- My first charge at a Tesla Supercharger station was super easy and effortless.
- I quickly found a station, plugged in and charged in seconds.
- The experience highlights one of Tesla’s greatest advantages over other auto companies.
Just imagine an alternate universe where the standard gas station experience is only reserved for drivers of one type of car.
Let’s say Toyota owners can drive to a pump, swipe their credit card, and fill up in a flash. But everyone else has to go through the tedious process of browsing an app, signing up for a membership, or tapping a worn-out touchscreen before releasing the fuel flow.
As compelling as it may sound, this isn’t the premise of the next dystopian blockbuster starring Timothée Chalamet (though Mad Max: Gas Wars has a nice sound). In a nutshell, this is the reality electric vehicle owners face today: a world where charging is remarkably seamless for people who drive Tesla and often frustrating for everyone else.
Using one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations for the first time illustrated how effortless filling one of Elon Musk’s vehicles is compared to other electric cars. While non-Tesla owners rely on a patchwork of charging providers — all with their own phone apps, memberships and fees — Tesla drivers have exclusive access to the easy-to-use Supercharger network.
Superchargers abound, easy to find, easy to operate and arguably the best reason to choose a Tesla over a competitor.
Find a station
EV owners usually charge at home in their garage, but occasionally you’ll need to plug in on a longer trip or on the road. That’s where Superchargers and other DC fast charging stations come in handy.
Tesla has been expanding its Supercharger network since 2012 and has about 1,500 stations in the US, more than any other charging company. Finding Superchargers in a Tesla takes just a few taps on the iPad-like screen. When it came time to charge the Model YI, I clicked a lightning bolt icon on the map to browse nearby chargers, filtered for the most powerful plugs and navigated to one that had stalls available.
Other electric cars have similar features, but their interfaces aren’t nearly as user-friendly as Tesla’s. And since other car brands get data from third-party charging networks, they don’t always provide accurate information about charger availability. Owners often swipe through multiple different phone apps to find plugs.
Conveniently, the Model Y indicated what charge level I would have when I arrived at my destination. And about 20 minutes away from the station, the SUV started getting its battery pack to the optimum temperature for fast charging, which not all EVs do.
The charging experience
After driving to an open Supercharger stall in the back of a gas station, I grabbed a charging cord from the dock and noticed how much lighter and slimmer it was than the one I’m used to. (Tesla has its own connector that is more compact than the standard one.)
I held it near the rear left corner of the Model Y, clicked a button on top of the handle, and a flap flipped open, revealing the car’s charging port. Pretty neat.
Within five seconds of plugging in the connector, Model Y was charging. After that, Tesla billed the credit card on file. Things are not always so quick and easy.
In the past, I’ve had to activate charging in an app, swipe my credit card multiple times, or unplug a car and start all over due to a glitch. The experience is not always bad, and sometimes everything works. But the well-documented clumsiness of public charging plugs can be a hassle – and it’s consistently cited as one of the biggest barriers to wider adoption of EVs.
Slowly but surely, charging is becoming more convenient across the board. An increasing number of automakers are adopting the Plug and Charge protocol, which aims to replicate Tesla’s hassle-free model. The Biden administration is handing out $5 billion to support the country’s charging infrastructure and standardize the user experience. Tesla is experimenting with opening its network to outsiders.
We’ll have to wait and see how that all plays out. For now, Tesla is way ahead of the pack.