.

By recycling old batteries, Tesla will be able to recover the lithium, cobalt, aluminum, copper, and steel found inside old batteries to make new ones. With the raw materials for lithium batteries becoming more scarce, because of the growing demand for electric vehicles, Tesla believes opening its own recycling center will help save money and limit pollution.

How long do Tesla batteries last?

Kind of like the battery on your phone, the rechargeable battery cells in Teslas degrade over time. And while Tesla doesn’t give a specific number on how long the batteries will last, answers from Tesla forums do give a rough estimate of how much range reduction a battery has after 1,000 full charges. 

Tesla owners have reported driving up to 300,000 miles before seeing even a five percent reduction in battery capacity. Considering most cars stay on the road for about 200,000 miles, according to a recent article from AARP, 300,000 miles with only a five percent reduction in battery capacity doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, you may never have to worry about how often to replace your Tesla battery.

Are Tesla batteries performing better?

Yes, they are.

Before Teslas were a common fixture on the freeway, the company didn’t really have a need to focus on developing its own batteries for their car, using the next best thing — standard 18650 lithium-ion batteries from Panasonic. The introduction of three new car models since the Roadster and thousands of cars later, Tesla is working diligently to find a way for its cars to go longer on a single charge, while still lowering the cost.

In 2014, Tesla broke ground on a large battery factory in Sparks, Nevada called Gigafactory 1. With four new models coming by 2020, including bigger vehicles such as the Tesla Semi and the Tesla Model Y, Tesla needed a way to meet the growing demand for lithium-ion batteries. 

After years of improving upon how Tesla batteries were made, Tesla and Panasonic developed a new and improved type of cell called 2170. This development can only mean longer drives for Tesla owners, especially because the new cell will be 10-15 percent more energy efficient than the 18650 cells, according to J. B. Straubel, Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer.

The future of Tesla batteries

Unless a new energy source is discovered or people can travel by apparition Harry Potter-style, electric vehicles are here to stay. As increasing numbers of carmakers ramp up production of their own electric cars, supplies of batteries and the materials to make them have grown scarce in recent months. It’s a concern that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has shared as he ramps up production for four new models, including a more affordable crossover SUV by the end of the year.

So what is the future of Tesla batteries? Well, Musk is not letting up. Despite his own concerns, he’s stepping up his efforts in ensuring the cars he’s making will have the energy they need, including recycling batteries and hiring leaders in lithium-ion research. The commitment to improving this power source can also be seen in Tesla’s growing energy storage business. 

If you’re considering climbing into a Tesla for the weekend or sharing yours on Turo, you can be sure that once blinking light turns to solid green on the battery charger, the Tesla batteries will be ready to take you far — real far.