When you first learn about (and perhaps contemplate buying) a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y, you find out that they have almost no knobs or dials and everything is controlled by the center computer screen. If you are driving an older car, you don’t have any driver automation. You don’t have smart cruise control or steering assist, to say nothing of Full Self Driving. It is with some trepidation that you consider driving a Tesla (unless you are of a rather young generation). You start talking to Tesla owners and start watching YouTube videos. You don’t want to be overwhelmed when you first drive off with your car.
When you take delivery of your new Tesla, you get a short rundown from the delivery staff and start reading about the car in earnest. Once you have been driving your Tesla for a few weeks or months, you take your first long trip and stop at your first Supercharger. While you are waiting for your car to charge, you start up a conversation with another Tesla driver also waiting for his or her car to charge. Most Tesla owners are excited about their cars and can’t wait to share their experiences with others. If you find out you are talking to a brand new owner, you can’t wait to share tips with him or her. It’s also a big chance for the new owner to ask that question that’s been bugging him or her for the last few weeks.
An important tip for new Tesla owners at their first Supercharger: 150kW or slower Superchargers do power sharing with adjacent cars. This means if your car is at stall 3a, then you will be sharing with 3b if it is occupied — and that means you will be charging at half speed during the beginning of your charge. As you get above 70% or 80%, your charge tapers anyway to not damage your battery. Bottom line: If there is a choice of empty stalls don’t pick one with the same number as one that is already charging. Obviously, if the Supercharger is nearly full, you don’t have a choice and almost everyone is charging at half speed.
The tip I like to share most at a Supercharger is how to best figure out how long to charge. Lately, I have been traveling with two big electric bikes on a tray-type carrier on the back that cuts down my range significantly. What I suggest is to push on the sometimes invisible button on the lower right part of the screen, which brings up all the nearby Superchargers on the map. Since my range is pretty short, I touch the next charger on my route. It brings up a control at the bottom of the popup box. Push it and it puts that charger into your navigation. Pushing your destination in the navigation once or twice brings up the various waypoints on your route. At the bottom you see a display that estimates how much charge you will have when you reach your destination. At first, the display is blank or may even give a negative number. However, as you continue to charge, the number turns positive and starts to increase. In my case, I charge until the estimated destination charge number reaches 35% or even 40%, because I know the number is going to decrease as I proceed along my route because of the extra drag from carrying bikes.
If it is a busy Supercharger, it may have automatically set your charge limit to 80% and you may need to increase it to 90% if reaching the next charger is a stretch. I rarely go above 80% and almost never go beyond 90% because the charging tapers so dramatically and it takes such a long time. Also, I plan to own my Tesla for 10 or 20 years, so I treat my battery with kid gloves. I never charge above 80% at home for local driving and almost never go above 90% when I am going on a trip or am en route. In any case, when the calculated destination charge reaches 35%, I stop the charging, unplug, and get on the road. With that state-of-charge, I can drive at a speed of 75 miles per hour or faster if I am on an Interstate highway. If you have a Model S with 400 miles of range or a Model 3 or Y Long Range with 300+ miles of range and no bikes on the back, you can easily skip a Supercharger and leave when the estimated destination charge reaches 15% or 20%.
Remember to google the wind speed and direction at your current and next locations. If you know you will be driving into a strong wind, you probably need to charge to the max and may have to reduce your speed dramatically to reach the next Supercharger. If you must drive more than 10 mph below the posted speed limit, use your flashers. If you are driving west and the wind speed and direction are 25 mph WSW, that means you will be driving into a headwind of almost 25 mph.
You can probably guess that I can’t communicate all of this in a short conversation at the Supercharger, but I can reveal some of the concepts and let the new owner figure out the rest.
I love to talk to other Tesla owners at Superchargers, so I walk up, ask the driver to roll down the window, and say, “my, what a beautiful car you have!” Usually, that’s all it takes, and we launch into a conversation about how we love our cars. Yesterday, for the first time, the lady rolled her window back up right after my opener. I guess Teslas are getting to be old hat.
The conversations usually come to how far the traveler has driven. Amazing, you just traveled straight through from California to Wisconsin! We also discuss various mods to our cars. Your car wasn’t chrome deleted, so you put black wrap on all the chrome, including the Tesla logo on the hood. You actually like the look of the aero hubcaps on the Model 3? Yes, I had receiver on my Model 3 installed by a third party like U-Haul.
Various Superchargers, Why They’re So Great, & Supercharger Evolution
I was picking my brother up at the Las Vegas airport, but had to see it! The 24-stall, V3, 250kW Las Vegas Supercharger — the largest Supercharger I had heard of at the time. However, no conversations here, as it was nearly empty.
Above is the Beaver Supercharger, the key Supercharger for Tesla drivers going from Salt Lake City to St. George in southern Utah. Thanksgiving 2020 we grabbed the last of the eight 150kW stalls and started a slow charge because we were sharing with an adjacent car. The next Tesla that pulled in had to wait at least a few minutes. By the Spring of 2021, Tesla had added 24 new 250 kW V3 stalls with no sharing. Beaver now has 32 Supercharger stalls. It is very reassuring to see Tesla responding so quickly to a crowed Supercharger. We have had many conversations with other Tesla owners at Beaver.
This is another crowded V2 Supercharger handling all the “slow” shared charging for cars going from Chicago, Madison, and Green Bay/Wausau to Minneapolis/Saint Paul on US 29 and I-94. Tesla is on the ball here again, as the company has a new 8 stall 250 kW V3 Supercharger going in at Menomonie, WI, only 28 miles away. This Supercharger will also eliminate the 15 mile detour for cars coming from Green Bay/Wausau on US 29 on their way to Minneapolis.
If 32 stalls in Beaver seems like very many, consider the planned 56 new V3 Supercharger stalls for a total of 96 stalls in the Kettleman City, California, area. This may even top the massive 40 to 60 stall Supercharger that is under construction in Shanghai, China.
At the other end of the spectrum is the 4 stall V2 120 kW Supercharger in Lusk, Wyoming. The Lusk Supercharger allows Teslas traveling on I-90 through South Dakota to drop down through the Black Hills to I-25 and I-80. This has been our standard route traveling from Northern Wisconsin to Salt Lake City for many years. We arrive after dark after a 500+ mile segment and stay at a motel across the street. No conversations here. I drop my wife off at the motel and then I spend 45 minutes in the dark watching Back to The Future II or Octopus Teacher while charging for the next leg to Casper, Wyoming. We start off the next morning with a full charge.
Do not wait until the next morning to charge! Definitely don’t do this if you are expecting a cold night. I did this once at the V2 Supercharger in Moab, Utah. I think I was only charging at 15–20 kW until the battery warmed up.
We drove our Tesla Model 3 east from Northern Wisconsin to North Carolina in October 2020 to visit our daughter and her family there. We charged with a long extension cord at 110V at her home for our local driving there. However, when it came time to begin the long cross-country trip back to Utah, we stopped to top off our charge at the Charlotte Supercharger.
On the second day of our 1500 mile journey from Northern Wisconsin to Utah this past fall, we stopped near the famous Wall Drugstore to charge at the Tesla V2 Supercharger there. With two big e-bikes on the back, it is hard to back up to the stall perfectly. Therefore, when no other cars are charging, we park parallel to the stalls and plug in.
Charging & Tesla Supercharger Apps
When I want to find out what options I have for charging, I use the PlugShare app. It has wonderful filters that you can set for the type of car you have. It can be set for just Superchargers, Tesla destination chargers, all J1772 L2 chargers, home chargers, CHAdeMO, CCS chargers, or any combination of those.
I use PlugShare when I am planning my trips, especially in places like Northern Wisconsin and the Michigan Upper Peninsula where chargers are rare. The last time we traveled from Three Lakes, WI, to the wonderful tourist town of Bayfield on Lake Superior, we had to charge for about 5 hours using the Chamber of Commerce’s NEMA 14-50 outlet. However, from PlugShare I found out that there is a CCS fast charger in Washburn just a few miles south of Bayfield. At the time, the only CCS-to-Tesla adapter I knew about was very bulky and cost over $1,000, so that was not an option for me. However, a new and much more compact $250 adapter has already been released by Tesla in South Korea and will soon be available in the US. I will probably buy one before my next trip to Bayfield.
I also just found out from PlugShare that there is a non-Tesla, EVgo, 50 kW fast charger option for Teslas at Thanksgiving Point just south of Salt Lake City. I had read about other companies adding Tesla plugs to their chargers, but this is the first time I’ve seen one that I might have occasion to use.
I mentioned earlier that there is a new Tesla Supercharger going in in Menomonie, WI, to relieve the pressure on the Eau Clair, WI, Supercharger. How do I know that? The Supercharger.info app tells me that there is a Supercharger there that has been under construction there for 67 days. The Find Us | Tesla app tells me that the Menomonie, WI, Supercharger has a target opening of Q4 2021. It should be open before we head back to Wisconsin from Utah in the spring.
Supercharger Charging Costs
I was clued in to this from a conversation from another Tesla owner at a Supercharger in Wisconsin. He was telling me that he is always trying to charge for the lowest cost. I had no idea that you could do this.
Ideally, you would be charged based on the amount (kilowatt-hours) of electricity you use. However, antiquated laws in many states prevent Tesla from selling electricity like this. Therefore, in many states, Tesla has to charge you by the minute. Regarding my recent trip, Utah and Minnesota charge by the kWh; Wyoming, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have two-tier charging by the minute.
The cost at the Supercharger here in Saint George, Utah, is $0.35 per kWh. The charge at the Beaver charger is $0.30 per kWh. Tesla is charging based on the cost of electricity in each location. You get this information from the charging display in your Tesla. Chargers in many other states have two tiers for per minute charging. For example, Wyoming has a higher rate of $0.23 per minute for charging above 60 kW and a lower rate of $0.12 for charging below 60 kW. So, you can throttle your charge rate via the touchscreen to keep the charge rate below 60 kW and pay the lower amount.
Also, it will cost you $1.00/min if you leave your car plugged in after you are finished charging at a busy Supercharger (a Supercharger station that is more than half occupied).
Tell us in the comments if you have other useful tricks and info about Supercharging.