Tesla Supercharging — Fast Charging EV Networks
Supercharging is the fastest way to charge a Tesla car (Model S, Model 3, Model X). It can charge an EV battery up to 200 miles in less than 15 minutes, depending on the power delivery from the supercharger. There are over 1,000+ superchargers nationwide in the US and that number is growing. The availability of charging stations, including superchargers, is extensive across North America and expanding into other locations. Tesla is even encouraging businesses to host a supercharger on their site with incentives.
In the Los Angeles area, superchargers will become more available in areas like the 10 Freeway corridor to make accessibility much easier. There is an app available from the Tesla car’s touchscreen console that can locate the nearest charging station, including superchargers. Tesla’s website states that they have a global network of 25,000+ supercharging stations, so this can ease up on range anxiety.
There are three levels of EV charging. Supercharging is Level 3 aka “DC Fast Charging” and it pumps 480V through an EVSE via a charging cable connected to the supercharger. Level 3 is faster than charging from an AC outlet or standard charging stations (i.e. destination charging). Level 1 at 120V can take 4 days to fully charge. Level 2 at 240V can take 6–8 hours for a fully charged battery. The supercharger is really just providing the source of the power for charging. The actual charger is actually inside the car, which takes the power to charge the battery unit.
A Tesla supercharging station (now up to V3 version @ 145kW-250kW) provides a connector plug that is specific for Tesla models. These are the Type 1 (US) and Type 2 (EU) connectors which are standard. Type 1 plugs are single-phase and allow for typical charging at a power output level of 3.7kW-7.4kW AC and an approximate range of 12.5 — 25 miles per hour, with the provided charging cable. The design features 5-pins and is the most common type used in the US.
Type 2 is used in the EU and has the same specifications as Type 1, but offers other features. Type 2 connectors have 7 pins and an inbuilt locking mechanism that ensures safe and reliable use at charging stations. It can also support both higher output three-phase power and single-phase automatically. In its most basic charging (not supercharging), this gives Type 2 an output level of 130kW with a range of 180 miles per hour. There is consideration to move toward the Type 2 standard.
The supercharging station provides its own cable connected to the charging unit. The car owner merely opens their chargeport and plugs in the connector, and power is delivered at up to 250kW from a V3 supercharger. If the supercharger is V1 or V2 (older versions) they won’t deliver as much power. Type 1 and Type 2 are just the connector specifications in this case. The supercharger cable will handle the higher power throughput for charging. This means the Type 1 and Type 2 connector will both support Level 3 charging.
If a non-Tesla EV attempts to charge at a supercharging station, it must be compatible. It will require an adapter to be able to connect the charging unit to the car’s plug. Tesla’s connectors combine AC and DC connectors in their design, while other manufacturers provide them separately. Since Tesla superchargers provide high power DC to charge the battery, the non-Tesla model must be able to support it.
Superchargers will eventually get their power source from solar energy, courtesy of Tesla. It may sound ironic that superchargers still get most of their energy supply from the grid or non-renewable sources. That is quite expected though since there is no renewable energy system at scale to supply the requirements for all supercharging stations (as of this posting).
Charging A Tesla
To charge your Tesla, you must use the console and select the charging page on the main touchscreen and press the “Open Chargeport” button, or using the similar button in the Tesla smartphone app. This opens your charging port and you can now activate the supercharger from the smartphone app to begin charging. Locating the chargeport on the Tesla is usually at the rear light of the car. It pops open and reveals the chargeport when ready for charging.
The way supercharging works is it delivers energy rapidly, and gradually slow down as the battery fills. It takes about 15 minutes to charge for a range of 200 miles, which in some batteries is close to its rated capacity. That depends on the type of battery you have. For a Model S with a 100 kWh battery with a range of 352 miles, then that would be about close to 56% of battery capacity in 15 minutes. It all varies, due to the load and capacity the battery is draining power, so these are estimates.
A thing to note here is that older superchargers may not deliver the full power it is rated. On 150kW V1 superchargers, a stall may be sharing it with another stall. Therefore you don’t get the full power delivery for charging and this can take longer and even add to costs. Check the app to see what the type of supercharging station it is, just to be sure you know what you are getting.
Final Thoughts And Takeaways
There are just a few takeaways, which are usually minor inconveniences to car owners (at least some and not all car owners). Supercharging is obviously not instant, or as fast as loading up on fuel from a gas station. It is due to the battery design and charging unit. The more capacity a battery can hold, the more voltage required to charge the battery. That also determines the speed at which the battery charges.
Newer battery designs are on the horizon, but will most likely appear in newer models if not available to replace existing batteries. There is also competition, so this can further lead to faster supercharging developments. The Porsche Taycan has shown it can charge faster than a Tesla Model S, at 270kW using 350kW Electrify America charging stations. Faster is usually better when it comes to consumer experience.
Supercharging is also no longer free. Model S and X owners receive 400 kWh (~1,000 miles) of supercharger credits annually. The rate is computed after charging completes and can be monitored on a smartphone app. According to Tesla:
The goal of the Supercharger network is to enable freedom of travel for Tesla owners at a fraction of the cost of gasoline. Reduce your cost per mile and never pay for gas again.
While it is cheaper than gas, it is not as fast as pumping at a gas station. 15 minutes to charge is longer than it would take at the pump. While supercharging eases range anxiety, it doesn’t ease impatience. This is why I think it would be ideal for EV charging stations to become the next gas stations. There should be waiting areas with restaurants, stores, cafes and some recreation to kill time while charging. That is until the day comes when supercharging can take a few minutes to even a few seconds.