In some ways, the Tesla EV Supercharger network sets the benchmark for the EV charging infrastructure. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is the Tesla EV Supercharger Network?
The Tesla Supercharger network, among the most widespread and recognizable charging networks in the United States, is arguably one of the most compelling reasons to buy a Tesla instead of a car from a rival EV manufacturer. Though the Supercharger network was available exclusively to Tesla owners from its beginnings in 2012, there are plans to open up this network to all EVs soon.
The Tesla Supercharger network has more than 40,000 charging stalls all over the world, with most of those located in North America. Tesla’s chargers consist exclusively of D.C fast chargers, though actual charging speed varies both on the actual charger and your specific Tesla model.
How Many Tesla EV Charging Stations Are In the U.S.?
As of the summer of 2022, Tesla had more than 1,400 Supercharger stations in the United States, with a total of more than 7,000 chargers. There are Supercharger stations in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as in Canada, Mexico, and across the world, with more planned.
If you glance at Tesla’s U.S. Supercharger map, you’ll see that though stations are widespread, they follow predictable patterns, concentrated in major cities, along the East and West Coasts, and major East-West transit corridors. While this means some areas are better represented than others, it also makes sense, as city dwellers are more likely to be Tesla owners (this is true of EVs in general, not just Tesla) and Tesla wants to ensure owners can charge on road trips.
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How Do You Find a Tesla EV Charging Station?
Don’t worry, your Tesla will find a Supercharger station for you. An app right in your car will show you nearby available Superchargers, Superchargers along your planned route with recommendations on where to stop based on expected range usage and other information, such as nearby amenities. You can also find this information using your smartphone.
How Do You Use a Tesla EV Charging Station?
To use a Tesla Supercharger, simply plug the charger’s connector into the charging port on your Tesla. There’s an LED indicator light on the charge port that will flash green to let you know the car is charging properly.
Though you can monitor your charging session on your phone app, the app isn’t needed to charge, and charging is designed so that you don’t have to interact with it at all. The charging starts automatically and the session is billed to the payment method stored in your Tesla account, which is communicated directly between the charger and the car itself.
Tesla recommends charging to 80% of the maximum range, rather than to 100%, and your car’s settings may instruct the charger to stop when reaching that amount of charge, though this can be changed in your car’s settings. Charging slows down as the battery reaches full, so it’s less efficient to charge over 80% and is not recommended unless you need the range.
How Fast are Tesla’s EV Supercharger Stations?
Superchargers can provide up to about 200 miles of range in roughly 15 minutes (the exact range and time vary slightly by model), which is much faster than speeds provided by rival charging networks. That’s because Teslas and Superchargers were specifically developed for this advantage over rival EV companies.
That said, not all Superchargers are created equal. The current network consists of V1, V2, and V3 chargers. V1 and V2 chargers max out at 150 kWh, and that’s only if you’ve got a charger to yourself — with these chargers, the power source is shared between different charging stalls, so if someone plugs in next to you, you might see a drop in your charging rate. V3 chargers are capable of up to 250 kWh, thanks to a dedicated power source and more robust hardware, such as liquid-cooled charging cables.
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How Much Does it Cost to Use a Tesla Supercharger Station?
Pricing on the Tesla Supercharger network varies by location, both in terms of how you’re charged and how much you’re charged. Let’s take a look.
In most areas, Supercharger pricing is per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This way, you’re paying for the actual amount of electricity you’re putting in your car. This is similar to how your home utility company bills your address for electricity and can fluctuate based on the time of day, known as peak or off-peak hours.
In some locations, the Supercharger network has a per-minute cost. In these cases, there are four tiers of charging speeds, and you pay more by the minute based on how fast the car charges.
Pricing varies in different areas, though the average is typically about 40 to 50 cents per kWh as of fall 2022. The variation in pricing is due to local fluctuations in energy rates as well as the type of charging, though charging at a Supercharger is always less than the equivalent range would cost at a gas station for a traditional gas car. If you’re on the road, the Supercharger network display in your Tesla will show you available nearby Superchargers and how much they cost.
While your Tesla is charging, you can monitor the charging session on your smartphone and you’ll be notified when the car is done and shown the cost of your charging session. Your charging sessions are also stored in the app. Tesla does charge idle fees to encourage drivers to free up the charging station when the car is fully charged. The idle fees are currently $.50 per minute at a Supercharger station that’s more than half full, and $1.00 per minute at a full station. You have a five-minute grace period to move your car and avoid paying idle fees.
How Do You Pay at a Tesla Supercharger Station?
To charge at a Supercharger station, you should have already set up your payment in your Tesla account. You can log into your Tesla account at any time to add, change or remove credit cards and payment methods or to update your primary payment method. When you plug in to charge a Tesla at a Supercharger, payment is automatically charged to the primary payment method on the Tesla account.
Does Tesla Support Plug and Charge?
Plug and the charge is simply a user’s ability to plug in the car and walk away — charging starts automatically, stops when complete, and payment is automated via stored payment information that is communicated between the car and the charging network. Tesla vehicles are plugged and charged at Tesla Supercharger locations, but it is unclear if plug and charge work when a Tesla is plugged into a competitor’s charger using Tesla’s new adapter. It is also unclear if the Supercharger network will support plug and charge when the network is opened up to other brands’ vehicles later in 2022.
When Should You Use a Tesla Charging Station?
You should use a Tesla Supercharger when you drive a Tesla and you’re away from home when it needs to be charged. This is a simple question for Tesla owners, simply because the Supercharger network is the best option for this group of drivers.
Charging at home is always the most efficient and effective way to keep an EV’s range topped up, so charging on the go is best left as an option for road trips and other times when a driver exceeds the vehicle’s range. This should be less of a problem for Tesla drivers than for most other EV drivers because Teslas offer a fantastic range that should, in most use cases, get the driver safely home at night before the range is depleted — otherwise, we’re talking about driving more than 200 or 300 miles in a day. When on the road, a Tesla Supercharger is the only option, unless your Tesla is compatible with the adapter (new as of October 2022) that enables a Tesla to plug into another company’s charger.
Is the Tesla Network Better Than Rival Fast-Charging Networks?
It depends. The Supercharger network is better than other fast-charging networks for drivers who own a Tesla, though drivers who own other EV brands aren’t currently able to use Tesla Superchargers. Tesla plans to open up Superchargers to other EVs eventually, though it remains to be seen how well the network will accommodate those users. Currently, unknown factors include compatibility and reliability, convenience, and pricing relative to other networks. Non-Tesla owners who use the Supercharger network will need both an adapter to connect Tesla’s proprietary charging hardware to their car and Tesla’s smartphone app to connect to the network and pay for charging.
Otherwise, the Supercharger network is robust and generally widespread, and to that end, is considered one of the better networks currently available. Furthermore, Tesla is increasing the production capacity of chargers and related hardware to meet growing demand and improve compatibility with other EV brands.
Electrify America is currently the Supercharger network’s top rival, though Supercharger has many more chargers in more areas, faster charging times, and generally lower prices. Other networks lag behind these two in terms of charging capability and availability.