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Can You Charge a Tesla with a Generator?

Can You Charge a Tesla with a Generator?

 To be honest, with all the charging options available today, this question hasn't really crossed my mind.

Besides, wouldn't using a gas-powered generator to charge a Tesla beat the purpose of electric vehicles?

Then what difference will my Tesla have from a conventional car?

Though after some thought, I realized it does make sense.

I mean, In the event of a power outage, Tesla electric cars would not be able to utilize these EV charging stations, rendering them ineffective. 

What alternative power source is commonly used during such situations?

Portable generators.

Let's find out if this is something worth a shot.

Standard ways to charge your electric vehicle

Let's have a recap of the standard ways available for charging electric cars:

Level 1 charging

Level 1 charging is the most basic and slowest type of charging available, as this charging cord is directly plugged into a 120V home outlet.

This means that you are limited to around 3-5 miles of range per hour, which could be enough power for those who just want to top up overnight or those who only drive short distances on a daily basis.

Until April 2022, Tesla shipped out a Level 1 Mobile Connector with every Tesla model, but you'll now have to buy the charging equipment separately to enjoy home charging.

Level 2 charging

Level 2 charging uses the same 240V outlet you use for your dryer and washing machine.

This allows for much faster charging than Level 1, giving your electric vehicle up to 44 miles of range per hour.

The Tesla Wall connector falls in this category, though it has to be hardwired to your home's electrical circuit.

Though there are portable Level 2 home charging stations that don't need a dedicated circuit to work.

And if you don't want the hassle of plugging and unplugging your dryer just to charge your EV, you can use a socket splitter to convert that lone NEMA outlet into two.

DC fast charging

DC fast charging is the fastest of the three, delivering up to 80% battery power in just 20 minutes.

As the name suggests, these chargers use direct current instead of alternating current to charge EV batteries.

DC fast chargers bypass the onboard chargers and conversion to deliver current directly to the battery, significantly increasing charging speed.

Because of the amount of electrical energy needed and the cost of installation and maintenance, DC fast chargers can only be found in public charging stations.

The Tesla Supercharger falls under this category as well as CCS connectors and CHAdeMO connectors.

‍How Tesla charging works?

Tesla vehicles use a proprietary connector to connect to a power source.

The EV manufacturer's charging system is one of the most advanced in the industry.

Every Tesla model has onboard devices that regulate and convert current to efficiently charge thousands of lithium-ion cells.

The system determines whether the car receives AC power or DC power from the source.

If it's the latter, electricity goes through the regulating system and then directly to the battery.

If it's the former, the current has to go through the onboard inverters to be converted into DC power that the batteries can use.

The onboard computers on Tesla vehicles monitor voltage and current levels to prevent overcharging.

Once the batteries are fully charged, the computers typically disconnect the current to safeguard the car and the batteries from potential heat-related damage.

There are built-in charge controllers on Tesla cars to regulate current and voltage, especially when using a charging station with a higher flow of electricity compared to a standard 120V outlet.

Tesla charging adapters

Since Tesla uses a proprietary connector designed to handle high voltages, you can't just pull up to any charging station and plug your Tesla.

You'll need to use a Tesla adapter to be able to connect your EV to a standard wall outlet, with the exception of the Mobile Connector.

The Lectron Tesla charger can be plugged directly into any 110/120V home outlet or any other receptacle that has the standard NEMA configuration.

This connector comes with both a NEMA 5-15 adapter for a slower, 3 miles per hour charging, and a NEMA 14-50 adapter that can charge a Tesla Model 3 (or any other model for that matter) at 30 miles of range per hour.

Can you use a generator to charge a Tesla?

The short answer to this question is, "yes".

Though a generator can't provide DC current and other advanced charging capabilities like normal power sources, it certainly can provide anywhere between 110V and 240V of charging power.

Many generators are able to produce enough power to recharge a Tesla, which can be of good use during power outages, camping, or when you're living off-grid.

Types of generators

In the simplest sense, a generator is a machine that burns gasoline or diesel to be able to produce electricity.

However, not all generators are made the same, so it's important to know the different types before choosing one to charge a Tesla.

While most generators can produce enough power to light up an entire home, this doesn't necessarily mean that all of them are fit to charge an EV.

Here are the common types of generators you can find:

  • Gasoline Generators - these are the most common type of generators. You can usually find them in hardware stores and outdoor outlets, ranging from anywhere between $200 and $300. A vast majority of this type of generator has small gasoline tanks that can only produce 110V at 15A, sometimes more.

  • Diesel Generators - these generators burn compressed natural gas or propane, making them more efficient than gasoline generators. These are commonly used in industrial settings or as backup generators in commercial buildings. Though it can produce more than enough power to fully charge a Tesla, it's highly unlikely to find a portable diesel generator that you can use in your own home or on the road.

  • Natural Gas Generators - these are the ones typically found in residential areas. These serve as backup generators and are designed to automatically kick in when the power goes off. These are commonly fixed in houses and can power an entire home for extended periods.

  • Portable Generators - these are commonly found in hardware stores and are compact enough to be carried around in your trunk. They're usually designed with up to six power outlets and without a starter. Though highly reliable and affordable, portable generators can't run for days on end.

  • Fixed Generators - these are designed to run for extended periods of time. Most use natural gasoline and are often wired up as a power source in remote areas. They're the most eco-friendly and expensive type of generator.

Best generator for charging a Tesla

In the unlikely event that you run out of juice with the next charging station only a few miles away, and you happen to have a portable generator in your trunk, using a generator to charge a Tesla might be worth a shot before calling a tow truck.

Generally speaking, any generator that can produce at least 110 for 120V at 15A or 30A can charge a Tesla.

Ideally, a generator with a 240V output is a much better fit, but beggars can't be choosers.

And a portable one is already enough to give your car the extra oomph it needs, though maybe not a full charge.

FAQs

  • What kind of generator will charge a Tesla?

    Any generator that can produce at least 110 for 120V at 15A or 30A can charge a Tesla. A generator with a 240V output is a much better fit, but even a portable one is already enough to give your car a much-needed boost.

  • How fast will a generator charge a Tesla?

    Manage your expectations when recharging your Tesla using a generator. It will be just like using a Level 1 charger that you plug into a standard 120V outlet. Charging at 110V will typically give you around 5 miles of range per hour, so don't expect a complete single charge in one go.

    A 110V generator can give you 30 miles overnight. Upgrade to a 240V one if you want up to 30 miles of range per hour.

  • Is backup power for your EV practical?

    While having a backup power source for your EV can manage range anxiety, it won't come without additional costs. Not to mention, you're technically going against the very purpose of the EV technology, which is to lessen the use of fossil fuels. Try researching your options before buying any device.

  • Can you use a portable generator to charge an electric car?

    Yes, a portable generator can produce enough electricity to charge an electric car.

  • Is it safe to charge an electric car with a generator?

    Yes, as long as it's set up properly. Just make sure you use an inverter generator with a pure sine wave and correct grounding for safe charging.

  • How many watts does it take to charge a Tesla?

    Depending on the Tesla model, a Tesla can charge between 7.2kW and 11.5 kW.

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