The growth of Tesla’s Supercharger network has been tremendous. When the Tesla Model 3 started to hit true mass production and sales, one of the big concerns many had was whether or not Tesla could get Supercharger expansion on the same growth path and not run into issues with long lines and congestion at Superchargers. As it’s turned out, Tesla Supercharger expansion has been phenomenal and you seldom hear of Tesla drivers having to wait for a stall when they pull up to a Supercharger.
If you just look at the number of Supercharger stations and connectors from 2019 to 2023, from Tesla’s most recent shareholder letter, you can see how much these have been growing:
Just year over year, Supercharger stations grew by 27%, and Supercharger connectors grew by 29%.
I charge at a Supercharger station normally twice a week. I have never had to wait for a stall there. However, the station is getting more and more full. These days, it’s rare for the station to not be above 50% capacity and often even close to 100% capacity. I imagine this has been the case in many areas. One thing I’ve noticed, too, is that a lot of the Teslas are rental cars. Those may drop in volume again as Hertz and others are reducing their Tesla fleets.
There are apparently some markets where Supercharger connection is a serious matter. In New York City, especially from Uber and Lyft use, congestion has apparently become an issue and Tesla has implemented “Active Supercharger Congestion Fees.” Here’s more from Tesla:
Idle fees have been replaced by congestion fees at select Superchargers near you. Congestion fees accrue when your Supercharger is busy and your vehicle’s battery is above a certain level. This change helps reduce wait times and ensures that everyone has access to Superchargers when they need it.
Congestion fees apply when:
- Supercharger is busy
- Your vehicle’s charge is above the congestion fee charge level
View congestion fees and charge levels at which they apply on your touchscreen.
“The number of Lyft and Uber vehicles that applied for licenses through the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) was well over 9,000 units last year, and several NYC Councilmembers warned that this could cause congestion,” Teslarati writes.
Congestion charges are not a new concept. They’ve been a core tool of city planers — transportation planners, in particular — in recent decades in order to make our roads more efficient, in order to pay for roads, and in order to nudge more people into other modes of transport like bicycling and transit or into carpooling (true carpooling). Still, this is a big shift from Tesla. Those who have been around long enough might remember when Elon Musk and Tesla were saying that Supercharging would be free for life for Tesla owners. Ha — I forgot about that time!
This may be something that Tesla just deploys in critical areas. However, I wonder if it won’t become a widespread tool and revenue source for Tesla. As we all know, almost every automaker is now planning to make its EVs compatible with Superchargers (i.e., they will use the “North American Charging Standard”). Like with the rise of the Model 3, there’s concern about whether Tesla will be able to build enough charging stations for all of the future users. To some extent, Tesla can just keep building stations and connectors. However, that might get tougher and tougher as appropriate sites are less and less available. So, an alternative: make people pay more to use Superchargers, especially busy ones.
We’ll see. What do you think — will Tesla roll out congestion charges quite widely, or will this remain a very limited tool? Chime in via the poll below or linked here. (Be sure to click “Done” when done.)
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