Teslas are now a common sight around town here in North Carolina, but they are certainly not cheap. As the world gets ready for the more affordable Tesla Model 3, many of the owners of the more expensive Model S have been fretting: What happens to access to the expansive Supercharger network when demand increases dramatically?
After all, access to a network of free 480-volt chargers, capable of delivering about 170 miles of charge in 30 minutes, and a full charge in 75, has been one of the major perks of buying a Model S. (Cars purchased after January 15th, 2017 are limited to free charging of about 1000 miles per year. More details here.)
Well, Tesla just made a major announcement that should go a long way toward calming these fears: It's going to double its global network of just over 5,000 superchargers to 10,000 by the end of the year. In the United States, the increase is going to be an even more dramatic 150%. And to lessen demand on each supercharger site, the company is also going to invest in adding 6,000 more sites to its existing network of 9,000 Destination Chargers—slower charging locations located at hotels, restaurants and shopping centers that still allow drivers a significant charge when stopping for longer breaks. Add to this the fact that public charging stations are increasing in many locations, and I suspect that fears of the network being overwhelmed are somewhat exaggerated. (Business Green reports, for example, that Transport for London is spending £18m on fast charging around the city, while Saville, a major operator of shopping centers around the UK is investing heavily in public charging. Such developments are not isolated to the UK.)
There's also this to consider:
When I wrote about the 27% increase in Germany's public charging stations last year, I arguedthat there ought to be a non-linear relationship between the number of charging points available, and the number of drivers willing to go electric.
The reason is simple. Most of us electric vehicle drivers, most of the time, can charge at home. And because most of us will also install at least a Level 2 charger—capable of charing in a Nissan Leaf in a matter of hours—we can also offer charging opportunities at our homes or businesses to visitors. (In fact, several homes and businesses in my neck of the woods offer up their chargers when not in use to strangers, too.)
In my experience, driving a used Nissan Leaf with considerably less range than the next generation of electric vehicles now coming out, range anxiety has not been a real world concern for my day-to-day needs. Now that's considering that I never, ever take road trips in my Leaf—we have another vehicle for our long-distance travel. But still, given the already impressive network of fast chargers, Superchargers and Level 2 public charging already available, I suspect many nervous would-be electric vehicle drivers will be pleasantly surprised when they finally take the plunge.
By 2018, if Tesla has their way, that will be doubly true.
To get a sense of how expansive this network really will be, check out the maps from my part of the world below:
(future sites coming online by EOY 2017 shown in gray)
Supercharger Plus Destination Charger