One of the many things that Tesla owners do is drive on the continent. There are plenty of Superchargers across most major routes and long journeys are relatively simple, but there is still the need to charge at your destination for those shorter trips around where you stay.
Europe, like the UK, has a range of charger options other than Superchargers, including type 2, Chademo and CCS, these may require you to have a membership card and this article is not trying to address these scenarios.
There is a scenario, just like charging with a 3 pin plug back in the UK, which you may want to consider while abroad, and that is charging from their equivalent domestic sockets, an option especially relevant if you are staying in a villa or gite for your holiday.
While these instructions cover using a UK UMC in Europe, variations on this approach may be suitable for Europeans travelling across Europe as there are 2 different adapters sold by Tesla depending on the region, just make sure any extension lead that you use is of a very good quality and rated accordingly as the european UMC draws slightly more current than the UK version when using a domestic socket.
WARNING: THIS GUIDE IS ONLY FOR THOSE COMPETENT AT WIRING A PLUG
Tesla provide owners with a UMC, a portable cable that allows for charging from a variety of power sources depending on the interchangeable plug on the end. In the UK they supply two; a Blue, 32A, Commando plug, and a 10A 3 pin plug. You can also buy a Red, 16A, 3 phase commando plug and 2 different Schuko plugs for different parts of Europe. These cost approx £100 each. The newer cars from mid 2019 and model 3 have a slightly different UMC which is less capable but this guide works equally well with these.
The reason why there are two different adapters for the EU is because there have been two standards, CEE7/4 where the plug has an earth on the edge and CEE7/7 used in France and Belgium where there is a grounding pin. The European system also has one live leg carrying 230V with reference to ground, a neutral (also called the system ground), and a safety ground. However, it gets further complicated as wiring practices differ on the polarisation of the sockets. Typically, Europeans do not maintain consistent identification of live and neutral throughout their power system as is the practice in, say, the UK or North America. Consistent with this practice, the Continental European plug can be rotated to either of two positions and plugged into the socket, but not the CEE7/7 standard which has a earth pin. This would not be an issue in most cases however the Tesla UMC does care which is the live pin, and which is neutral, as neutral can be checked against the safety ground, and consequently if neutral and live are swapped, the Neutral is at 240v against the safety ground and the UMC will not work. As it generally does not matter which way round sockets are wired, European sparkies often do not care and consequently even if you have the right plug, the socket might be wrong and you can not charge.
The safest option is therefore to buy both Tesla adapters and find a socket that is only a few meters from your car. Or... do as we do.
What you ideally need is an extension cable that you can use abroad, and something that takes your existing 3 pin plugged UMC, as provided by Tesla, and that can plug into a EU socket. To do so its really as simple as buying a UK extension real, and replace the 3 pin plug on the extension cable with a Schuko plug. If the car will not charge, open the plug, flip the Live and Neutral, and try again. It is a 2 min fix.
You need the following bits and an electrical screwdriver:
The slowest way to charge your car is to use the 13A plug and the Tesla supplied UMC. This has a max charge rate of only 10A and little more than 6 miles added for every hour charging, but when needs must, this is the get out of jail option. The cable is relatively short and the use of a good quality extension gives you extra reach, but make sure its rated for 13A and its fully unwound when in use. We use Invero® 4 Way Mains Socket with 5M Metre Extension Lead Reel Cable - Heavy Duty British Approved 13A. Other makes exist, as do other lengths, but just remember that really long leads still need to be fully unwound so either a 5m or 10m long cable are more manageable and can normally get you to a 3pin socket in a garage or through a window.
As an alternative you can buy what some people refer to as a Caravan Hook up cable and change the plug on this. These are available in many different lengths, while a PowerMaster 341082 Fly Lead Converter 16A Plug to 13A Socket is ideal, a longer length me be better if you think the plug socket is some distance from the car. The approach is the same whichever cable you decide to use, just ensure the cable is suitable for 13A (even though the UMC draws only 10A) and it is fully uncoiled in use.
There are a variety of different plugs, but we recommend one like this: This Schuko plug is an example of a robust, semi waterproof and well insulated plug. Whatever you do, do NOT think you can use a cheap 3 pin plug to EU standard adapter that you might use on a hair dryer, it will simply melt with prolonged use and be very dangerous.