Charging at an RV Park - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term (6)

2013 Tesla Model S: Charging at an RV Park

October 17, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Our 2013 Tesla Model S can do many things other EVs can't, and you're looking at one of them. Here it's plugged in to the 240V shore power receptacle at an RV park in a space with full hookups. It's made to do this, which is another sign that Tesla is thinking way outside the box that defines other electric vehicles and their limited capabilities.

2013 Tesla Model S

The Tesla's basic charge cord, the one that comes in the trunk, isn't just for 120V home outlets and dire emergencies. It's built to work with 200~240V, too, and the familiar three-prong end can be detached and swapped out for a hefty NEMA 14-50 four-prong plug that's included in the bag. This setup gives you access to potential charge sites at RV parks and campgrounds all across the country.

You could even have an electrician install a 240V, 50-amp NEMA 14-50 receptacle in your garage instead of paying a grand or more for an SAE-compliant Level 2 charge station. The Tesla's basic charge cord can easily be your only means of charging, and in fact it's significantly faster than nearly all Level 2 home charging units.

2013 Tesla Model S

NEMA 14-50 receptacles are not 100-percent universal at all RV park spaces, but they are very common. Large Class A motorhomes depend on them, but spaces devoted to smaller single-axle camp trailers may offer something else. Call ahead if you're planning a cross-country trip. iPhone apps such as Plug Share have a NEMA 14-50 filter, but a lot of RV Parks haven't bothered to get themselves listed, such as the one we're at now.

2013 Tesla Model S

It gets better. The Model S charges 33 percent faster on a NEMA 14-50 receptacle with its own cord than it will at an SAE level 2 station. That's because the "50" stands for 50 amps, the capacity of the circuit the receptacle is connected to. Electrical codes demand a 20-percent safety margin, so the draw through a NEMA 14-50 is limited to 40 amps, as shown on this Tesla iPhone app screenshot.

Meanwhile, 99 percent of SAE Level 2 stations are hooked up to 40-amp service, so they can only supply 30 to 32 amps, depending on the specific model.

And so our Model S is presently charging outdoors in an RV space at a rate of 24 to 25 miles per hour. The fancy-pants Chargepoint Level 2 universal charge station we have back at HQ for all the other EVs on the market can only manage 18 miles per hour. That's your 33 percent faster right there.

2013 Tesla Model S

This is far from Supercharger performance, but a NEMA 14-50 hookup can easily refill an empty Tesla in an overnight stay. Bring a tent and you can hopscotch across the country from campground to campground or make a side trip off the Supercharger network. Staying with friends or relatives? Perhaps there's an RV park nearby. Or maybe you can find a hybrid hotel that offers rooms in front and RV spots with hookups in back.

The Palm Canyon Resort near my friend's house in remote Borrego Springs, California is just such a place. The Supercharger network is nowhere in sight, but with NEMA 14-50 charging at the hotel I can still venture down there and pay them a visit in our Model S.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,421 miles


  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    That's pretty neat! I didn't know you could do that.

  • Although not endorsed by Tesla, I've read a bunch of Model S owners have purchased 50A RV-targeted extension cords along with a couple of other EVSE adapters to take advantage of 240V outlets like dryer plugs in friend's/family's homes. Although usually limited to 30A continuous like Level 2 chargers, it beats finding a nearby RV park.

  • so do you just pay a one night fee to hook up for awhile or what do they charge? --- billinflorida, that is kind of funny. I guess electric cars are considered to be so 'good' that nobody thinks twice about asking their friends or family to pay for the electricity to charge them. I guess I could try asking "Hey, is it okay if I siphon some gas from your car because I don't have enough in mine to make it home?"

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    ^That's funny. In my experience, people are much more receptive of me siphoning gas from their vehicles if they aren't aware that I'm doing it. I just assume that they would say yes, and they just assume that I'm a nice guy who doesn't steal gas from his neighbors. Everybody wins. Anyway, now that I'm done with my lame humor, I think this is actually kind of cool. I like visiting state parks, and many have cabins and RV spots, so you could go visit and let the car charge overnight. I just though of something, is the Tesla towable behind an RV?!

  • banhugh banhugh Posts:

    It would be even better if the Tesla could tow a small cabin!

  • banhugh banhugh Posts:

    I mean if the Tesla could tow a small camper

  • hybris hybris Posts: from the pictures here if you get a hitch for the Tesla you could probably tow this with minimal drops in range. Plus side is when you find yourself on the side of the road waiting for the flatbed tow truck to get there you have some options for shelter.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I get your point, and that is some resourceful thinking, but I'm looking at the photos shot from the front of the car and shot from the rear of the car...and I don't see anything there that I would want to stay and explore for 5 hours and 26 minutes. The RV people there have a place to hang out, to sleep, to cook and eat...but you're there in a 4-door luxury sedan, and there is no spot in any of those photos that I would want to pitch a tent and sleep...looks like you're parked on the moon. I just Googled for the hell of it and found an average RV hookup cost of about $27/night - ? So for $27 you can over 10 hours get 250 miles in my ICE car for $27 I can get about 225 miles in range (7.2 gallons)...but I can do it in about 45 seconds. Using your hybrid hotel idea, you have a place to stay overnight while the car charges...but then you are paying for the site/hookup AND for the room.

  • vvk vvk Posts:

    Wow! How is this not advertised by Tesla? First time I hear about it.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Oh it's much nicer than that Fordson. There are thousands of sites to camp at and a huge number of them have 50A outlets. There are picnic benches, beaches, forests, parks, etc. We took our Model S and went up to the mountains in Central California and stayed at a beautiful campsite for $24 a night. We pitched our tent for the night, ate hot dogs cooked on our camp stove and woke up in the morning with a full range charge (262 miles). So we camped, stayed the night AND filled our tank for $24. Not too shabby. My wife is now convinced that the Model S has opened up a whole new world to us of camping for one night on a weekend for cheaper than a meal at Chili's.

  • kyolml kyolml Posts:

    Tesla owner probably will just install the Tesla's High power wall connector instead of level 2 charger anyway, which is still much faster than NEMA 14-50

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Well, I think if you are an owner, you'd be nuts not to explore this option - the strength of the car is that it's cheap to refuel, but the weakness is the inflexibility of refueling - it takes a long time and there are not that many places, comparatively, to do it. Now, this is a there-and-back option, for if you want to go to places a little further from home for say a weekend. Or if you are really not in a hurry and want to travel only in small, 250-mile bites per day. Interesting.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Well, I think if you are an owner, you'd be nuts not to explore this option - the strength of the car is that it's cheap to refuel, but the weakness is the inflexibility of refueling - it takes a long time and there are not that many places, comparatively, to do it. Now, this is a there-and-back option, for if you want to go to places a little further from home for say a weekend. Or if you are really not in a hurry and want to travel only in small, 250-mile bites per day. Interesting.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    Many of the RV parks only charge a nominal fee to plug in, not the full overnight-stay cost. On plugshare, I randomly found Seven Feathers RV Park in Canyonville OR. "$10 for unlimited day use. Very clean & modern RV park. Charged Tesla Model S for 4 hrs at 40 amps and 230 volts (about 28 mph). Can use shower, pool and jacuzzi while waiting." That doesn't seems like the worst deal ever. That said: it's an option and it was smart of Tesla to size the on-board chargers to utilize it to its max (9.6kw) rather than the 3.3kw or 6.6 you find in other EVs.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    As a camper who also admires the S, I'm intrigued. This would make traveling a whole lot more fun.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    So, is Tesla's next venture going to be competition with Airstream?

  • zimtheinvader - Neither my family nor I ever ask each other to pay for showers during our visits, despite using both electricity and water. It's a courtesy we extend without limit. Despite that, I doubt seriously an EV owner, which I'm not, would use someone else's electricity without approval. You might also not know there are web sites, e.g., PlugShare, where total strangers offer to share their EVSE with each other. I've read it's a unwritten rule there should be an offer to pay, and if declined, a bottle of wine or something similar should be offered as a gesture of thanks.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    Over six months with the car and you guys are just figuring this out? It was one of the first things I discovered that attracted me to the Model S; the smart way they implemented charging. Basically, if there's power at a given location, you can charge there (or get an adapter to do so). Everything from a 120V wall outlet to a 120KW supercharger. The only thing that varies is the speed of charge. They've even got a CHAdeMO adapter coming out so you can fast charge on those Nissan units.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    The boring-looking campsite in this photo is at Willow Springs Raceway, where there's plenty to do and watch while the car charges. Buttonwillow Raceway has 14-50 outlets and campsites, as do other tracks.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    @kyolml Yes, the HPWC is faster, but it also costs over a grand to buy, let alone install. And then there's the matter of having a spare 100 amp breaker in your panel, which is a tall order. My entire house only has 150-amp service--I couldn't do it witho

  • temoore_ temoore_ Posts:

    If you don't offer to compensate your friends and family for use of their dryer plugs, you are a cretin. The RV parks will make an appropriate charge...

  • skikrazi skikrazi Posts:

    Wish I could find an adapter to charge my Model S at an RV park. The Camco 30 amp to 50 amp I bought doesn't work. It's a 3 prong to a 4 prong adapter but it doesn't work.

  • I'm sure an electric RV is waiting in the wings! Hey, don't laugh. Just think of the number of batteries it could carry.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests

Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat online with us
Email us at
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Call us at 855-782-4711
Text us at ED411