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Elon Musk schooled us on why Tesla batteries only charge to 90-percent by default

TIL that batteries are weird

tesla supercharging station
Image: Tesla

Electric vehicles like the Tesla range really showcase just how good battery technology has become in recent years. There’s no more “memory effect,” no more need to reset the charge by dropping it to zero and recharging, and far more stored energy in a smaller area.

With all the improvements, one thing still sticks – charging to 100-percent each time will reduce the longevity of your battery, which is why Tesla vehicles are factory set to charge to roughly 90-percent by default.

That means you’re losing about 10-percent of the top range of your Tesla, but not really

Should you ever charge it to 100-percent to get the full advertised range? The answer might surprise you, as it’s still a resounding no.

If you’ve read any of the recent advice on how to maintain your smartphone battery (which uses similar tech), you might think that degradation would be the prime reason for the limiting. Lithium batteries are happiest around the 50-percent mark, so low charge or high charge stresses the battery, possibly leading to damage over time.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was asked by a Tesla Model 3 SR owner if she should charge to 100-percent as her daily commute is close to the max range. His answer was to “charge to 90% to 95% & you’ll be fine,” as, at 100-percent, the regenerative braking feature doesn’t do anything to help with battery life.

For those with older cars, regenerative braking turns the energy created while the car is braking back into electricity

On a gas powered car, this just helps run the electrical system and keep the battery in shape. On a Tesla, this energy goes back into the battery pack, with reports of it increasing the range by up to 30-percent. Not too shabby at all, and even if the feature doesn’t put that much energy back in, it’ll still be enough to make up for the 10-percent shortfall from the charging limits.

I’m sure that as electric vehicles become more commonplace, features like regenerative braking won’t feel so mysterious. Until then, it’s enough to know that thanks to clever tech, starting with a 90-percent of your maximum range at the beginning of the day doesn’t mean you can only drive 90-percent of the miles.

What do you think? Surprised by the battery revelation? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation and hoarding Reddit gold.

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