Charging a Tesla or any electric car is pretty cheap. But what if there was a way to do it for free, as in pay absolutely nothing to charge up every time.
So I’m going to tell you how I actually charge my Tesla Model 3 for free, but most of what I cover applies to all electric cars, not just Tesla. So if you’re wanting to reduce your running costs or you’re just intrigued as to how I do this, I’ll go over my tips, advice and answer some of your questions.
Charging at home
When it comes to charging your car there are two ways you can do this, either at home or away.
Charging at home is the easiest and most convenient option, as you’re usually charging overnight when you don’t need it, plus you don’t need to go out of your way to do it. So I’m with Octopus here in the UK, which means I benefit from the 5 pence per kilowatt hour night rate, which is when I typically schedule to charge my car.
When it comes to charging at home, you can install a charger in your garage or on the side of your house, for roughly £500 or $700. This lets you charge your car at around 30 miles per hour, so 5 hours overnight will get you 150 miles range if you need it the next day.
Or you could simply use the standard 3-pin plug that most EVs come with, plugging it into any wall outlet will then get you around 10 miles per hour, obviously this will take you a lot longer to complete a charge. If you’re unable to or don’t want to install a charger on your house, then using the 3-pin cable is no problem as long as you plan ahead with your charging.
It doesn’t matter which of the two cables you use to charge at home, they will both do the same job, just one is faster and more convenient but will cost you to install. While the other will take you longer to charge but all you’ll need is a wall socket.
Charging away from home
The second option for charging your car is away from home. There are various situations where you might need to charge while you’re out and about, or maybe you don’t have the ability to charge at home at all. If you don’t have a drive or parking outside your house, you might not be able to charge each night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own an EV, it just means more planning has to go into it.
So when it comes to using public chargers, there are a couple of options available, you’ve obviously got Tesla superchargers if you own a Tesla, or there are 3rd party chargers anyone can use.
Now public chargers are awesome, we need them and I really appreciate them. But the biggest issue with public chargers, at least here in the UK, is there are so many different networks installing them that they all have their own membership setup, apps, terms and costs. So unless you frequent the same ones, there’s a chance you will need to install multiple apps, create multiple accounts, and even add top-up credit to them to use.
Just before I go over the costs of charging, and how I do it for nothing, I wanted to quickly explain watt hours per mile, and why it’s important to understand it.
So obviously in an EV we don’t have miles per gallon like we do in a petrol or diesel car. Instead we use the watt hours per mile. Unlike miles per gallon, you want this number to be lower rather than higher.
So 200 is better and more efficient than 250 for example. I’m explaining this because it gives a good idea on how to work out how much a journey or a full charge will cost you, based on this number.
So for example, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range, which I have here, should get around 348 miles of range, and it has a 75 kWh battery.
So that would mean, to get the full 348 miles we’d need to put 75,000 divided by 348 miles equals a watt hours per mile of 215. Which is low, but that’s what you need.
Whereas I average around 260, which means working it backwards, I will have a range of 288 miles on a full charge. Again, the more efficient you drive, the lower the number is and the more range you get.
This leads me onto how much it typically costs to charge the car both at home and away, so this figure is useful for that.
Octopus GO Referral
Ok, so looking at the costs of charging at home, which is where most people will probably do their charging. The average cost per kilowatt hour is 14.37p according to UKPower.co.uk. That’s pretty high, but this is across the entire UK.
So I’m with Octopus on their Go tariff, which means my day rate is 13.31 pence and my night rate, between twelve thirty and four thirty in the morning, is only 5 pence.
To put that into perspective, if I charged my car from empty to full it would cost me:
£10.78 with the average electricity rate in the UK. £9.98 with the Octopus GO day rate. And only £3.75 with the Octopus GO night rate. That is again assuming I needed a full charge from 0 to 100%.
Then, as we’ve worked out before, that £3.75 will get me roughly 288 miles from a full charge with my current efficiency. If I could improve my efficiency I could get even further, especially on a longer road trip as I did a few months ago.
So if I only charged the car on an evening during the 5 pence rate, it would cost me around £13 a month to cover 1,000 miles, or 1.3 pence per mile.
But even if £13 a month sounds too much, there’s another way to get it for practically free, without spending any money on solar panels or a wind farm in your garden. And that’s via referrals.
I’ve mentioned in a few other videos that if you use my referral code to switch to Octopus, we both get a £50 credit to our account. And that £50 could keep you going for more than 3,500 miles when using the GO tariff. Then if you refer someone else, a friend, a colleague or family members, each referral gets you another £50.
It’s a win win, you get cheaper energy, they get cheaper energy and you both get £50, as well as keeping it green.
I’ve had a few comments in the past asking why I use them and how long I’ve been with them. Well I’ve been with Octopus for nearly a year now, although I’ve only been on the GO tariff for about 8 months.
The big advantage other than low and green energy, is there are no exit fees or contracts. So you’re not tied in for months or years if you change your mind.
To sign up I just visited the website, did a quote and did the switch there and then, I think it literally took me 3 or 4 minutes. They do all the work and switch over for you, and will sort out a smart meter if you need one. Although with the current local lockdowns you might need to be put on a waiting list until an opening becomes available.
Oh and another thing, make sure you use my link to get £50 credit on your account, which you can use towards your bills. As if you search online and don’t use the link you’ll not get the £50. Their customer service is super helpful though so if you do forget they’ll help you out if they can.
On top of that, Octopus’ energy comes from 100% green generation, including wind, solar and hydro, so your car and the energy you’re putting in is green too. I’ve read that Octopus are even building technology to make it cheaper for the national grid to make them greener. And the fact that the UK is actually very green already, this is brilliant news.
Here are a few awards they’ve won over the last few years, which makes me wonder why I didn’t swap sooner really.
So if you’re serious about saving money, going green or want to add £50 credit to your account, please use my link in the description.
How to charge at night
You might wonder how you can charge your car during certain times. In the car you can choose a start or departure time, but I use another app to do this.
It’s an app called EV Energy, which is linked to both my Rolec charger and my Tesla account. This essentially lets me put my energy provider details in, including the tariff I’m on, and select off peak charging only.
This means each night I plug it in, it’ll only charge during the off peak hours, so I’ll get 4 hours a night, or 120 miles of range. That’s enough for most nights and means I’m only paying the 5 pence.
If I needed more I can always override it by pressing the boost button on the app and it’ll start charging straight away. Obviously I’ll be paying more than normal that way.
Free Tesla Supercharging
Next up, Tesla supercharging. I’ve covered this in greater detail in a dedicated video, however Supercharging costs on average 24 pence per kWh in the UK and 32 cents per kWh in the US.
Now to charge a Model 3 Long Range from 10% to 80% would be 52 kWh, or roughly £12.60. Comparing that like-for-like with charging at home, it would hypothetically cost £18 to charge from zero to 100 %.
Obviously that’s not free, but there are two ways you could do it for free with a little effort.
First, if you’ve not yet ordered or bought a Tesla yet, make sure you use a referral code when you do. You’ll get 1,000 free supercharger miles added to your account, valid for 6 months. This will allow you to use the Tesla network and charge completely free, perfect for those road trips.
The next tip to get free charging is to give your referral code away to friends and family who are looking to order a Tesla. For every person that uses your link, you both get 1,000 free supercharger miles. You can be creative with this one too, create content, write articles, pin it to your canteen noticeboard, but make sure you read their Terms and conditions to keep it above board.
To give you an idea, as of today I’ve referred 127 of you to buying a Tesla, which for me is massive, and more miles than I’ll ever need to use. So with that in mind, if you have a referral code yourself, please drop it in the comments so others can use yours too.
Finally, public charging, the non-Tesla chargers.
I mentioned earlier that there are so many different networks and public chargers available, so how do you find the free ones?
Well I use an app called Zap Map, which essentially lets you filter and search for chargers based on price, network, cable type and some other factors too.
What I do is change the price filter to free, cable to Type 2 and search. You’ll find free chargers in most towns and cities, and so far in the 11 months I’ve had my car I’ve never paid to charge my car away from home. If you do use the app, make sure to add comments and notes after each charge, it’s useful for other users if there’s a problem or to verify it’s still working.