- Tesla plans to open up 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 just for Tesla owners.
- Some Tesla owners worry that the move could lead to longer wait times at charging stations.
For Nelson Jackson, a big reason to buy a Tesla Model S was the company’s extensive charging network, which takes away some of the headache 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 tells Insider that he feels betrayed. They paid a premium for Tesla in particular because of its roadside fast-chargers, which are known to be more reliable, widespread and convenient than the public plugs other EV owners rely on.
Now he fears that significant advantage will disappear, leaving him waiting to charge behind all kinds of Fords, Kias and Chevrolets.
“It’s just a disaster on so many levels,” he said. “I don’t think they thought it through.”
Tessa did not respond to a request for comment.
As part of Joe Biden’s plan to bolster the nation’s charging infrastructure, the White House announced in February that Tesla would open 3,500 new and existing Superchargers for public use through the end of 2024. Prior to this, all 18,000 Superchargers in the US used Tesla’s ownership. Charging plugs and were off-limits to rival automakers, giving Tesla owners the peace of mind on road trips that the rest of the EV community craves.
Tesla devotees like Jackson are wondering how long that deep state will last.
Jackson already encounters lines at Supercharger locations around the holiday travel period and says more vehicles charging together at one station slows down refueling times. Since charging already takes much longer than getting gas, they worry that the influx of non-Tesla cars could make supercharging too inconvenient to tolerate.
On top of all this, he says, is the problem of many non-Tesla charging stalls being closed; Because their charging ports aren’t located in the same places as Tesla’s, they’ve had to get creative with parking at the few Supercharger stations that have already opened up access.
Eric Hosmer, a dump truck driver in Maryland who has driven more than 200,000 miles on his 2013 Model S, shares some of that trepidation. He believes the Tesla charging experience is so far ahead of the competition that non-Tesla owners will reach out in large numbers.
Helen Matthews, a Model Y owner in Philadelphia, said she was initially upset by the news, given the already high demand for the Supercharger stalls. But ultimately, she thinks Tesla has made it easier to own a clean vehicle that’s good for the planet. Still, he worries about how the change will affect his family visits.
The insider, along with other Tesla owners, didn’t expect major issues and applauded a move that could accelerate EV adoption. De Veeralapathi, an IT executive who owns a Model 3 and a Model Y, expects the increased competition to put pressure on other charging networks to improve their quality of service.
According to Brent Gruber, executive director of the EV practice at JD Power, it’s not yet clear how Tesla drivers will be affected. But not charging the entire infrastructure with EV sales, he said, and Tesla’s decision could lead to overcrowding at its stations.
“Adoption and demand is growing twice as fast as public charger installation growth in the United States, so there is an imbalance to begin with,” he said.
The move would allow Tesla to apply for some of the $7.5 billion in funding the Biden administration has set aside to improve EV charging. Funds are reserved for stations that any vehicle can use.
Lorraine McDonald, CEO of EV industry consultancy EVAdoption, said that while non-Tesla charging could inconvenience Tesla owners during the holiday travel period, she doesn’t expect a widespread hiccup. Tesla collects so much data from its vehicles and charging stations that it can smartly deploy public utility plugs.
“They’re not going to dumb down and add these where there are already wait times. They’re going to put them in places that aren’t being used,” he said.
If the supercharging experience turns out to be bad enough, Jackson may get rid of his beloved Tesla. He might as well go back on the gas.
“I’m certainly not going to drive around in a $100,000 Model S if I can’t charge it,” he said.
Are you a Tesla or other EV owner who has a story about charging or something? Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org