Tesla Superchargers: super fast and super convenient

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tesla supercharger
Tesla’s vast network of fast-charging Superchargers is a great perk for Tesla vehicle owners. Image source: Tesla

If you’ve heard of Tesla, you’ve probably also heard of the company's high-powered Superchargers. To get technical, Tesla Superchargers are 480-volt direct current (DC) fast chargers. But more simply, Superchargers are just really fast electric vehicle battery chargers.

Thanks to Superchargers, Tesla owners don’t have to worry about running on empty because their EV is programmed to plan routes with Superchargers along the way. And the fact that Superchargers can charge at a rate of up to 11 miles per minute doesn’t hurt either. By having an extensive fast-charging network, Tesla has effectively cured consumers' biggest fears about electric cars - running out of battery. 

Despite there being well over 25,000 Superchargers installed globally, there’s still a bit of confusion about how they work, how much they cost, and who can use them. We’re here to pull back the curtain on Superchargers, so you can get a better understanding of what these fast chargers are all about. 

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    How do Superchargers charge Tesla batteries so fast?

    Tesla car batteries have something called an “onboard charger”. Onboard chargers convert alternating current (AC) electricity coming from a charging source to DC energy. DC energy is what the battery needs in order to charge. 

    Unlike other EV chargers, Tesla’s Superchargers release DC electricity, so the onboard charger is bypassed and the DC energy directly charges the battery. Because the electricity is going straight to the battery and doesn’t have to pass through the onboard charger, the vehicle can be charged faster

    Tesla Supercharger locations

    map of tesla superchargers

    Image source: Tesla 

    Tesla currently has over 25,000 Superchargers in their global charging network and you can find at least one Supercharging station in 49 U.S. states. Alaska is the only state without any Superchargers, but don’t worry - Tesla is planning to open a charging station in the town of Soldotna before the end of 2021. 

    Charging an EV does take a bit longer than getting a tank of gas, but Superchargers are conveniently located near shopping centers and downtown urban areas so there’s plenty to do while you're plugged in. 

    Superchargers aren't Tesla’s only charging stations. Tesla also has Destination Chargers, which take longer to charge. Destination Charging is most useful for overnight or prolonged stays during long-distance traveling, as it can take a few hours to completely charge your battery. 

    You can also use non-Tesla charging stations, like ChargePoint stations, as long as you have your charging adapter (which comes with your Tesla) on hand. 

    How can I find Superchargers near me?

    One of the best functions of a Tesla is its built-in Trip Planner. Trip Planner works just like a regular GPS system, but it maps your route so you pass through Supercharger stations along the way to your destination. 

    It also tells you how long you should stop and charge for at each station to get to your destination as quickly as possible, without running out of charge. 

    Trip Planner makes it incredibly easy to keep your EV charged up on any road trip.

    How long does it take to charge a Tesla with a Supercharger?

    A Supercharger can charge a battery from 0% to 80% in about 40 minutes. After 80% charge is reached, the charging rate slows in order to protect the battery’s health until 100% charge is reached. You won’t need your Tesla’s battery to be at 100% to get to most destinations. 

    So, all in all, if you’re charging from 0% to 100% using a Tesla Supercharger, it will probably take about 70 minutes total. This is longer than it takes to fill up a tank of gas, however, you can plan out charging times to coincide with meals or sightseeing stops you want to make on your way to your destination.

    How long it will actually take to charge your vehicle using a Supercharger depends on how depleted your battery is, how much you want to fill up  your battery, and even how many Superchargers are in use at a station. 

    Can I charge with a Tesla Supercharger for free?

    There is a lot of confusion around whether or not Supercharging is free. For most Tesla vehicle owners, Supercharging is not free

    Tesla launched a bunch of campaigns in the past that gave some customers free Supercharging for life. The company hasn’t launched a campaign like this for quite some time. But, for those who did get to enter one of these programs, it was a pretty sweet deal. 

    Here are some of Tesla’s vehicles that may qualify for some form of free Supercharging: 

    • Model S’s released between 2012 and 2020, except for the Model S 40
    • The Model 3 Performance versions released between 2018 and 2019 may have free unlimited Supercharging, but it can only be used by the original owner. If bought used, the free Supercharging offer is voided
    • Some 2020 Model Y purchases may qualify for one year of free Supercharging 

    You can check to see if your Tesla qualifies for any sort of free Supercharging promotion through your Tesla account. Simply log in, click Manage, then View Details on your Tesla vehicle, and see if “Free Unlimited Supercharging” is listed. You can also call Tesla’s customer service directly. 

    How much does it cost to charge with a Supercharger?

    The cost of charging your Tesla varies between Supercharging stations, but generally you can expect it to cost about $25 to completely charge your battery from 0% to 100% using a Supercharger. Not only is this cleaner than a tank of gas, it’s cheaper, too! 

    There are two different ways you can be billed at a Supercharger: per-kilowatt hour (kWh) or per minute. When you select a Supercharging station with the Trip Planner, you can see which billing structure the station uses and what prices they charge ahead of time. 

    Per-kWh Supercharging 

    Most Superchargers use per-kWh billing, meaning you will be billed for each kWh of electricity used to charge your battery. 

    The pricing per-kWh is different at each Supercharging location, but it’s typically around $0.25 per kWh. 

    Per-minute Supercharging 

    Per-minute Superchargers are less common than per-kWh chargers. Typically, you’ll only find per-minute chargers in states where there are regulations in place that prevent any entity besides a utility from selling electricity by the kWh. 

    Per-minute charging stations offer two different rates: 

    • Tier 1 rates are applied when cars are charging at or below 60 kilowatts (kW)
    • Tier 2 rates are applied when cars are charging above 60 kW, and are double the cost of Tier 1 rates 

    Idle fees can drive up your costs 

    Tesla charges idle fees to drivers who remain parked at a Supercharger after their vehicle is fully charged, if the station is more than 50% full. The idle fee is charged per minute, so the longer you remain at the station, the higher the fee will be. Idle fees vary between locations. 

    Luckily, the Tesla app alerts you when your car is done charging so you can move it right when it’s finished. If you move your car within five minutes of being notified that your charge is complete, the idle fee will be waived. 

    Who can use a Tesla Supercharger?

    Tesla Superchargers are available exclusively to Tesla vehicle owners; Superchargers are equipped with a Tesla-specific charging connector. 

    However, this is about to change. In July 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the Supercharging network will be open for use to non-Tesla electric vehicles by the end of the year, regardless of whether or not they were manufactured by Tesla.

    tweet by elon musk

    Elon Musk announces expanding the Supercharger network on his favorite platform, Twitter. Image source: Twitter

    We’re going to be honest with you, we take this announcement with a grain of salt. Mr. Musk loves to make announcements and not follow through with them (has anyone gotten their Cybertruck yet? Or how about a Tuscan Tile version of the Tesla Solar Roof? Anyone?)

    Granted, opening up the Supercharging network is a much easier task than manufacturing brand new products, so it is a little more likely Tesla can pull through on this promise. But we wouldn't hold our breath.

    Is it cheaper to charge with a Supercharger or charge at home?

    In almost all cases, charging your Tesla at home is going to save you the most money, since Superchargers tend to bill at a higher rate per-kWh than your utility does. 

    Depending on the model you have, it will cost between $7.65 to $15.29 to completely charge your Tesla at home. We have a complete guide on how much it costs to charge each Tesla model here if you want to read more. 

    Cost savings aside, you’ll probably want charging at home to be your main source of charging anyway. Why? It’s better for your vehicle. Superchargers send an incredible amount of high voltage electricity right to your battery, which can cause damage if it’s done on a regular basis. 

    So, not only will you save money by charging at home, you’ll save your battery life, too. 

    The cheapest way to charge a Tesla is with solar

    No matter how you slice it, charging your Tesla is going to be cheaper than filling up a tank of gas. But, using solar power to charge your Tesla makes it even cheaper. You can install enough solar panels on your roof to cover your home’s electricity needs and to charge your EV.

    Yes, installing solar panels is a pretty substantial upfront investment, but that’s really the only thing you have to pay for once they’re installed. When you divide the cost of the installation over how much electricity it will produce across the lifetime of the system (25 years), each kWh of electricity will only cost about $0.11.

    In 25 years, electricity from the grid is projected to cost an average of $0.29 per kWh, so installing solar sooner rather than later is your best bet if you want to lock in your savings. So, you end up spending way less on electricity to charge your Tesla over time with solar than if you just used electricity from the grid. 

    Plus, there are various incentives and rebates on the federal, state, and utility levels - check out our solar incentives guide here to see which you may qualify for.

    You can also see how much solar panels cost for your specific roof, and better yet, how much solar can save you, by using our solar panel calculator

    See how long your solar panels will take to pay for themselves

    Key takeaways

    • Tesla Superchargers are extremely powerful DC fast-charging stations made exclusively for Tesla electric vehicles.
    • Supercharger stations can be found in every U.S. state except for Alaska, where one is planned to be installed by the end of 2021.
    • Supercharges can charge a battery from 0% to 80% in just 40 minutes, and complete a full charge in about 70 minutes, which is much faster than traditional home chargers which can take around 7 hours.
    • Tesla Superchargers are not free for most Tesla owners - it costs about $25 to completely charge a Tesla with a Supercharger.
    • The cheapest way to charge a Tesla is at home with a solar panel system.
     

     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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