Over the course of a year I have managed to visit 67 superchargers around the country. On the Tesla Motors Club Forum is a friendly (and somewhat silly) contest to see who has visited the most superchargers. I am currently in the lead by one. I know the person behind me plans to leave for another trip in September, so I will very soon loose my title.
After visiting so many superchargers, I feel I have enough experience to review the features at the superchargers. What is quite nice is that each location is unique.
The following are my favorite features listed in the general order of priority although all the features are in fact quite desirable:
- Easily accessible restrooms
- A variety of restaurant choices preferably non-chain
- Nearby hotels
- Safe neighborhood
- Walkable streets
- A variety of daily shopping choices: grocery stores preferred over outlet malls.
- Free wi-fi
- Clearer stall signage
- Car washing service
- Public charging?
- More locations vs. more stalls
1. Easily accessible restrooms
A nice clean and easily accessible restroom is ideal such as in a welcome center. Sometimes it can feel awkward using a restroom in a restaurant when one is not hungry. I try to patronize the businesses nearby the superchargers but I can’t necessarily eat a meal or stay in a hotel every time I charge.
2. A variety of restaurant choices
I also found that the more restaurants around a supercharger the better. Tesla owners have a variety of tastes in food and variety is also nice for the individual driver. I strongly prefer local restaurant chains serving locally sourced food. After a while eating at the same chain restaurants gets very old.
3. Nearby hotels
For a long road trip it is also nice to charge at your destination. Destination or hotel charging does not need to be a supercharger.
If you use plugshare.com on the Tesla screen or http://tesla.plugshare.com elsewhere, you can sort for chargers with the tag “hotel only” that will find hotels with any kind of charging capability. Most chargers except the very slowest can charge your car overnight. I am not sure when this feature will roll into the standard website and the companion Recargo app. Non-tesla electric car drivers may need to use destination charging, and I almost always plan my trip on a computer not in the car.
Also Tesla itself has recently added to their charging page icons for destination charging. Several businesses have purchased Tesla high powered chargers for their customer’s use. While looking around this new web page, I discovered that a Tesla can now easily go to Yosemite by staying at the Groveland hotel that is on the way from the bay area and has recently installed a Tesla high powered connector for customer use. Even if you choose to sleep elsewhere, you can use this charger for $5.
4. Safe neighborhood
Most Tesla superchargers are located in relatively innocuous locations off the main freeway. But safety is of course a concern for everyone. Some Tesla owners are uncomfortable with the location of the current Las Vegas supercharger.
5. Walkable streets
Walkable streets is also quite important. Unfortunately these days many suburbs are truly built for driving instead of walking. When I walk in the areas around the superchargers, I rarely see other individuals walking and many cars streaming by. Look at the two pictures below taken near the Roseville supercharger. While walking from the supercharger to Whole Foods and back, I had to cross the street three times instead of just once, because there was no crosswalk! And right near the supercharger there is a section of the road in the mall that simply has no sidewalk.
Even when I started to visit the superchargers, I often wondered about physically challenged people due to long term conditions or temporary injuries. Many of the superchargers are located in the back sections of parking lots and the target destination for spending the time can be significantly far away. California weather is nice enough for walking a vast majority of time, but in many parts of the country long treks in wind and snow from the supercharger are not particularly pleasant.
After visiting the first California superchargers, I began to tire of outlet malls. I began to quickly realize on longer journeys, I preferred supercharging near practical stores like grocery and drug stores. On my recent trip to Oregon, I really liked that I could pick up groceries while supercharging in Roseville instead of stopping later.
7. Free wi-fi
I think free wi-fi is a nice amenity, but I found myself either using my smartphone or the car’s wifi. Only a few times I pulled out a laptop and usually did not really need wi-fi.
8. Clearer shared stall signage
Most locations now have the stalls marked “1A, 1B, 2A, 2B” etc… But the labels are often difficult to see while in the car. It would be nice if the labels were near the top of the posts.
9. Car washing service
As the supercharger use picks up, I would like to see enterprising locals provide a car washing service. I would easily pay for someone to clean with minimum water my car such as the service available here locally in Redwood City. Or an enterprising person could offer to clean the windshields as long as they obey local ordinances. I had one very generous person in South Dakota insist on cleaning my windshield for free.
10. Public charging?
I find it interesting that Tesla lists on their web page for each supercharger nearby public charging. I have only encountered a very short wait twice at the superchargers. Perhaps if all the stalls needed service due to some calamity, the owners could charge at the nearby public charger.
11. More locations vs. more stalls
I have occasionally been to superchargers when all the chargers are in-use. At some point instead of adding more chargers at a particular location, I’d prefer that Tesla adds a new supercharger locations offsetting the use at the existing stations. With more choice, the traveling options for Tesla owners will be more flexible. I am not very fond of freeways, so if the density of superchargers throughout the country was every 150 miles no matter where you traveled, you could truly take any open road.