- Tesla plans to open 3,500 of its fast-charging plugs to owners of any car by the end of 2024.
- The reliable and extensive Supercharger network used to be only for Tesla owners.
- Some Tesla owners worry the move could lead to long waits at charging stations.
For Nelson Jackson, a big reason for buying a Tesla Model S was the company’s extensive charging network, which takes some of the headaches out of being an early electric-vehicle adopter.
Now that Elon Musk’s automaker is opening up some of its formerly exclusive Superchargers to drivers of other EVs, Jackson told Insider he feels betrayed. He paid a premium for a Tesla specifically because of its roadside fast-chargers, which are known for being more reliable, widespread, and convenient than the public plugs that other EV owners rely on.
Now he fears that crucial advantage will disappear, leaving him waiting to charge behind all sorts of Fords, Kias, and Chevrolets.
“It’s just a disaster on so many levels,” he said. “I don’t think they thought this through.”
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
As part of Joe Biden’s plan to shore up the nation’s charging infrastructure, the White House in February announced that Tesla would open up 3,500 new and existing Superchargers for public use by the end of 2024. Previously, all 18,000 Superchargers in the US used Tesla’s proprietary charging plug and were off-limits to rival automakers, giving Tesla owners peace of mind on road trips that the rest of the EV community longed for.
Tesla devotees like Jackson are wondering how long that enviable position will last.
Jackson already encounters lines at Supercharger locations around holiday travel periods and says that more vehicles charging simultaneously at a station slows down refueling times. Since charging already takes so much longer than getting gas, he worries that an influx of non-Tesla cars could render Supercharging too inconvenient to bear.
On top of it all, he says, there’s the problem of non-Teslas clogging multiple charging stalls; because their charging ports aren’t situated in the same spot as on a Tesla, they’ve had to park creatively at the few Supercharger stations that have already opened up access.
Eric Hosmer, a dump truck driver in Maryland who has put well over 200,000 miles on his 2013 Model S, shares some of those trepidations. He believes the Tesla charging experience is so far ahead of the competition that non-Tesla owners will arrive in droves.
Helen Matthews, a Model Y owner in Philadelphia, said she was initially outraged by the news, given the already-high demand for Supercharger stalls. But ultimately, she thinks Tesla making it easier to own a clean vehicle is good for the planet. Still, she has concerns about how the change will impact her family’s trips.
Other Tesla owners Insider spoke with don’t foresee major issues and cheer a move that could accelerate EV adoption. Day Veerlapati, an IT executive who owns a Model 3 and a Model Y, hopes the increased competition will pressure other charging networks to improve the quality of their service.
According to Brent Gruber, executive director of the EV practice at JD Power, it’s not clear yet how Tesla drivers will be impacted. But charging infrastructure on the whole isn’t keeping up with EV sales, he said, and Tesla’s decision could lead to crowding at its stations.
“Adoption and demand is growing at a rate that is twice as fast as public charger installation growth in the United States, so there’s an imbalance there to begin with,” he said.
The move will allow Tesla to apply for some of the $7.5 billion in funding that the Biden Administration has set aside for improving EV charging. The funds are reserved for stations that any vehicles can use.
Loren McDonald, CEO of EV industry consultancy EVAdoption, said that while non-Teslas charging up could inconvenience Tesla owners during holiday travel periods, he doesn’t expect widespread hiccups. Tesla gathers so much data from its vehicles and charging stations that it can deploy public-use plugs smartly.
“They’re not going to be dumb and add these where there are already wait times. They’re going to put them in at locations that are underutilized,” he said.
If the Supercharging experience deteriorates significantly, Jackson may get rid of his beloved Tesla. He might even go back to gas.
“I’m certainly not going to ride around in a $100,000 Model S if I can’t charge,” he said.
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