Can I use a Tesla Supercharger?
Stop at a popular motorway service station in the UK and you’ll likely spot a column of Tesla Superchargers somewhere around the site. These white and red posts are being installed at a rapid pace, both globally and in the UK. Here, there are already 50 Supercharging stations ready for use, with more planned.
However, for the moment, the network can only be used by Tesla vehicles. This means other electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners can't use Superchargers to charge their car.
According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, this is because no other vehicle manufacturer agreed to sign up to Tesla’s Supercharger network when the company offered.
However, if you own a Tesla, or are planning to buy one of the company’s current or future models, read on to find out everything you need to know about the Supercharger network.
What is a Tesla Supercharger?
As the name suggests, a Tesla Supercharger is a rapid charger that will recharge the batteries in your Tesla. Unlike a home charging unit or low-speed public chargers that charge at around 7kW speeds, Tesla Superchargers work at a much faster rate of up to 120kW, through DC (direct current) quick charging.
At the moment, this is the fastest charging speed for any EV in the UK, although companies like Ionity have mooted the possibility of 350kW charging units in the future. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously spoken about increasing Supercharger capacity to between 200 and 250kW at a later date.
The time it takes to charge your car depends on the exact Tesla model in question and the size of its battery. However, roughly speaking, a Supercharger will charge a Tesla Model S from empty to 50% in just 20 minutes, or to 80% in 40 minutes.
In comparison, restoring the car to full capacity from a 7.5kW home charging box can take around 12 hours.
However, Tesla points out that the Supercharger won't always charge at 120kW speed. The rate of charging may depend on things like your current battery level, the current use of the Supercharger station (whether there are other Teslas plugged in on charge) and even the weather. Extreme weather, such as freezing temperatures, may reduce the charging speed.
Cost of using a Tesla Supercharger
Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X cars bought before 16 September 2018 are entitled to free use of the Supercharger network in the UK. For cars bought after that date, owners have to pay for charging. However, Tesla gives Model S and Model X drivers 400kWh of free charging credit each year. This is roughly good for about 1,000 miles of normal driving, after which the company chargers users 20p per kWh of charging. With a rate of 20p per kWh, no Tesla should cost more than £20 to fully charge.
Buyers of the Tesla Model 3 won’t receive free charging and will be asked to contribute a “small fee” to use the Supercharging stations. Tesla has yet to disclose what this will be.
Compared to other rapid charging outlets, Tesla’s rates are often equal or cheaper. Charging provider ESB EV Solutions, for example, charges electric-car owners 25p per kWh to use its 50kW rapid chargers in parts of London.
Your Tesla account needs to be linked with your bank account to use a Supercharger. If you’ve exceeded the 400kWh annual limit, Tesla will automatically bill your bank account.
Unfortunately, any excess charging credit left on your account won’t be rolled over to the next year. Tesla zeroes the account every 12 months and gives you a further 400kWh.
Idle fees explained
If a Supercharger station is at least 50% occupied, leaving your car plugged in at the station after it has been fully charged will result in an 'idle fee'. In the UK, Tesla charges owners 30p for every extra minute the car is left in the charging bay after it has finished charging. You have five minutes to move your car after charging has finished before incurring this charge.
How to find your nearest Supercharging station
Finding your nearest Supercharging station is easy as Tesla has incorporated the entire network into its cars' Maps and Navigation menu. You can plan your route fully, adding the necessary charging stops along the drive to ensure you don’t run out of electricity.
Alternatively, services like Zap Map also provide a list and location of Superchargers. You can view their availability beforehand, too, and with the Zap Map app, receive directions via your smartphone.