In addition to their innovative cars, a big advantage with Tesla is access to their electric car supercharger network. Right now, Tesla have 1,375 supercharger stations around the World - with 11,414 actual superchargers.
In both good and bad news, however, the Model 3’s production and sales rates have increased massively in the second half of 2018, and continuing into 2019. These increases in recent months (23,582 sales in September 2018 alone) has meant that the supercharger network is frequently overloaded in some areas:
This article explores the current supercharger network, and any future planned updates to it.
Table of Contents
- An Overview of the Supercharger Network
- Prices (and Exemptions) of the Network
- 20th November 2018 Update
- 20th January 2019 Update
An Overview of the Supercharger Network
The supercharger network is currently 11,414 supercharges, which will apparently rise to 23,000 by the end of 2019.
Each supercharger has a 480-volt DC supply, and it currently supplies electric power to a Tesla at a rate of 120 kW (via DC, into the 400-volt battery pack).
It can do this because each supercharger can charge two cars, so it distributes their 135 kWh supply to both, ‘juggling’ the power accordingly to distribute the power up to a maximum of 120 kW per car. Charging times can be 40 minutes from a ‘flat’ battery to 80% (the usual recommended amount) on a Model S, or 75 minutes to get a full 100% battery.
Tesla are currently using their second generation charges, and their third generation charger (mentioned earlier) will have anything from 200 kWh to 350 kWh charging ability. This discrepancy is because Elon Musk originally hinted at 350 kW (or more) back in 2016:
A mere 350 kW ... what are you referring to, a children's toy?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 24 December 2016
This would potentially have been enough to charge a Model S fully in 25 minutes or less. However there’s been some subsequent rumours that the heat within battery packs would be a bottleneck at such high charging speeds, and in a conference call on May 2nd 2018 appeared to say that the third gen charger would run at 200 kW instead.
Once the actual charge speed is confirmed, we’ll let you know!
Prices (and Exemptions) of the Network
Tesla’s supercharger network had been free for the first 5 years of its roll-out, with the Model X and Model S cars have unlimited access to it. They (and some Model 3s) continue to have unlimited access to the network, however any newly purchased Tesla cars (of any model) from mid September 2018 no longer get the free charging.
Tesla also pre-empted this change by increasing the price of electric at their superchargers, back in March 2018. Increases ranged from $0.12/kWh to $0.24/kWh (in Oregon) to $0.20/kWh to $0.26/kWh in California - increases of 30-100%! At this point, prices were still cheaper than gasoline prices, however, and Tesla confirmed at the time that this wasn’t a profit-seeking change:
“We occasionally adjust rates to reflect current local electricity and usage. The overriding principle is that Supercharging will always remain significantly cheaper than gasoline, as we only aim to recover a portion of our costs while setting up a fair system for everyone. This will never be a profit center for Tesla”
However Tesla increased the price quite a lot in January 2019, with an average price increase of 33%. New Yorkers and Californians will now be paying $0.32-$0.36/kWh, quite a large increase compared to the $0.20/kWh before the March 2018 price rises!
These January 2019 price hikes mean that the electric from the supercharger network is now starting to reach parity with gasoline prices. A Model 3 (Tesla’s most efficient electric car) has a comparable supercharger electric price to that of a 35 MPG gasoline car (assuming $0.34/kWh electric and $3.00 per gallon of gasoline), whilst the more powerful (hence less efficient) Model S would be similar to a 25 MPG gas car.
This also affected other countries, such as the United Kingdom where the price of electric risen from £0.20/kWh at the end of 2018 to £0.27/kWh in January 2019 - a 35% price rise.
In the United States, the prices to fully charge a Tesla are now:
- Tesla Model X: $172 per 1,500 miles (similar price to a 25 MPG gas car)
- Tesla Model S: $151 per 1,500 miles
- Tesla Model 3: $129 per 1,500 miles (similar price to a 35 MPG gas car)
Please note that the above figures are taken from Tesla’s supercharger page but adjusted slightly because they list electric at $0.31/kWh and they are comparing to 21 MPG gas cars (which feels like an unfair comparison - their electric is now more than $0.31/kWh in their key markets, and the vast majority of modern American gasoline cars have more than 21 MPG).
In the United Kingdom, the figures are:
- Tesla Model X: £137 per 1,500 miles (at £0.27/kWh); compared to £264 with gasoline (48.1% cheaper)
- Tesla Model S: £121 per 1,500 miles; compared to £238 with gasoline (49.2% cheaper)
- Tesla Model 3: not yet released
So whilst the United Kingdom and some other European countries do still enjoy cheaper fuelling costs for a Tesla (compared to gasoline cars), the United States (Tesla’s biggest market) is starting to level out: the Model 3 probably still beats out the 27 MPG of the Audi A4, although the A4 hits 34 MPG on highways meaning that the Model 3 has no running cost advantage (anymore) for long trips.
20th November 2018 Update
As a result of the availability issues mentioned at the start of this article, Elon Musk Tweeted overnight on 19th/20th November 2018 saying:
Supercharger V3, which starts rolling out early next year, will also charge much faster— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 19 November 2018
If this is accurate (and we say if because this isn’t the first time that Tesla have talked about almost doubling supercharger levels), this would take the supercharger levels to around 23,000 by the end of 2019. If this is done, and also Teslas can charge much quicker with the V3 charger, this should help to alleviate the issues Tesla owners have been facing when charging at peak times.
This will also be important from a competition point of view, because the Porsche Taycan (being released Q3/Q4 2019) will have a 350 kW charge rate.
20th January 2019 Update
Unfortunate news came in on Saturday 20th January which was that Tesla have again raised their supercharger electric prices, by an average of 33% in most areas.
New Yorkers will now be paying $0.32/kWh (up from $0.24/kWh), whilst California residents will be paying $0.32-$0.36/kWh, up from $0.26/kWh. These price rises mean that Tesla’s supercharger electric prices are now comparable with gasoline cars: a Model 3 will see prices comparable to a 35 MPG gasoline car, whilst the Model S’s comparable MPG (which uses 35-40% more electric than the Model 3) would be around 25 MPG.
Prices were $0.20/kWh in California at the start of March 2018, and they now average $0.34/kWh - a 70% increase in just nine months. Tesla have confirmed that this change is not to turn the network into a profit making enterprise, but is purely to keep funding new superchargers.
In reality, it is probably the case that Tesla were still subsidizing electric prices on their network even after the March 2018 price rises, and this change probably brings an end to this internal subsidizing.