Tesla charging stations: complete guide to the Tesla Supercharger network

The Tesla Supercharger network is expanding quickly, providing reliable rapid charging throughout the UK

Stop at a motorway service station in the UK and you'll more than likely spot a Tesla Supercharger station tucked away in a corner of the car park. These distinct, red-and-white posts are popping up everywhere, with hundreds already in operation and many more on the way.

At the moment, the network can only be used by Tesla vehicles; the Model S, Model X and Model 3. The forthcoming Model Y will also be compatible when it goes on sale in the UK in late 2020 or early 2021.

Previously, Tesla has indicated to DrivingElectric that it was open to sharing its Supercharging network with other manufacturers. However, none have signed up so far. Currently, owners of other electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles can't use Superchargers to charge.

In March 2019, Tesla announced it was rolling out a new generation of V3 Superchargers, delivering even faster charging speeds. There are only a handful of these currently in operation, and only one (with eight charging bays) in the UK – at Park Royal in London.

If you’re thinking of buying a Tesla, having a Supercharger near you could make running one of its cars much easier, especially if you don’t have your own off-street parking at home or at work. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Tesla charging network.

How to use a Tesla Supercharger

Using a Tesla Supercharger is really simple. Just locate a convenient station using your Tesla’s infotainment system or the company’s app, then park up and plug in: that’s all there is to it.

A green light will flash on your Tesla's charging port to indicate that charging has begun, and you can monitor the progress of a charging session on your car's infotainment screen. If you don't want to sit in the car while it charges, you can get the same information via the Tesla app.

Tesla Supercharger cable

Tesla’s Superchargers are equipped with two cables: a Type 2 cable and a CCS cable. Both enable DC charging, ensuring quick charging times whichever model you drive. The Type 2 cables are compatible with the Tesla Model S and Model X, while the CCS cable can be used on the Model 3 only.

Tesla charging time

Unlike a home wallbox charger – the best of which will typically deliver around 7kW of power – Tesla Superchargers are very fast. Using a DC connection, they deliver electricity at 120kW, meaning 0-80% charges can take as little as 30-40 minutes, depending on which model you’re driving.

The newer V3 Superchargers like the one in Park Royal, London, can charge at up to 250kW. Tesla claims that could reduce the time you spend charging by up to 50%: "At this rate, a Model 3 Long Range operating at peak efficiency can recover up to 75 miles of charge in five minutes and charge at rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour," it says.

Gains for the Model S and Model X will be more modest, however, as these cars aren't equipped with the necessary CCS charging port. Instead, their maximum charging rate climbs to 145kW, which is still very fast in the scheme of things.

Despite these V3 upgrades, the Tesla Supercharger network is no longer the fastest available: the recently launched IONITY rapid-charging network is capable of 350kW charging speeds. However, it's worth bearing in mind that only 40 UK stations are planned to be in operation by the end of 2020, and there are currently no cars on sale that can make use of its maximum speed. Even the Porsche Taycan will only charge at up to 270kW for now, although an upgrade to 350kW is envisaged.

The Tesla Model 3 can use the IONITY network thanks to its CCS charging port, although its maximum charging rate will be less than the full 350kW figure that’s possible from that firm’s chargers.

Tesla also points out that its Superchargers won’t always deliver 120kW: the rate you experience could drop depending on your battery level (it takes longer to charge the last 20% of a battery than the first 20% from empty), the number of cars using the Supercharger station at any one time, and also the temperature on the day; extreme weather, such as freezing temperatures in the winter, can reduce charging speeds and make waiting times longer.

How much to Tesla charging stations cost?

Certain versions of the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X come with unlimited, free access to the Supercharger network, although it's not always easy to tell which ones qualify, as the company has ended and then reinstated the offer in recent times.

Any Model S or Model X bought before 2 November 2018 came with (and continues to receive) free, unlimited access to the Supercharger network. Cars sold after that date were given an annual allowance which equates to 400kWh of free Supercharging. After the credits are used up, users were forced to pay to use the network.

However, in August 2019 Tesla reinstated unlimited free Supercharging as part of the Model S and Model X sales package. This continued until the end of May 2020, when the perk was again withdrawn. Our advice would be to check whether free Supercharging is included before you buy the car.

For those who have to pay, charging on a Tesla Supercharger is priced at 24p/kWh, which means a full charge of the Model S Long Range – capable of up to 375 miles on single charge – should cost £24. A full charge of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus should cost in the region of £14, for 254 miles of range.

This is broadly in line with fees offered by other networks, although it’s worth noting that charging at home on a typical, domestic electricity tariff will be significantly cheaper.

Your Tesla account needs to be linked with your bank account to use a Supercharger. If you own a Tesla that qualifies for the 400kWh of annual charging credits, Tesla will automatically bill your bank account only when you exceed this threshold. Unfortunately, any excess charging credit left on your account after 12 months won’t roll over to the following year.

Tesla Supercharger idle fees

If a Supercharger station is at least 50% occupied, leaving your car plugged in after it has been fully charged will result in an 'idle fee'. In the UK, Tesla charges owners 35p for every extra minute the car is left in the charging bay after it has finished charging.

If a station is 100% full, this rises to 70p per minute. Tesla insists it doesn’t want to make any money from idle fees, and the policy is in place simply to encourage users to free up charging bays for others as promptly as possible. If you move your car within five minutes of reaching a full charge, no idle fee will be charged.

Tesla Supercharger map

Tesla Supercharger map

Most Tesla Superchargers are located at motorway service stations, which make long-distance, electric-powered travel across the country a very realistic prospect. If you use Tesla’s sat nav to plan a long journey, the system will automatically work out the best route to take, factoring in the ideal stations to stop at and recharge along the way.

Globally, there are around 1,870 Tesla Superchargers, which equates to 16,585 charge points. Recent estimates suggests there are around 300 Superchargers in the UK, as well as a host of 'Destination' chargers offering slower charge speeds for overnight top-ups. These are usually located in car parks or outside hotels; anywhere you’d expect to be parked for a few hours or more.

Because they’re designed to charge Teslas over a longer period of time, destination chargers aren’t as fast as Superchargers. Anywhere between 7kW and 22kW is possible at AC-connected sites, which means a full charge of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus could take anywhere between three and nine hours.