Tesla Supercharger Use Increased 5x Over In 1 Year

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Originally published on Gas2.

Tesla Motors has been rapidly installing its Superchargers across the United States, and it is clearly bent on covering the whole country, but how often do people actually use them?

I don’t know how often people actually use them. However, Tesla announced that usage rates for road trips exploded by a factor of 5 since last summer. Why? Tesla has not only been selling cars, but it has significantly increased the number of Superchargers across the world since last summer, as shown in Tesla’s tweet below. (h/t electrek)

Its nearly ubiquitous electric car charger presence is almost certainly helping to increase usage rates (maybe car sales too, as the ubiquity of charging stations makes Tesla’s cars more viable to consumers). In addition to that, Tesla cars have gotten performance upgrades like ‘Insane Mode‘ and ‘Ludicrous Mode‘ that make the thought of going on Tesla road trips even more fun!

The fact that Tesla Supercharger stations can recharge Tesla’s cars faster than ever (a supercharge can add 170 miles in as little as 30 minutes) probably helps too. At the rate Tesla is going with its charger installation and Gigafactory, which aims to make EVs cheaper and more ubiquitous, usage rates may see another sharp increase.

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Nicholas Brown

Has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

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22 thoughts on “Tesla Supercharger Use Increased 5x Over In 1 Year

  • Well that explains their letter to car owners asking them to reduce their use. I understand the challenges presented by that letter but at 5x I can understand a bean counting accountant looking for a way to curb that growth. Go Tesla! 🙂

    • The letter went out to a fraction of the ownership and had nothing to do with road trip usage.
      The vast majority of owners charge at home like we do, because it’s so convenient and inexpensive.
      Few buy a $100K car and are so worried about the cost of electricity to charge it they spend extra time to supercharge for local usage.

  • According to Tesla, the Supercharger network is now the fastest-growing + largest fast-charging network in the world. The network increased in size roughly 5-fold in 2014 — and the plan is apparently to double that figure in 2015.
    Tesla sold in 2013 22477 Model S plus 6665 in the first half of 2014 total 29142 cars on the road by July 2014.
    In the second half of 2014 13504 Model S were delivered and 21552 in the first half of 2015.
    If you have 2.3 times more cars and more than 3 times more Superchargers, having 5 times more road trips makes sense.

    • As Rafael correctly pointed out, an individual that buys a Model S is not going to be concerned about the cost of charging for their local driving. The Tesla supercharge ‘overuse’ issue is with the ‘cab’ companies that use the local SC for all their charging. Tesla is looking at how to address that issue. Unfortunately they did a poor job of communicating that in their first attempt.

  • The supercharger network in a way illuminates human progress in the world. Those places without superchargers… Well Cpt Kirk would say “beam me up scotty, no intelligent life forms here!”

    Well, it will be an indication after Tesla has finished building it out.

    • There may need to be ‘almost super’ chargers for low frequency locations. Rather than 170 miles in 30 minutes or the next higher rate version a 100 miles in 45 minutes charger that would allow people to get off the beaten track but still make it back to where SCs are found.

  • We bought our Tesla Model S a few months ago, and in our second day of ownership did a road trip from Toronto to New York and back. Put on 4000 km in a few weeks, and 5000 km in our first two months. About 80% of that travel was supercharged.

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    • Your trip is exactly what those SuperChargers were put there for. This is one major reason why people buy EVs from Tesla since this is possible and they will continue to do so as long as Audi and Porsche fail to invest fully in an equivalent charger network.

    • Tesla makes one car ownership possible.

  • I would feel reassured that the supercharger network is sustainable if users paid per minute of use.

    • If would feel reassured of that if after a set level of consumption, buyers donated a solar panel to Tesla, in appreciation for all of the on-the-road opportunities they have benefited from!

    • I think Tesla needs to refine the rules just a bit so that potential abusers are minimized. People parking in charging bays for hours or overnight needs to be eliminated.

      Perhaps there needs to be a limit on how many times per year an individual car can use a Supercharger.

      Or perhaps a limit on how many times during high demand hours. It might be fine for a 24 hour taxi service to charge 1x or 2x per day as long as they charged during low demand hours.

      Perhaps owners with no place to charge where they park could be allowed to charge 2x or more a week as long as most of the times were low demand hours.

      And there should be a provision to charge as many times as one wants at any hour they want for an extra fee. Use the money for more Superchargers. Perhaps the ModS will be unlimited and future, less expensive models will be somewhat limited….

      • Hmm… what if the superchargers had a 50 ft. reel take up system for the power cord and an automatic release plug that would release when the car was fully charged? I’ve seen a $150,000 number for a turn key supercharger. My suggestion would only add a small amount to the cost by comparison.

  • Tesla better stay on it, because I suspect those model 3’s are going to be able to super charge too, and if they they continue to succeed like they have been, then the number of Tesla’s that will be wanting to supercharge on the roads will be going up fast.

    • At this point I would expect the Supercharger division is operating pretty independently, not taking up CEO level time. Staff scouting sites and getting contracts signed. Construction managers setting up and supervising local companies for the installation.

      As long a Tesla doesn’t lose money on Superchargers then they should keep pressing. Huge advantage over all other companies. And I would imagine Tesla makes at least a little money on them, or will when usage (number of cars buying in) grows.

      • I think they should probably come up with some way of keeping track of how much people supercharge, and allow them to use it some amount for free, and then charge at least Mod 3 customers what it costs them to run the chargers.

        • They already have the ability to track all that tied to the VIN of the car. As to charging for SuperChargers I don’t think they will but they may well restrict accress to local SuperChargers, especially where it becomes obvious that a particular VIN is not just using them for road trips and the occasional local charge but is using them instead of charging overnight on their own dime so frequently as to be abusing the system. Tesla know exactly how many cars they sell and where those cars are at any time so keeping up the density of SuperChargers should be a well defined problem, and if they fail to do that sales will suffer to some extent. I can’t see Tesla throwing away the biggest plus they have over everyone else for what amounts to a rounding error in their future plans.

          • What if the owner can’t charge at home? Then Tesla should allow them to charge for a fee, and build a few more.

          • I would guess that there’s probably enough ‘prepaid’ generation built into the $2k of the purchase price to cover a year’s charging for the portion of drivers who would exclusively charge at Superchargers.

            I would suspect most Tesla drivers would use the SC only 2-4 times a year. It should be possible to allow a portion of the fleet to charge ~75 a year.

            A 24 hour taxi company could be charging 700-800 times a year.

  • I’ve visited about 20 superchargers. The continued expansion of the network enables travel to 80% of anywhere I want to go in the western US. Within a year, I expect Tesla will close the remaining gaps. My only concern is that when production expands, the existing chargers may get very busy!

    • I’d love to see the parameters and estimates that Tesla is using for Supercharger planning.

      I assume Thanksgiving day to be the busiest driving day of the year. What percentage of Teslas might be expected to visit a SC in the middle of the day? 5%? 10%?

      Assuming with reservations and clever scheduling they might be able to charge six ModSs between 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM that would mean one SuChg for every 60 Teslas at 10%, 120 Teslas at 5%.

      With 60 Teslas kicking in $2k each toward a $18k charge bay (right number?) that leaves $102k/bay to pay for electricity, site lease, and maintenance. Pre-purchase the electricity via shares in SolarCity solar farms or via SolarCity PPAs. Put the bulk of the $102k into investments and pay lease/maintenance costs with the earnings along with possibly spending down a little of the capital. The next generation of Teslas will pay for the replacement bay.

      With 120 Teslas kicking in $2k each the post-bay purchase would be $222k.

      What might be the average number of charges per Tesla per year? Six? Twelve?

      170 miles at 0.3 kWh/mile = 51 kWh.

      At 6x per year = 306 kWh/year/Tesla. At 12x = 612 kWh/year/Tesla.

      $0.06/kWh? $18.26 to $36.52/Tesla/year.

      Commercial electricity rates of $0.11/kWh? $33.66 to $67.32/year/Tesla.

      An investment of $102,000 returning 4% would be $4,080/year. Electricity might only eat up the pocket change.

      Of course my numbers are just guesses. (And my math sometimes flawed….)

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