Ah, the Supercharger network: the single biggest reason why a Tesla is the only EV that can truly replace a gas car. While fossil fuel gas stations are ubiquitous and easy to use, the situation with most public electric charging stations is a nightmare:
Charging your EV on the go doesn’t have to be this hard. While your Tesla can use most public chargers with an adapter, the Supercharger experience is usually much better and is integrated deeply into your car.
Supercharging is easy, but there’s a lot of little details you may not know about. For Tesla owners new and old we’re going to present a guide today: Everything you ever wanted to know about Supercharging.
Access to Supercharging
So far, Tesla Superchargers are only open to Tesla vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that he is happy to open up the supercharging network to other vehicles, but no other car company has taken Tesla up on the offer yet.
If you buy a Model S or a Model X, you get free unlimited Supercharging. That means you can drive wherever you want –– even across the country –– and Tesla will just pay for everything. Free unlimited supercharging is attached to your vehicle and stays with you for the life of the car.
Some early Model 3 Performance also got free unlimited Supercharging, but most Model 3 and Model Y are subject to pay per use Supercharging, as this reduces the starting price of the vehicle and helps make the cars more affordable. Prices for Supercharging will vary based on your location and other factors, but you should generally expect that even a full charge will be under $20. You can view Supercharging prices per kWh on your Tesla touchscreen by tapping on the red pin for any Supercharger.
There is one way to get out of paying for Supercharging: Use a referral code, or refer a friend. When you’re ordering a Tesla, make sure to use someone’s referral code and your first 1,000 miles of Supercharging on your new car will be completely free. Even better, every time someone orders a Tesla using your referral code, both of you get an additional 1,000 miles. On top of that, you get a chance to win a Roadster or Model Y through a random lottery drawing.
Supercharging stations don’t have any way to take cash or credit cards: You have to associate a credit card with your account on Tesla.com if you need to pay. When you arrive at the station, just pick up the plug and plug it into your car. You don’t have to worry about paying –– you just plug it in. The system will automatically charge you if you don’t have unlimited Supercharging or referral miles available.
Types of Superchargers
Understanding the difference between different types of Superchargers is key to getting the fastest charge and being courteous to your neighbors.
Most stalls on the Tesla Supercharger network today are V2 chargers. These feature the classic red and white Supercharger stall design, and a thicker cable than you would find on V3 chargers.
The most important thing to know about V2 Superchargers is that each stall is coupled with one other so that neighboring stalls share power. If you arrive at a V2 charging station with multiple empty spaces, avoid parking directly next to someone else –– you could slow down charging for both you and the other driver. This is bad charging etiquette and arguably even rude (unless there aren’t other empty spaces). If you plug into one charging stall and find that the charging speed is unusually slow, you might have better luck plugging into another charger at the same location.
The V2 Supercharging stalls can provide up to 150 kW of power, so you’ll see them more commonly on highways between urban areas than within city centers.
Urban superchargers feature a more compact design that can fit more easily into denser urban and suburban areas. They’re slower than the larger V2 Supercharging stalls we introduced above at 72 kW, but they don’t load share with their neighbor. That means you can plug into any stall without worrying about slowing down anyone else’s charging speed.
The Urban Superchargers look great and are very useful for situations where you don’t want your car to charge too fast: like when you have to grab something from the mall or IKEA.
V3 Superchargers feature Tesla’s newest and most advanced electric vehicle charging technology. V3 chargers are capable of a max charging rate of up to 250 kW, and they don’t load share with their neighbor either! That translates to peak charging rates of over 1000 miles of range per hour. With the ability to add 75 miles of range in just 5 minutes, V3 brings the EV charging experience surprisingly close to that of filling gas.
V3 Superchargers will be labeled with 250 kW of max power in your Tesla touch screen, but V3 charging sites will sometimes have both V2 and V3 chargers. There are three tricks you can use to tell a V3 charger apart from a V2 charger:
- Thinner Cable –– V3 Superchargers feature a thinner charging cable than V2 chargers. It’s subtle, but up close you can easily see and feel the difference.
- Cooling Fans –– V3 stalls feature additional cooling and you can usually hear some extra fans and pumps whirring insider the faster, higher power V3 chargers
- The Sign –– Typically, V3 stalls will be labeled with a “250 kW” or “V3” sign making it quite obvious to anyone who is looking for them
Not all Tesla vehicles are capable of charging at up to 250 kW, but if you have a Long Range battery that you bought recently you should expect to get the maximum charging rate for longer. In general the bigger your battery the faster your charging rate will be.
Finding a Charger
One way to find Superchargers is on your Tesla’s map: You’ll see them as red pins with an electric bolt on them. If you tap on the pins, you should be able to see how many stalls are available and how many are being used by someone else.
You can also click on the electric bolt on the bottom right corner of your Tesla map to see a list of nearby chargers including both Tesla Superchargers and destination chargers. Destination chargers are typically much slower than Superchargers.
If you’re not in your car, you can also check on Superchargers and destination chargers by opening the “Charging” section in your Tesla app. Scroll down to see “Nearby Superchargers” listed along with the number of stalls available for use. In the screenshot above, I can see that Redondo and Manhattan Beach look busy, so I should probably head to SpaceX and use the chargers there.
If you want to head to a Supercharger, just tap on a location in your charging screen and your vehicle’s navigation system will automatically start directions and warm up your battery for charging along the way.
If you’re taking a long trip, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to stop to charge. Just enter the destination on your navigation system, and the car will automatically pick a route for you with available Superchargers and guide you to each stop.
When you route to a Supercharger on your Tesla map, the car will automatically start warming up the battery in advance so that when you arrive the charging stop will be faster. If you’re going to a Supercharger make sure you set the navigation destination, and make sure the destination is the actual Supercharger, not something that’s nearby. When your battery is warming up, your car will display a message on your touchscreen letting you know.
If you block a charger after you’re done charging, you’ll be charged a fee: up to $1 a minute! Monitor your notifications and Tesla app to avoid this, and make sure you’re ready to move your car when you’re done charging. You don’t want to Supercharge and then go see a movie unless you’re willing to pay a $100 fee and annoy everyone else who needs the charger.
High Use Supercharging
If a supercharger is in “high use” your max charge may be limited to 80%. The reason this happens is that the max charging rate starts slowing down after 80%. If everyone only charges to 80%, the Supercharger can handle far more people and everyone has to wait less.
Of course, there will be times when you get this message but need to charge more than 80%. For example, maybe you’re on a road trip and need 90% of your battery to reach your destination safely. In this case, just adjust your charge limit in the mobile app or on your car’s charging screen. After being manually adjusted, your car will charge above 80% if you ask it to.
Some Supercharging Stations like Kettleman City, California; Seaside, California, and the Las Vegas Strip V3 location have lounges. Lounge locations are often larger and typically feature solar arrays to provide renewable power to visiting Teslas.
These lounges are locked so that only Tesla drivers can get in. If you look at the Supercharger location in your recent destinations list, you should see a PIN code on your car’s touchscreen that can be used to enter the lounge.
Inside you’ll find vending machines, clean bathrooms, Tesla merchandise like apparel and accessories, Wifi, seating, and some cool real-time stats about Superchargers worldwide. If you’re passing by a Supercharging lounge like Kettleman City, I definitely recommend visiting rather than using another nearby station. Your navigation system will not prefer routing you to a lounge, so you need to be aware of where they are yourself.
One question people often have is: How will my car charge itself when it becomes fully driverless? Nobody wants their car to get stuck without charge hundreds of miles away from home. Though little has been done so far, Tesla has given this some thought and is prepared to upgrade Supercharger stations to support completely hands-free operation.
One concept that has been discussed is called the “Snake Charger”:
If you see a snake charger, it is essential you not bend over to pick up anything you may have dropped.
Another simpler solution may be to have attendants that plug and unplug autonomous cars into the Supercharger. But the nice thing about these snake chargers is that they could theoretically start charging your car right away once you arrive, without you having to get out of your car or do anything except confirm.
In an autonomous future, I imagine the Supercharging network will become a serious business that has a material impact on Tesla’s earnings. The use case would transform from road trips to any and all autonomous travel.
Charge at Home
Now that we’ve told you everything you need to know about Supercharging we can tell you the most important thing about Supercharging: Don’t Supercharge.
Plug in at home, or anywhere else your car is parked for long periods instead. Why?
- You don’t want to take space from people who really need a fast charge, and you don’t want to wait when you really need a fast charge. Charge elsewhere whenever you can.
- In general, charging faster generates more heat and degrades your battery faster. If you want your battery to last and retain it’s range longer, charge slower –– not at a Supercharger.
- It’s two to three times more expensive than the cost of electricity alone. Charging at home or work is much cheaper. A lot of times you can find Free EV chargers around: check Plugshare.
- Save your free Supercharger miles for a nice Roadtrip
So there you have it: Now you know everything you need to know about Supercharging, and you’re ready to charge at home. Any outlet that can charge your iPhone can charge your car!
If you have any questions about EV charging, just let us know in the comments.
Here’s everthing you ever wanted to know about Supercharging. @elonmusk @teslaTweet
2 thoughts on “Steve’s Guide to Supercharging”
I learned many new things about Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure thanks to another awesome Steve’s Deep Dive; thanks for this — you’re helping to teach passionate Tesla supporters that will someday soon purchase their first Tesla.
“… If you see a snake charger, it is essential you not bend over to pick up anything you may have dropped …”
Now I know this really is Steve Jobs — wicked sense of humor! ❤️
I always find it funny when some people bring up charging of autonomous vehicles as it it was a serious concern… Shouldn’t it be obvious to everyone that if you have the technology to autonomously drive a car, an autonomous charging robot is ridiculously trivial in comparison?