In the Bag
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Adapters
for Roadtrip Charging

Mark D Larsen
May 19, 2018



After driving my LEAF for six years, I knew that some of the first accessories that I would need for my Model 3 would be plug adapters to charge from different types of outlets when traveling away from home. The newly designed Mobile Charging Unit (MCU) that Tesla provides with all its vehicles comes with one adapter and two exchangable plugs, as shown in the photo at the top of the page. The adapter toward the top in the above photo accommodates J1772 plugs, which is now the standard connection for all non-Tesla Level 2 charging equipment. The plug on the right is a NEMA 5-15 for common 120V outlets, needed for “emergency” situations, since it will only put a pitiful 3 miles of range in the battery per hour of charging. The other to its left is a NEMA 14-50 for charging from typical 50A 240V outlets at RV parks and marinas —even though the maximum output of the MCU is 32A.

It is possible to purchase from Tesla additional adapters specifically designed for the MCU, and at first I considered ordering several of them. However, when I thought about my experiences when charging the LEAF away from home, I remembered that there were times when I needed an extension cord to reach a plug that was beyond the length of its onboard cableset. Since the cable of Tesla’s new MCU is only 20 feet long, I fully anticipate occasions when an extension cord will again be needed. Unfortunately, Tesla’s adapters only fit in the MCU itself, and there is no extension that I am aware of that has the same male plug on one end and the female outlet equivalent on the other.

I therefore decided to look for an extension cable for the MCU’s provided NEMA 14-50 plug. There are several to choose from at stores like Home Depot and Amazon, but I ultimately ordered a heavy-duty 25-foot Mighty Cord from eTrailer.com, shown below on the left.


Extended
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Outlet Shopping
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I then ordered three adapters from ACWorks.com, shown above on the right, that I can use with both Tesla’s 240V NEMA 14-50 plug and the extension cord. The first one on the left adapts to a NEMA 14-30 plug, to connect to dryer outlets in all newer homes. The one if the middle adapts to a NEMA 10-30, compatible with dryer outlets in older homes. I frequently used such adapters when visiting family or friends with my LEAF, and am willing to wager that this will also be the case with my Model 3. The last one on the right is a NEMA TT-30, a somewhat odd 120V 30A plug also used in RV Parks, especially if they don’t support 240V connections. I have only used this type of adapter once, as it is hardly much faster than plugging into a regular NEMA 5-15 outlet, but It’s probably wise to have one when we’re visiting the National Park campgrounds in this area.

For those interested, both Tesla and ACWorks.com also sell additional adapters to plug into outlets for welding equipment and air conditioners. I have never needed such power sources, and doubt I ever will, but perhaps other Model 3 owners anticipate such circumstances.

I intend to keep my three adapters in a plastic bin in the Model 3’s cubby hole, along with short bottles of spray washes, cloths, a couple of small umbrellas, and other paraphenalia. The UMC and my Tesla tire repair kit fit nicely next to it, with room the spare:


Holy Cubby Hole!
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It’s always good to be... adaptable.


ADDENDUM
November 11, 2019

I anticipate driving cross-country to visit a daughter in Alabama in the future, and inquired if she had a 240V outlet near her garage or driveway so that I could plug Correcaminos in at her home. She discovered that the previous owner had installed a NEMA 6-50 outlet in the garage (shown below on the left), probably to use with a welder. I therefore also ordered the corresponding NEMA 6-50 adapter (shown below on the right) to add to my collection. Have plugs, will travel!


Ready and waiting
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Let’s meet
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ADDENDUM 2
July 15, 2020

After more than two years of ownership, I realized that I have yet to use my 240V extension cord to charge Correcaminos on a roadtrip —unlike was frequently the case with our previous Nissan LEAF. The difference, of course, is that Tesla has such a widespread Supercharger network coast-to-coast, that it would be rare to really need to plug into a 240V outlet so far away from where the vehicle is parked.

I therefore decided to just store the extension cord and its the ACWorks adapters in my garage, and replace them with Tesla adapters. There is another reason behind the decision: the Tesla adapters have a chip inside them that tells the Mobile Charging Unit the maximum number of amps to pull, depending upon the outlet. The ACWorks adapters don’t have such a feature, unfortunately, so one has to manually set the maximum amps via the charging screen in the car. Forgetting to do so could prove dangerous by trying to pull more amps from the outlet than it could safely provide.

Here are the three new Tesla adapters that I now carry onboard instead:


Staying current
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The adapter on the left is a NEMA 10-30, commonly used with electric dryer outlets in older homes. It automatically tells Tesla’s Mobile Charging Unit to pull only 24A (the 80% maximum from 30A outlets).

The one in the middle is a NEMA 14-30, used for dryer outlets in newer homes. Again, it allows the MCU to pull no more than 24A.

The one on the right is for NEMA 6-50 outlets, typically used for electric welders. As I explained above, one of my daughters has such an outlet in her garage, so I’ll need it when I visit her in the future. In theory, such an outlet should allow an 80% output of 40A. However, the MCU’s hardware only allows a maximum draw of 32A from 50A breakers, like when I have plugged the NEMA 14-50 adapter that came with Correcaminos into an RV panel at campgrounds, as shown below. Note the maximum 32A that the MCU allows in the photo on the right.


Camping…
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…and Amping
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These adapters will prove more convenient —and safe!— when plugging in away from home or Superchargers. And if I ever anticipate that someone I hope to visit only has a 240V outlet more than 40 feet from the garage or driveway… I can always pull the extension cord and ACWorks adapters out of storage for that particular trip.