In a new blog post, Kevin Rooke addresses the genius of Tesla Superchargers. In the last quarter of 2019, Tesla did something that many haven’t taken notice of. Tesla installed a lot more new Superchargers. The one near me here in Lafayette, Louisiana was one of those. Another one was near the home of this article’s editor, in Clearwater, Florida. Rather than being coincidence, the point is that Tesla has been installing a lot of Superchargers.
The numbers show that Tesla installed more Superchargers in the 4th quarter of 2019 than in any previous quarter in its history. Tesla is on a roll. Along with the growing number of Supercharger stations, Tesla has been adding more charging stalls per station than ever before.
In his chart above, Rooke illustrates just how big of a deal this is. In 2014, there were fewer than 500 Tesla Supercharger Stations. In 2019, there were almost 2,000. “On the surface, Tesla’s supercharger growth looks promising and sort of obvious,” he writes, while highlighting the fact that even analysts often cite the benefit of Tesla’s charging network in their arguments. However logical this idea is, Rooke points out something overlooked: Tesla isn’t succeeding due to its excellent charging efficiency. Tesla is succeeding despite having “extremely poor charging efficiency.”
What does this mean? Rooke explains that the fastest EV chargers in the world are inefficient in terms of time for transporting energy. Yes, the V3 chargers are better than the older ones, but Tesla is still competing against gas cars. At most gas stations, we can pump up to 10 gallons of gas per minute. So when you compare the speed of pumping gas to charging your vehicle, this equates to temporal inefficiency when it comes to transporting energy (aka fuel).
The genius of Tesla Superchargers takes the idea of refueling and makes it into an experience rather than an inconvenience. Tesla has designed Superchargers to improve the experience of refueling instead of trying to compete with the speed of pumping gas. By integrating Superchargers with shopping centers, grocery stores, and hotels, this has actually created an experience that can be marketed as a good thing. For example, the many Tesla road trips that many Tesla owners take are supported by nearby food and shopping at their Supercharger rest stops.
This creates an experience that is actually part of a road trip, and not an inconvenient stop. The Tesla community adds onto the Supercharging experience with friendship and a sense of community as Tesla owners get to meet their online friends in person as they drive across the country and go on adventures. When TesLatino came through Baton Rouge, not only did he use the Supercharger by my house, but he got to meet with local friends (me!) and instead of paying for food at a restaurant, I treated him and his wife to some good ole soul food. My landlady owns a small eatery (next to my apartment) and it’s pretty much Baton Rouge’s best-kept secret.
Perceptions matter, Rooke explains in his post. He brings up the words of Rory Sutherland in the book Alchemy. The idea is that technological progress in the next 50 years will be focused on design and psychology. An example of this is Uber’s use of the real-time location of a driver. This gives a small illusion or perception of speed as you can see where your driver is compared to waiting on a taxi. They are still the same thing — a taxi or Uber ride coming to pick you up and take you somewhere — but with Uber, you can see where your driver is and they can contact you via text if something happens in traffic.
Rooke explains how Tesla uses this type of thinking as well. Finding a Supercharger is easier than finding a gas station — your car will tell you where the nearest one is and how long it will take you to get there. The benefit is that you spend less time and stress less looking for a station to refuel at.
There’s more in the article. Check it out if the things above piqued your interest.