The Tesla Model Y’s Wireless Phone Charger Works Well Now, But It Hasn’t Always

tesla-model-y-2021-22-charging-port-interior-sedan 2021 Tesla Model Y with updated wireless phone charger | photo by Christian Lantry

Most Tesla updates come through over-the-air software changes, but a notably lacking feature was improved through a hardware change on the 2021 Model Y we just bought — and it’s different from the 2021 Model Y we reviewed that was built earlier in the model year. The earlier 2021 Model Y had a wireless phone charger that rarely worked, an ironic problem considering the all-electric Model Y excels at making vehicle charging painless. We had limited success using the charge pad in the center console to juice up a couple Apple and Android phones; it would initiate charging, then flat out stop. The flimsy pad also appeared more like an aftermarket contraption, with a cable strung into the console’s storage area that plugged into a USB-C outlet. Overall, not great.

Much to our delight, the entire center console — including the 15-watt wireless phone charger — was updated by the time we received our long-term 2021 Model Y in November 2021. Now, you put the phone on the charge pad and it charges. Imagine that!

Related: We Bought a 2021 Tesla Model Y

Why get excited over something so simple? Because it’s rarely done well by any automaker. I frequently run into test cars with similar problems as the earlier Model Y, and I end up needing to troubleshoot by changing the position of the phone, flipping it around, removing the case or using a prop to keep it from moving out of the sweet spot for charging.

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The later Model Y’s wireless charger has worked almost flawlessly from day one, even charging two phones simultaneously on a 700-plus-mile road trip. We can’t guarantee every phone will work with the new charge pad, of course, because things like camera bulkiness, case shape, compatibility and design may vary. But we can report success with the following phones:

  • iPhone 12 Pro with OtterBox Defender case
  • iPhone 12 with OtterBox Symmetry case
  • iPhone 13 Pro with undetermined OtterBox case
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 with thin case and finger loop on the back
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 (case type not specified)

Confusingly, the Model Y we bought with the updated console and wireless phone charger is a 2021 model-year car, just like the example we reviewed with semi-functional phone charging. With most automakers, a change to the entire console would require a refreshed design for the subsequent model year, but Tesla isn’t like most automakers, and the updated design rolled off the assembly in early 2021 with little fanfare. Owners and Tesla-enthusiast websites reported the updated console being built as early as February 2021.

While it’s old news now, we’re happy to have a fully functional wireless phone charger. In addition to having improved charging, the new console looks higher quality, with new accent stitching on its sides, a microfiber-covered charge pad replacing the rubberized one and a matte finish replacing the gloss piano-black look from earlier 2021 Model Ys. The storage tray’s operation works more seamlessly thanks to a forward-sliding cover versus the previous flip-up cover. Having used both styles, we can say that Model Y shoppers eyeing the used market might want to consider looking for later-built cars that have the updated console. It’s an easy-to-spot — and worthwhile — distinction between earlier and later 2021 Model Ys.

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