- My first time charging at a Tesla Supercharger station was super easy and effortless.
- I quickly found a station, plugged in, and was charging within seconds.
- The experience highlights one of Tesla’s biggest advantages over other car companies.
Imagine for a moment an alternate universe where the standard gas-station experience is reserved only for drivers of one type of car.
Toyota owners, let’s say, can pull up to a pump, swipe their credit card, and fill up in a flash. But everybody else has to harden the cumbersome process of fumbling through an app, signing up for a membership, or tapping a worn-out touchscreen before unleashing the flow of fuel.
Riveting as it may sound, this is not the premise of the next dystopian blockbuster starring Timothée Chalamet (although Mad Max: Gas Wars does have a nice ring to it). In a nutshell, this is the reality that electric-vehicle owners face today: A world where charging is remarkably seamless for people who drive a Tesla and often frustrating for everyone else.
Using one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations for the first time illustrated just how effortless filling up 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 costs — Tesla drivers enjoy exclusive access to the easy-to-use Supercharger network.
Superchargers are plentiful, simple to find, straightforward to operate, and may be the best reason to choose a Tesla over a competitor.
finding the station
EV owners mostly charge at home in their garages, but every so often one needs to plug in during a longer trip or while out and about. That’s where Superchargers and other DC fast-charging stations come in.
Tesla has been building out its Supercharger network since 2012 and has some 1,500 stations in the US, more than any other charging company. Finding Superchargers in a Tesla takes just a few taps of its iPad-like screen. When the time came to charge the Model YI was testing, 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. Plus, since other car brands pull data from outside 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 level of charge I’d have when I arrived at my destination. And around 20 minutes away from the station, the SUV started getting its battery pack to the optimal temperature for fast charging, which not all EVs do.
The charging experience
After pulling up to an open Supercharger stall in the back of a gas station, I grabbed a charging cord from its dock, noting how much lighter and sleeker it was than the ones I’m accustomed to. (Tesla has a proprietary connector that’s more compact than the standard.)
I held it near the back left corner of the Model Y, clicked a button on top of the handle, and a flap popped open revealing the car’s charging port. Pretty neat.
Within five seconds of sticking the connector in, the Model Y was charging. Afterward, Tesla billed the credit card on file. Things aren’t always this 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 again because of some glitch. The experience isn’t always bad, and sometimes everything works. But the well-documented clunkiness of public charging plugs can present a real hassle — and it’s consistently cited as one of the biggest barriers to more widespread EV adoption.
Slowly but surely, charging is becoming more convenient across the board. An increasing number of carmakers are adopting the Plug and Charge protocol, which aims to replicate Tesla’s no-fuss model. The Biden Administration is handing out $5 billion to shore up the nation’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 pans out. For now, Tesla is way ahead of the pack.