What Happens When a Tesla Runs Out of Battery?

One of the most common concerns for a new Tesla owner is what happens when a Tesla runs out of battery. People often worry that they won’t remember to keep the battery charged on that the car will suddenly run out of juice, leaving them stranded.

Teslas don’t often run out of battery, as there are lots of systems in place to prevent it. But it is possible. 

So, what happens when your Tesla runs out of battery? And what action should you take if it does?

What happens when a Tesla runs out of battery?

When a Tesla runs out of battery, the car will stop. The car must then be transported to a charger on a flatbed truck. Other systems, such as the touchscreen, will continue to work because they run off a separate 12V battery.

Fortunately, it is pretty difficult to run out of battery in a Tesla, as the car gives you clear warnings and suggests battery-saving measures to help you reach your destination or a charger.

How does a Tesla help you avoid running out of battery?

Teslas are pretty smart cars. Your car knows its current location, its current battery level, the location of all Tesla superchargers, and how far it can drive with its remaining charge. You can also tell your car your intended destination before setting off.

This is enough information for the car to know whether you have enough battery remaining to complete your journey or whether you need to recharge along the way.

If there is a risk that you will run out of battery. Your Tesla will initially alert you to the potential issue through a number of warnings. If that isn’t enough to ensure you can reach your destination, the car will suggest you slow down to extend its range.

Tesla battery warnings

The Tesla battery indicator turns amber when the car has 20% of its charge remaining. It turns red when your battery is down to 7% of its capacity.

Regardless of how charged your battery is, your Tesla continuously monitors your available range and the location of all known chargers.

If you are about to travel out of range of all chargers, your Tesla will display a warning message on the screen.

This message will give you the option to view nearby charging locations, and your Tesla can then direct you to a charger to avoid running out of battery.

When your Tesla is in serious danger of running out of battery, the car will also advise you to drive at a slower speed (a maximum of 65mph) in order to conserve battery and extend your car’s range. 

Does a Tesla battery have a buffer below 0%?

If you ignore all of the low battery warnings from your Tesla and continue to drive until you hit 0% battery then, fortunately, your car won’t just stop. 

Instead, your Tesla has a few miles – possibly as many as 20 miles – of buffer within its battery, which means it will continue to drive even when the battery indicator hits 0%.

This is your last chance to reach a charger and avoid needing roadside assistance! You’ll need to drive as slowly as possible to conserve energy and crawl to the nearest charger.

As you drive and the battery depletes even further, the car will get progressively slower.

Once your Tesla cannot maintain 15mph, a warning message will appear to inform you that the car will soon come to a halt. This is your chance to find a safe location to pull over.

Shortly after this, the car will stop and automatically put itself into park.

What should you do if your Tesla runs out of battery?

The good news is that even if your Tesla runs out of battery, your screen and other electrical systems (such as door locks) will still work. This is because a Tesla’s electrical systems run off a separate 12V battery that is independent of the traction battery that powers the car’s movement.

You can therefore use the touchscreen to tap the Tesla symbol and find the roadside assistance number, then tap the number to call roadside assistance through your connected phone.

A Tesla needs to be towed on a flatbed truck. Towing a Tesla using a tow truck that only lifts the front wheels can cause serious damage to the vehicle.

You will need to put your Tesla into Transport Mode (effectively putting the car into neutral) so that it can be safely winched onto the flatbed truck. Transport Mode can be found in the Service menu.

Should you worry about your Tesla running out of battery?

The idea of running out of battery in the middle of nowhere can be unnerving. With an internal combustion engine car, you can simply walk or get a ride to a gas station and buy an emergency can of gas. Obviously, that won’t work with a Tesla!

When a Tesla completely runs out of battery, the car needs to be physically moved to a charger, and that’s going to require roadside assistance.

This may sound scary, but the chances of it happening are very slim.

To run out of battery in a Tesla, you need to:

  • Ignore your battery indicating turning to amber
  • Ignore your battery indicator turning red
  • Ignore several warnings from the car – including a clear warning when you are going out of range of all superchargers
  • Fail to follow the car’s turn-by-turn directions to a supercharger
  • Continue to drive for several miles after your battery indicator hits 0%.

Only then will the car come to a complete stop.

In summary, Tesla has put so many warnings and contingency plans into its battery systems that it is almost impossible to break down in this way unless you deliberately try to run out of battery. 

Presumably, you won’t run out of battery on purpose – to do so would be very inconvenient and bad for your battery life – so there really is no reason to worry!