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New Tesla Supercharger station in Florida. Photo by Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.

Cars

Massive Tesla Supercharger Buildout in Response to Massive Sales of Model Y, 3, S, & X

I picked up my new Tesla Model 3 in October 2019 at the Salt Lake City Delivery Center. Since then, I’ve been very pleased with the Tesla Supercharger network that allows me to travel cross-country on Interstate highways with only a little inconvenience compared with my previous trips in gas-mobiles. I’m particularly pleased with the upgrades Tesla has made since my purchase.

A big improvement for me is the new Pleasant Grove, Utah, showroom and delivery center 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, only 4 miles from my house. But we are not the only ones getting Superchargers nearby.

Figure 1: Tesla employee plugging in my daughter’s Model X using a portable Supercharger at the Nephi, Utah, Supercharger. December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

When we are driving cross country in Wyoming, South Dakota, and southwest Minnesota, Superchargers are spaced conveniently just off the Interstate highways and we are frequently the only car charging.

However, Tesla has been selling ~200 cars per week at the Salt Lake City Delivery Center and the new service and delivery center in Pleasant Grove. Add to that the 1000s per week sold in California, with many traveling from Southern California to Utah.

The I-15 (Salt Lake City and Saint George, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; to Southern California) corridor has become a very heavily traveled route for Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Supercharger buildout and use along this route became dramatically illustrated this past week just following Christmas. On Monday December 26, 2022, Tesla rolled out portable Superchargers to deal with the extra demand (see Figure 1).

Figure 2: My wife Mary, daughter, dog Zuni, and daughter’s Model X. Leaving Lindon, Utah, on December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

A lot of traffic is from people like my wife, my daughter, and I, who were carrying bikes to Saint George (See Figures 2 and 3). St. George is almost always snow free and the weather is sunnier and much warmer in the winter than the big metropolitan center in Northern Utah. Many Northern Utah residents like my daughter own vacation homes down there. People were also on their way to Las Vegas for entertainment and gambling, Arizona for football bowl games, and California for sunny beaches in San Diego. We also saw ski carriers on the Teslas going the opposite direction from California, going north to Utah ski resorts. Also, with the large Mormon populations in Utah and California, many people were traveling home from Christmas family reunions.

Figure 3: Owner with Model Y and wide-tire ebikes on back. Portable Supercharger at Nephi, Utah Supercharger station on December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Sleepy Superchargers of 6 months to a few years ago have been built out and augmented to meet the demand of almost all Tesla cross-country travel. We were on the I-15 route from Salt Lake City to Saint George, Utah, two years ago at Thanksgiving when we stopped midway at the Beaver Supercharger. We slipped into the last free stall of 8 at the Beaver Supercharger, which shared 150 kW between adjacent stalls. Most older Superchargers have 8 stalls with 150 kW shared between every two stalls. The oldest Superchargers can be as slow as 72 kW. The next Teslas behind us had to wait at least a few minutes for a stall. By the next Thanksgiving, Tesla had upgraded the Beaver Supercharger to 32 stalls (See Figure 4). All the new stalls have non-shared 250 kW chargers. No more waiting ever! Note: there are also two more Superchargers between Salt Lake City and Saint George if needed — one in Nephi, Utah, and the other in Cedar City, Utah.

Figure 4: 17 Teslas at 32-station, 250 kW Supercharger in Beaver, Utah, on December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

We were surprised to learn that the sleepy 4-stall 72 kW Supercharger in Cedar City well off of I-15 in the center of the city has been upgraded with a 16-stall 250 kW Supercharger right on I-15.

That leaves the also sleepy 8-stall 150 kW Supercharger in Nephi 90 miles south of Salt Lake City that has always been packed. Apparently, Tesla anticipated the big post-Christmas travel surge on December 26, 2022, but hadn’t been able to install new permanent stalls yet. As we drove in, we observed a big semi truck trailer with a huge box on it with a man standing next to it. We backed up to the trailer and the man, who turned out to be a Tesla employee, plugged in my daughter’s Model X (see Figure 1). There were 5 additional 250 kW cables running from the trailer.

It is common knowledge that the uptake of EVs in general and Teslas specifically in California is much greater than in any other state. Even though Superchargers are much more frequent in California, we do hear reports of waits to charge on busy weekends. On our jaunt from Saint George through Las Vegas to Southern California in 2021, we pulled into the Baker, California Supercharger. Surprise! The Baker Supercharger has 40 stations, but they only have a maximum of 150 kW each. We slipped into the only vacant stall (see Figure 5). However, just 50 miles to the north on I-15 at the Primm Nevada Supercharger there are 42 non-shared stations, each with 250 kW max. Tesla is upgrading a Supercharger in Quartzsite, Arizona, to 88 stations, and the Tesla employee at the Nephi Supercharger reported that at least two Superchargers in California already have over 100 stalls. One of these is in Barstow, California.

Figure 5: 40-station Tesla Supercharger in Baker, California, on February 21, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

However, these Superchargers are pipsqueaks compared to the largest Supercharger in the world, the 637-stall Supercharger in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen, with 12.6 million residents, is the companion city to Hong Kong. It is the home city to BYD, the world leader in plugin electric vehicles. BYD has produced the 18,000 public buses for Shenzhen which make it the largest electric bus fleet in the world. This is what it takes to insure worry-free travel in a Tesla most of the time.

However, there are destinations off the major highways that are difficult in an EV. For example, we often travel north from our summer home in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, to the wonderful tourist town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior next to Madeline Island. But when we go there, it requires a 6-hour Level 2 charge at the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce in order to get back home. There is a L3 fast charger 12 miles south in Washburn, Wisconsin, but it is a CCS charger. You can buy a Tesla-to-CCS adapter from Tesla for $200, but it only works on recently produced Teslas. Tesla offers an upgrade for my 2019 Model 3, but it is not supposed to be available until early 2023. I am holding my breath. With the upgrade and adapter, we will be able to start for home earlier.

 
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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

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