Sentry Mode is one of the cleverer features Tesla has deployed in recent months. It’s also one that many owners could find themselves using regularly – so how does it work and how much power does it use?
We spoke to a Tesla owner, who gave us some insight into his experiences with Sentry Mode.
What is Tesla Sentry Mode?
Sentry Mode uses systems already built into Teslas made after August 2017. These monitor the car’s surroundings and deter threats should they arise.
A Tesla in Sentry Mode rests in ‘Standby’, with the cameras active. If a mild threat is detected, such as someone leaning on the car, it switches to ‘Alert’, displaying a message on the touchscreen telling passers-by they’re being watched.
‘Alarm’ is when things heat up, as a response to a serious threat like a window being smashed. At this point, the car alarm goes off, music sets to full volume and the centre display jumps in brightness. The owner also gets a message to warn them of an incident.
Each time you want Sentry Mode to run, you have to enable it via the a sub-menu, accessible through ‘Controls’, then ‘Safety and Security’.
Does Sentry Mode drain the battery?
Sentry Mode sounds like a great idea. It’s essentially a free dashcam. There is however, a downside: the amount of power it uses.
In spite of not being screen-intensive, or involving driving at all, our owner reports that it consumes battery life at a rate of one mile per hour. With 262 miles of range, that obviously equates to 262 hours, or 11 days, before the battery is fully drained.
Then consider that Sentry Mode is automatically turned off when the car reaches 50 miles of range, so that leaves 212 hours of Sentry Mode activity in this example. In the highest-range Model S, with 370 miles of power in the battery, that gives 320 hours of time that Sentry Mode can be active – or just under two weeks.
The Sentry Mode Catch 22
So, the scenario in which you’re most likely to turn Sentry Mode on – long trips away – is also when you probably don’t want to in order to save battery. Of course, you can negate this by having long-term parking with charging.
Nevertheless, the battery drain of Sentry Mode is causing owners to think twice about using it.
Should you use Sentry Mode?
Sentry Mode runs the cameras, and utilises the car’s brain. The entire Auto Pilot system is running while the feature is in use. Actual recording is triggered by motion detection, but in its ‘Standby’ state, there remains the significant power draw. A bit of forethought is therefore required before pressing the button.
Are you going to be away for a while? Will you be in range of a Supercharger when you return? Is there the option of leaving the car plugged in? Is Sentry Mode really necessary where you’ve parked it?
Assess the situation before you decide, or you risk being out of range when you return to the car.