With Tesla producing a million cars per year in the US soon, and also opening up Superchargers to other EVs, how can Tesla open enough Superchargers to fulfill the charging needs of all of those new Teslas plus the needs of current Tesla cars plus the needs of other EVs that will presumably gain access to Tesla Superchargers?
President Hoover was supposed to have said “a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage” during his US presidential campaign in 1928. The picture above was taken a few blocks from my house in Lindon, Utah. How many two-Tesla homes are there now? How many will there be in 2025, or 2030?
In case you are not familiar with my story, my wife and I live in Lindon, Utah, in the winter and in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, during the summer. Our Tesla Model 3 Long Range has served us well for over 3 years and over 90,000 miles. We have commuted the 1500 miles to Wisconsin twice, to our daughter’s house in North Carolina once, and to our friend’s condo in Southern California once. We have commuted the 300 miles to Saint George several times. I also commute 100 miles round trip twice a week in the winter to teach skiing at the Brighton ski resort. I have been extremely impressed by Tesla’s Supercharger network. The chargers are spaced at 70 to 120 mile intervals on all the Interstate highways. They are never out of service, and you just plug in and they automatically charge your car and bill the credit card that Tesla has on file for you. While I can’t comment on Supercharger demand and response across the nation, I can tell you what I see in my home area and on my cross-country trips. This also seems to be the experience of other Tesla owners.
A few days ago, I had to wait for a Supercharger stall for the first time. For years, in Salt Lake City, Tesla has made do with one 10-stall, 150-kW Supercharger that opened March 6, 2015. On March 10, 2021, Tesla supplemented that by opening a 12-stall, 250-kW Supercharger in the southern Salt Lake City metro region in the city of Draper. On December 9, 2021, Tesla also opened an 8-stall, 250-kW Supercharger near downtown Salt Lake City. My primary charging is done with a L2 charger in our garages in Lindon, Three Lakes, and Saint George. However, one day recently I had already made my run to the Brighton ski resort and knew I would be making another round trip to Salt Lake City that day, so I stopped to top off at the Draper Supercharger. All 12 stalls were occupied! Fortunately, I only had to wait 5–10 minutes for a stall to free up.
Stress on the Supercharger network from Lyft and Uber drivers: I would estimate the vast majority of Supercharging has been done by drivers making cross-country trips. Even the original Tesla Model S and X owners that get free Supercharging seldom use them for local driving since charging in your garage is so much more convenient, and easier on the batteries. Only a small percentage of Tesla drivers have no charging at home and rely on Superchargers for most of their charging.
I usually use my time at Superchargers to chat with other drivers to see what I can learn. The driver in the next stall at Draper was an Uber driver. He had rented his Tesla from Hertz. It was one of the 50,000 Teslas delivered as part of the 100,000 Teslas ordered by Hertz for its rental fleet. I assumed they would be used mostly at airports for travelers who would then usually do only a small amount of local driving. However, if Hertz is indeed renting Teslas to many Uber and Lyft drivers, they are going to put a great deal of stress on the Supercharger network, because they are often going to need to charge multiple times per day. Since Tesla recently put in two new Superchargers and has a 3rd scheduled for later this year in the Salt Lake metro area, Tesla may be able to keep up with growing demand.
I have been very impressed with the Supercharger additions Tesla has made to the cross-country routes I’ve been driving in the last 3 years. On the 300-mile route from Salt Lake to Saint George, Tesla has upgraded the mid-route charger at Beaver from 8 stalls at 150 kW to 32 stalls, with all the new ones at 250 kW. They have also added a 16-stall, 250-kW Supercharger in Cedar City not far from Saint George. That leaves the 8-stall, 150-kW Supercharger in Nephi closer to Salt Lake City as the weak link in the system. Fortunately, I see that Tesla is putting in another Supercharger in Nephi, Utah, in Q3 of 2023, which will eliminate that last weak spot on the Salt Lake to Saint George run. Not only do many Utahans drive the route because of the mild dry weather in Saint George, but it is on the popular route between Southern California, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, and Salt Lake City. On my Utah-to-Wisconsin cross-country run, Tesla added chargers in Casper, Wyoming; Mankato, Minnesota; and Menomonie, Wisconsin; which make the trip easier for me driving with a bike rack and two big mountain ebikes on back.
How do I know what future chargers Tesla is planning for areas that I know need attention? There are two websites, Tesla’s own Supercharging page and a website called supercharge.info. In my region, I know that Tesla is planning a new charger I mentioned in downtown SLC for Q2 2023, which will alleviate some of the oversubscription of chargers in Salt Lake. Supercharge.info also tells me that the Minocqua Supercharger has 8 stalls at 250 kW and that it opened November 17, 2022. Further, that’s how I know that the Nephi charging situation will improve soon.
Additions like this continue to open up the state, in this case to Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You can check Supercharger availability and plans in your region to see if Tesla is rapidly filling in gaps there as well.
What about super busy routes like the SoCal-to-Las Vegas run? Last year we drove from St George in Southern, Utah, through Las Vegas, and on to Southern California. That way we got to see what Tesla is doing on routes where there are muchos Teslas. Surprise! The Supercharger in Baker between Las Vegas and California already has 40 stalls. Unfortunately, those only have a maximum of 150 kW. We slipped into the only vacant stall (see picture below). However, just 50 miles to the north on I-15 at the Primm Nevada Supercharger there are 42 non-shared stations with a 250 kW max capacity each. Tesla is upgrading the Supercharger in Quartzsite, Arizona, to 88 stations and a 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.
However, these Superchargers are pipsqueaks compared to the largest Supercharger station 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 corporation, a world leader in batteries and electric vehicles.
Bottom line: Tesla is making a monumental effort to keep up with Supercharger demand. What is happening in my region is surely happening in many others. Only time will tell if it’s enough.
Please relate your experiences in the comments section below.
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