Tesla charging stations: complete guide to the Tesla Supercharger network
Stop at a motorway service station in the UK and it’s becoming more and more likely that you’ll spot a Tesla Supercharger station on site. These distinct, red-and-white posts are popping up everywhere, with hundreds already in operation and many more on the way.
Previously, Tesla has indicated to DrivingElectric that it’s open to sharing its Supercharging network with other manufacturers. However, none have signed up so far.
In March 2019, Tesla announced that it was rolling out a new generation of Superchargers globally, delivering even faster charging speeds. The upgrades are set to arrive in Europe from 2019, although they’ll be rolled out gradually over the course of several months.
If you’re thinking of buying a Tesla, having a Supercharger near you could make running one of the its cars a much more realistic prospect, 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 screen, or on the 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 much faster. 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.
Of course, charging times vary depending on a number of factors. Various battery sizes have appeared in the Model S and Model X over the years, the largest of which weight in at 100kWh.
Meanwhile, battery sizes in the newer Model 3 have never been disclosed officially, although the line-up is believed to use units of between 60kWh and 70kWh.
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.
Extreme weather, such as freezing temperatures in the winter, can reduce charging speeds and make waiting times longer.
Future upgrades are set to make Tesla charging stations even faster: the company’s ‘V3’ generation chargers will eventually see charging speeds of up to 250kW across the network, adding 75 miles of range to a Model 3 in just five minutes.
Gains for the Model S and Model X will be more modest, however, as these cars are not equipped with the necessary CCS charging port. Instead, their maximum charging rate will climb to 145kW, which is still very fast in the grand scheme of things.
Despite the upcoming 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.
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 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. This offer was eventually brought to an end, with cars sold after 2 November 2018 instead receiving an annual allowance of 400kWh of Supercharging. After the credits are used up, users must 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. It's not clear how long this will remain the case, as CEO Elon Musk has previously said the practice is "not sustainable". It isn't possible to buy the Model 3 with free unlimited access to the Tesla charging network.
Charging on a Tesla Supercharger is priced at 24p/kWh in the UK, 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, affording you 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
There are around 300 Tesla Superchargers in the UK, and the map looks a little like this (see image above). Most of them 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.
Tesla also has a network of ‘destination chargers’, which are slower than Superchargers but far more numerous. They’re 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.