A black Tesla Model S 100d car parked at a charging station.
Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock.com

Teslas are among the electric vehicle (EV) industry’s most popular models, and people shopping for one understandably want to know how long it takes to charge the battery. Improvements in technology have made charging more efficient, but it’s still not the same as filling up with gas.

How Long Does It Take a Tesla to Charge?

The length of time for charging depends on several factors:

  • Where you’re charging (at home or at a public station)
  • What model of Tesla you’re driving
  • How full the battery is when you charge

Certain Tesla models have larger batteries and thus take longer to charge, just as a larger gas tank takes longer to fill. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that most EV charging doesn’t take place on an empty battery — drivers usually plug in at home after a regular day’s driving or top up at public charging stations throughout the day.

RELATED: How Much Does a Home EV Charger Really Cost?

Where You Charge Matters

You can look at the amount of time it takes to charge a Tesla (or any other EV) in a couple of different ways: the time it takes to bring the battery back to nearly full on a single charge, or the number of miles on average you get per hour of charge.

Charging stations deliver different amounts of power depending on what level of station (1-3) that you’re using. That affects charge time since stations with a higher voltage charge the battery faster. Tesla’s website estimates drivers get 2-3 miles or power per hour of charge time on a regular 120V wall outlet (level 1) and 30 miles of power after an hour on a 240V (level 2) station. On a DC fast charging (DCFC) Supercharger station, Tesla says you can grab enough power for up to 200 miles in about 15 minutes.

Most people charge at home on a 240V connection. That amount of power can recharge a nearly depleted battery in a few hours, but most EV drivers don’t wait until the battery is at 10% before they plug in, so it often takes even less time than that.

Those that don’t have EV charging infrastructure at home (people who live in apartments, for example) can usually find free or cheap level 2 public charging stations nearby. More public parking lots and workplaces are installing charging stations as well, making it easier for more people to access. Tesla calls this kind of infrastructure “destination charging” and claims around 35,000 stations are installed across North America at the time of this writing.

Tesla Models Have (Slightly) Different Charge Times

Most Tesla vehicles at the time of writing have a range of over 200 miles, with performance models like the Model S topping out at well over 300. To get that longer range, an EV needs a bigger battery with more capacity, which takes longer to charge.

Interesting Engineering broke down charge times for each Tesla model, and the longest-range Model S had the longest charge time because of its larger battery. That said, it was only by a couple of hours and most of the other models took an almost identical amount of time to charge from near-empty—what affected charge time more was the charging station used.

Battery age also matters when it comes to charge time. Older model Teslas tend to have smaller batteries with less capacity, and will probably have experienced some degree of charge loss from calendar aging the way all lithium-ion batteries do.

Battery Half Empty, Or Half Full?

Just like a gas tank, the amount of charge in the battery when you plug in is a big determining factor in charge time. It takes a lot less time to top off a gas tank that’s already two-thirds full, and the same holds true for a battery with, say, a 75% charge. That’s why most EV owners elect to plug their vehicles in multiple times throughout the day, to keep the total average charge higher.

Charging instead of filling up with gas is something that takes getting used to, especially if you’ve just switched from gas. It means moving from the “one and done” mindset we know from five-minute gas fillups to an adaptive approach — one that depends more on how you drive and what charging infrastructure you can access.

RELATED: How to Find an EV Charging Station Near You

Profile Photo for John Bogna John Bogna
John is a freelance writer and photographer based in Houston, Texas. His ten-year background spans topics from tech to culture and includes work for the Seattle Times, the Houston Press, Medium's OneZero, WebMD, and MailChimp. Before moving to The Bayou City, John earned a B.A. in Journalism from CSU Long Beach.
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