The Tesla Supercharger network was originally created to take some of the stress and worry out of needing to recharge an electric vehicle. For many people, even the most tech-savvy early adopters, the idea of sitting for hours to top off a battery sounded daunting, to say the least. But with a Supercharger, the time needed to recharge was dramatically cut, making the idea of daily life with an EV much more realistic.
- Introduced in 2012, Tesla’s Supercharger network provides fast charging to the electric automaker’s entire range of vehicles.
- There are more than 7,000 Superchargers in North America
- According to Tesla, typical recharging times last around 30 minutes.
- Superchargers are strategically located along well-traveled corridors, major highways, and among popular travel destinations.
Supercharging stations first sprang to life in 2012, at six locations in central and southern California. In only a few short years, the Supercharger network was spreading rapidly around North America. By 2014, it had become possible to travel cross-country in a Tesla, thanks to the strategic placement of Superchargers between each coast.
We’re going to take a closer look at Superchargers, and how the system works for the average Tesla driver. We went to the source and asked Tesla for a “Supercharger: 101” guide to the company’s charging network. Many of the answers below include information sent via email to Ride by a Tesla spokesperson, detailing the ins and outs of Supercharging.
First introduced in 2012, there are now thousands of Superchargers around the world. (Photo: Tesla Motors)
What is a Supercharger?
Not all recharging systems are created equal, the Tesla Supercharger network is much faster and more efficient than parking your EV and plugging into a basic 120-volt wall outlet. For the average EV, recharging using a 120-volt plug could take anywhere from 12-24 hours to complete. That’s hardly what you’d call convenient, even when parking overnight at home.
On the other hand, a Supercharger is what’s known as a DC Fast Charger (DCFC). When you plug a car into AC power, like you would with a typical wall outlet, an on-board “charger” turns the AC grid power into DC power for a battery. In contrast, DC fast chargers put DC power directly into the battery. The result is a much faster charging session.
A series of colored lights allows a Tesla owner to know if a recharge is going well. (Photo: Tesla)
How does a Supercharger work?
Much like you’d use a fuel pump to pump fuel — if you’ll excuse the fossil fuel-based comparison — a Supercharger plugs into a dedicated port on your Tesla car or SUV. In all Tesla vehicles, this is located on the driver’s side, behind a motorized flap adjacent to the rear tail-lamp assembly. There are a series of color indicators to inform a Tesla driver the car’s state of charge. In a Model S or Model X, these are indicated by a ring of lights around the plug itself. In the Model 3, the lighting code is visible courtesy of a Tesla logo behind the charge flap. The light system works as follows [and comes directly via Tesla’s website]:
- White: The charge port door is open. Your car is ready to charge, but the connector is not inserted, or the latch is released and the connector is ready to be removed.
- Blue: Your car detects that a connector has been plugged in.
- Blinking Blue: Your car is communicating with the connector. Either it is preparing to charge, or a charging session is scheduled to begin at a specified future time.
- Blinking Green: Charging is in progress. As your car approaches a full charge, the frequency of the blinking slows.
- Solid Green: Charging is complete.
- Solid Amber: The connector is not fully plugged in. Realign the connector to the charge port and insert fully.
- Blinking Amber: Your car is charging at a reduced current (AC charging only).
- Red: A fault is detected and charging has stopped. Check the instrument panel or touchscreen for a fault message.
On average, Tesla says people spend about 30 minutes at a Supercharger. (Photo: Tesla)
How long does a Supercharger take to recharge a Tesla?
This is trickier to answer, because there are many variables. Charging time depends on a vehicle’s starting state of charge (a depleted battery charges faster than a full one), the outside temperature, the capacity of the battery pack itself, and more. According to Tesla’s calculations, on average, people stop at a Supercharger for 30 minutes, or less. Tesla’s spokesperson explained that Superchargers are located next to amenities, such as cafes or restaurants, so drivers can relax while their vehicle recharges.
You can find Tesla stations online, or via a Tesla vehicle’s onboard navigation system. (Image: Screen grab from Tesla.com)
How easy is it to find a Supercharger?
As simple as plotting a trip into the car’s navigation. Every Tesla comes with “Trip Planner” software that maps routes and charge times for drivers. Once you put in your destination, the system will show you where to stop to recharge and how long you’ll need to complete the journey.
Superchargers might have different power outputs, but they will work with every type of Tesla vehicle. (Photo: Tesla)
Is every Supercharger identical?
There are several different variations, though this relates to power output (all types of Supercharger work with every model of Tesla vehicle). There are Superchargers that charge at 72 kilowatts (kW) of power, newer “V2” Superchargers in the U.S. and Europe that charge at up to 150 kW of power, and the latest “V3” variant that charges up to 250 kW. This latest tech puts 180 miles of range back in a Model 3 Long Range sedan in only 15 minutes, in optimal conditions.
Tesla sometimes offers lifetime, non-transferable free Supercharging on its high end models, the Model S sedan (pictured) and Model X crossover. (Photo: Tesla)
How much does it cost to use a Supercharger?
If you’re in the market for a Model S or Model X, right now the answer is zero. Tesla has occasionally offered free lifetime charging to buyers of its two range-topping models. Right now, this applies to both the Model S sedan and Model X crossover. For other Tesla owners, or interested shoppers, Tesla’s spokesperson explained the national average price for Supercharging is $0.28/kWh. Considering Tesla’s largest battery packs are 100 kWh, the math works out to be $28 for a 0-100 percent charge for a completely drained version of the largest battery. But considering few people routinely drive a gas-powered car until it completely runs out of fuel, EV owners would rarely start with a totally dead battery. Recharging around 10-80 percent of the same battery pack would be under $20, or less. Gas might be cheap right now, but recharging will almost always be less expensive than refueling.
With the upcoming Model Y, more Tesla vehicles on the road will need even more Supercharger stations. (Photo: Tesla)
How many Superchargers are there?
Now, there are more than 7,000 Superchargers throughout North America, and more than 14,000 around the world. More are being added, with upcoming stations detailed as grey icons in this online map of Supercharger stations in the U.S.
If you own an EV other than a Tesla, like the Chevy Bolt (pictured), the Supercharger network is off limits. (Photo: Chevrolet)
Can other types of EV use a Supercharger?
No, the Tesla Supercharger network is only compatible with Tesla vehicles.
WHY THIS MATTERS
As a pioneer in establishing an infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles, Tesla’s Supercharger network is the measure by which many judge the long-term viability and acceptance of all EVs.