What You Need to Know About Tesla's Superchargers
Tesla Motor’s network of Superchargers is something the company proudly promotes, and why not? It’s the only automaker to create a global charging network its vehicle owners can use free of charge.
Free charging sounds great, and “global” sounds big. Are there really enough Superchargers, however, to allow people to travel freely without fearing they’ll run out of charge? The answer is yes, if you understand the need the Supercharger network was designed to meet.
The truth is, Tesla didn’t set out to put a Supercharger on every corner. Nor did Tesla intend to evenly space out its members-only charging ports. In fact, Tesla never intended car owners to use the Superchargers as their primary recharging method.
When the company was moving from the conversion-car Roadster to its more mainstream luxury-electric Model S, Tesla needed a way to fight the electric vehicle curse known as range anxiety. This is a malady that strikes people who are considering buying an EV when they realize that even with a 250-mile range, they are limited to a 125-mile radius unless they can charge up along the way. Many electric vehicle owners will argue that this range-anxiety phenomenon is overblown. That may be true for them, but many liquid-fuel vehicle owners needed reassurance. The Supercharger network is designed to offer that assurance.
Tesla assumes that your main recharging location will be your home. Your second most-important recharging space is your work site. Superchargers were designed to allow Model S and Model X owners to take full advantage of their cars’ roughly 200-mile effective range when they take off on a trip outside their local area. Put another way, Tesla wanted to make it possible for as many Tesla owners as possible to find a Supercharger on the nearest high-usage highways.
In the New York City area, for example, there is a high density of Tesla owners. Knowing that in the city owners would recharge at home and at work, Tesla built Superchargers along the popular highway routes in and out of the city.
An excellent example of how Tesla deployed this strategy on a bigger scale is the string of Superchargers Tesla built from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania all the way to Utah on Interstate 70. An owner planning an East-West trip can easily see how the network enables charging along the route. An even more impressive route is Interstate 90. This East-West road runs from Boston to Seattle. It meanders more than I-70, but it is a legitimate coast-to-coast route with a constant string of Tesla Superchargers.
Company executives know that very few people are driving from Boston to Seattle. However, many drive From Boston to Albany. Many drive from Kansas City to St. Louis. The fact that there are Superchargers on these routes means the Tesla owner has a “zero cost-per-mile” drive with no range anxiety.
Tesla also chose two other important types of locations for its Superchargers. One type is high visibility locations, like some in the Las Vegas area. Another, more-interesting type of Tesla Supercharger location is exemplified by one in Southern New Hampshire near the Hopkinton Tolls on Interstate 93. Tesla has very few owners in that area, but it has a very dense pack of owners just south of there in the greater Boston area, and the company knows that they like to use Interstate 93 to get from the Boston area to the vacation spots they enjoy in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
Tesla placed a long row of Superchargers inside the two largest rest areas of this well-known road (on each side of the highway). This helps owners to top off their batteries as they head North, where public charging stations are few and far between. Also, Tesla’s Superchargers are conspicuously visible to every tourist that stops at these popular rest areas for a bathroom break or a snack. The gleaming white and red Supercharger ports with the gorgeous Model S cars connected could not be a better advertisement for the company. The image begs the question “Why am I paying for gas?!”
Although Tesla is continuing to dot Western Europe and China with Superchargers, the company is now focused on putting more of them where its current U.S. owners and prospective buyers live, work, and drive. The Supercharger network is addressing the challenges it was designed to solve. And the network is only going to get bigger, and better, from here.
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