Supercharger Fees

Several superchargers in busy areas in California have had long waits such as San Mateo, Burbank, and San Juan Capistrano.  A year and a half ago Elon gave a vague statement about supercharging that was never clarified by Tesla.  Many owners have worried about the huge numbers of Model 3s clogging the supercharger network.  Finally today Tesla has announced a new supercharging policy for cars ordered in 2017 and later.

For Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging during travel. Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car.

our Supercharger Network will never be a profit center.

These changes will not impact current owners or any new Teslas ordered before January 1, 2017, as long as delivery is taken before April 1, 2017.

I am glad Tesla finally made a decision about the future of supercharging. Some speculation exists that the older cars have now increased in value, but newer cars can still use the superchargers for a fee.  On long trips, I suspect newer drivers may choose more often to frequent hotels with destination chargers or utilize more public chargers.  The greatest potential impact may be renters who wish to buy a Tesla, and now have to consider the cost of charging with their Model 3.

One thousand miles is not a lot of free Supercharging credit.  A good percentage of my miles on my Tesla are supercharged.  But I’m in a unique (and fortunate) circumstance with no commute and free time to travel when and where I please.  I will be very curious what the actual fee is to supercharge a car and add say 50KWh.

2016 Shareholder Highlights

IMG_0338.jpg

Elon Musk and JB Straubel Talking About the AC Propulsion Prototype Car

I attended in person the almost four hour shareholders meeting in Mountain View, CA.  This meeting was more of a Tesla history lesson than a shareholders meeting.  At times I was very bored as I have been following Tesla since 2007, and a lot of the information was unnecessarily long.  The large recognition of a variety of Tesla employees was nice to see as Tesla is not just Elon. There were a few interesting tidbits during the history lesson and the 30 minutes of Q&A.

Model 3 Supercharging Fees

Elon stated the Model 3 will have a fee to use the superchargers.   The pricing model is unknown and could be a simple upfront fee or a pay per use model.  The 60kWh version of the Model S had a simple $2,000 fee to enable supercharging.

Model X Regrets

Elon admitted that the Model X was over engineered.  He regretted not launching a simpler Model X and following up future versions of the car with these new features.  He also admitted to a lot of problems with the falcon wing doors, and that the remaining issues are software related for a various corner cases when the doors should or should not open.

I really liked that Elon acknowledged this mistake;  I am much more comfortable with honest leaders who both recognize and publicly admit errors.  I also think that if the Model X had a simpler base version with standard doors and standard seats, a lot more vehicles would have been sold.

Model S and X as Technology Leaders

The Model S and Model X will always be the technology leaders and will be continually improved.

Building the Machines that Build the Machine

Elon also demonstrated a huge amount of interest in building the machines that build the machine. He used the analogy of integrated circuit (IC) design to car factory design.  When designing an IC, the designer and software make tradeoffs between speed, size, and power consumption of a chip.  The process is very complex today as the individual components and wires are extremely small.  During this analogy, Elon referred to both the slow rate that cars are leaving the factory and the number of layers in an IC.  With these references, I can speculate that Elon thinks that there are ways the factory robotic process can be combined.  Very simplistic ideas could be that multiple robots are working on a car at the same time; perhaps one robot is above the car, another below the car and a third on the side of the car.

The New Model S Nose

On display at front was an older Model S, a new Model S with the new nose, and a Model X.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about the new nose.  From all the Model Xs I have seen in California, I have found that the new nose looks better on some colors than others.

Nosecomparison.jpg

 

Model 3 Supercharging Undefined

supercharingcapable

The Model 3 is “Supercharging Capable”

With the announcement of the Model 3, Tesla has not yet defined the usage of the superchargers leaving a series of open questions for the future.

  1. Will there be enough superchargers to support all the different Teslas in urban areas?
  2. Will the Model 3 supercharging capability be an add on cost over the base model or a pay per use model?
  3. Will Tesla develop enhancements to the supercharging stations, the Tesla app, or expand the valet service to improve throughput at crowded superchargers?

To answer these questions, lets look at how the supercharging works today and some challenges to the current system.  As a long term Tesla owner and driver who has visited exactly 100 superchargers, I have used the system a reasonable amount and foresee some challenges with the introduction of the Model 3 that are hopefully clarified before they are delivered.

Supercharger Use Models

Long Distance Driving

Initially the superchargers were envisioned to enable long distance driving.  Even with a battery capable of 200 miles of driving, many people typically on perhaps a monthly basis take trips to further destinations.  The superchargers were conceived to address the need of long distance driving and were primarily located in remote locations on major interstates.  But two of the first superchargers were also located in the middle of Los Angeles (Hawthorne) and the San Francisco Bay Area (Fremont).

Local Supercharging

Electricity is much cheaper than gas.  Charging in your garage is much nicer than charging at a supercharger.  The process is simply much more convenient and inexpensive for the vast majority of Model S and X drivers who own a home or have easy access to a plug at work.

Given the price point of the Model S and X, most owners live in single family homes.  But a significant number live in apartments and condominiums and depend upon charging in other locations.  Some owners rely solely on superchargers for their daily driving needs.  Many Tesla employees in the sales centers have told potential customers that they can use the superchargers for regular driving.  On my travels, I have met several drivers who have only charged their Model S for years now using superchargers.

Tesla has given different statements on supercharging for local use.   Tesla last summer sent a few owners letters stating that they should be more considerate when using the superchargers.  After quite a bit of controversy about these letters, Tesla quickly stopped sending these letters but never clarified any position about using the superchargers.

Current reality of Superchargers

Remote locations

Generally outside of holiday weekends, most superchargers located in remote areas are rarely full or particularly busy.  These chargers are located in small towns with only a few conveniences for road travel.  On busy weekends, several superchargers on Sundays can be quite busy and drivers have had to wait for empty stalls.

Supercharging in Urban Areas

Supercharging in areas such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area has become crowded. On long trips home I often stop at the San Mateo supercharger to top off the battery in order to drive home while spending 15 minutes shopping at the nearby Whole Foods.  This supercharger has eight stalls that are frequently completely full, and I have had to wait a few times.

I have witnessed many people charging in urban areas filling up their cars to the maximum range.  So my assumption is these people are using the superchargers for their daily needs and wish to minimize the number of times they need to charge.  Unfortunately, a full range charge is a much slower process than filling up the battery just enough to get to the next supercharger station.

Valet Service

At a handful of busy superchargers have some version of valet service.  At San Mateo and Fountain Valley attendants have been seen that help control the charging.  There are no reports that these attendants do anything other than try to encourage people to return to their car when the charge is complete or maintain the line.  These attendants also only are at the site during peak usage times.

At Burbank, which is located at a service center, the attendant has also served as a valet.  On my trip to Southern California in February, on one visit I handed the attendant my key and he moved my car to the charger when a spot opened up.

superchargervalet

Supercharger Valet at Burbank Supercharger and Service Center

Model 3 Supercharging Futures

The Model 3 is considerably cheaper than the S or the X, so clearly the number of owners who do not live in single family homes will be significantly higher.  The strain on the supercharger network will be much higher.  If the supercharger network is doubled by the end of 2017, perhaps most of these new stations will be in urban areas to support this growth.

The current version of the Tesla website has it listed as supercharging capable.  Tesla is implying they will in some manner require Model 3 drivers to pay for supercharging.

Model 3 Supercharging Cost

The Model 3 clearly will have the hardware inside to be able to supercharge.  Tesla can offer a variety of methods to charge the Model 3 owner for supercharging.  A flat life time rate of $2,000 as was used in the past for the Model 60 is an option.  A supercharging contract on a monthly basis is another option.  A third option would be a system that paid per charge; the pay per charge rate could be either by energy added or by time.  The time method would discourage people from filling up their battery to the last kW as this takes a lot more time.  Tesla could also charge you only if you are within 50 miles from your primary home address.

Automation

Various owners have suggested different schemes to help direct traffic at the superchargers.  Perhaps an indication light on the charger itself to select the next best available charger.  The Tesla app tells drivers when their charge is completed, but often drivers are not immediately available to move their car.

Better Pair Signage

The charging stations are paired.  The rate of charge on your car depends upon the rate of charge on the paired station.  The markings indicating the pairs are not very easy to find, and you cannot easily tell how far along your pair is in the charging process.  Ideally you want to find a station with an inactive pair.   The photo shows this station marked as 3B but all superchargers labeling is not consistent.  Also the pairs are not always laid out in the same manner from station to station.

Tesla could improve and standardize the pair labeling, and also inform their customers about the supercharger pairs.  I have talked many times to owners at superchargers who are unaware of the pairing.  The conversation typically comes up when someone tries to charge at my pair, and I suggest that they will charge faster if they move to another station.

superchargerpair

One of Several Methods Supercharger Station Pairs are Labeled

Checking the Rate of Charge

I always check the rate of charge before walking away from the car.  At times I will find the station is faulty and the rate of charge is really slow and I will move onto the next station.  If the rate of charge is extremely low, I will call the Tesla number 1-877-798-3752 and report the problem.  It would be nice if the car itself detected that the rate was quite low and provide a message on the screen and the app, so the driver does not have to do a manual visual check.

superchargerrate

How to Check the Rate of Charge on the Screen (120kW is the Maximum)

Summary

The supercharging system works really well today outside of a handful of locations.  The Model 3 will put a lot more pressure on urban superchargers.  Hopefully by the time the Model 3 is closer to production, Tesla will produce a more clearer supercharger use statement, and perhaps have valets are the very busy sites.

How do you think Tesla should charge Model 3 owners for using the superchargers?

Tesla Sending Supercharger Abuse Notes!

After the shareholder’s meeting in June there was a large controversy over a comment Elon had made that was unclear.

“So, free long distance forever is what the Superchargers are providing. There are few people who are like, quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging, and we also send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally but it’s meant to be a long distance thing.”  Elon Musk

On the Tesla forums on the web were extensive threads discussing what Elon meant.  Now two months later people are beginning to receive these letters.

As a frequent user of local Superchargers, we ask that you decrease your local Supercharging and promptly move your Model S once charging is complete.  Doing so ensures a better experience for the Tesla ownership community and allows Supercharger resources to be available for those who need them most.

….Thank you for your cooperation and continued support of Tesla Motors” 

A few people are reporting getting letters today on the various public forums.  Those folks are saying they are not regular local supercharger users and are using it for long distance travel.  Perhaps the algorithm they used to determine which owners receive this note is a little flawed.

Tesla really needs to clarify their position on supercharging use.  Is it truly free forever after paying for it as part of the price of the car?  What about those who do not have the ability to charge at home?  Why not send out a clarification letter to all owners?  Why don’t they clarify their policy on their web site?

Unfortunately, Tesla has on its hands a true communication problem with their owners.  I have watched many different things occur on the various forums and this one seems to have many long term supporters upset. I don’t know why they cannot clarify this stance on supercharging directly and clearly to all owners instead of creating a controversy.  They really need help with public relations and communication.

 

Supercharger Abuse Notes

Elon Musk near the end of the Q&A section at the annual shareholder meeting accidentally created a bit of a PR challenge amongst current and future Model S owners.  The comment was as part of a response to a question on the battery swap program available near the Coalinga supercharger.

“So, free long distance forever is what the Superchargers are providing. There are few people who are like, quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging, and we also send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally but it’s meant to be a long distance thing.”  Elon Musk

Executives have always made confusing statements in front of people but now with video technology and the internet, these statements can cause more problems than before.

This small statement has lead to a ton of speculation on what Elon meant.  Few Model S owners are particularly worried that they will receive a note from Tesla, or that Tesla will begin to charge them for supercharging anytime soon.  The most interesting part of the discussion is what business model will happen down the road for more widespread EV adoption.

But here are a few of the many questions the confusing statement invited:

  1. What is supercharger etiquette?

Supercharging does have some etiquette guidelines.  The biggest error is leaving your car in a stall for a long time after the charging is complete.  Tesla’s web page states:

“How long can I park at a Supercharger?

We ask our customers to use courtesy while charging. Once your Model S has reached the range necessary to get to your next destination, please move your vehicle so other Model S owners can charge.”

With the Tesla app on the phone, you are notified when your car is charged.  In highly underused superchargers, at odd hours, or off-season, there is no rush to move your car.

2.  Exactly who are these supercharger abusers?

Busy Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano

Busy Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano

No one yet has come forward admitted to having received a note from Tesla.  The speculation mill has mentioned taxi drivers using a supercharger near the Amsterdam airport.  The other speculation is around a supercharger in Southern California.  The San Juan Capistrano supercharger is near the coast and has been very busy.

3.  Is supercharging only for long distance travel?

Superchargers were primarily built for long distance travel.

“Superchargers are used for long distance travel, conveniently located along the most popular routes in North America, Europe and Asia. “

4.  What about superchargers in more urban areas?

Yes, there are many superchargers in large urban areas such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.  Tesla has also stated that they can be used for those without a garage or definitive parking space.

“..we’re putting Superchargers in cities, not just between cities. Amm, this is obviously important in places like, aaa…you know, Beijing, Shanghai, London, San Francisco, aaa…New York, aaa…where at times people may have a challenge with aaa…having a…a…a fixed parking space. I mean…so…so that’s maybe the wiring thing, it’s more like some of those people don’t have a definitive parking space. Amm, they might have street parking or something, you know.”  Elon Musk Q1 2014

There are also no definitive statements from Tesla that folks without garages cannot use superchargers for daily driving.  I myself have met 3 people who only supercharged for this reason.  One in a far flung ex-burb area in California and two in the San Francisco area.  None of these folks, myself or anyone else has heard that superchargers cannot be used for daily driving by any Tesla personnel before this statement by Elon.

5.  Can you save money by only supercharging?

Technically, you will save on your electricity bill.  But driving and sitting at a supercharger gets old fast and likely would pay less than a minimum wage; electricity is generally not that expensive, and much cheaper than an equivalent tank of gasoline.

6.  How much does it cost Tesla in energy for us to use their supercharger?

A reasonable average commercial flat rate for energy in California is $ 0.20 / kWh.  If a Model S is driven 100,000 miles at an average of 300 Wh / mile and only supercharged the cost to Tesla is $6,000.

100,000 miles * 300 Wh / mile * $0.2 / kWh * kWh / 1000 Wh  = $6,000

7.  What about other supercharger costs?

Tesla does not buy land for their superchargers.  They do however bring in the equipment and pay the construction and maintenance costs.

8.   Is Tesla tracking our every move?

Tesla can collect quite a lot of information about our traveling habits.  Their privacy policy does include this statement:

“Charging station information: We collect information regarding the charge rate and charging stations used by you (including outlets) in order to analyze which charging stations are being utilized, how long and efficient battery charges are, and where additional charging stations are needed.”

So yes, Tesla can know if you are charging at a residential location and at a local supercharger.

9.  Is supercharging using sustainable energy?

Rocklin Superchargers With Solar Panels

Rocklin Superchargers With Solar Panels

Elon did announce that superchargers will be charged with solar panels where possible; unfortunately the solar panel additions have been very slow and only a handful of locations have them.  Elon also stated at the 2015 shareholder meeting that all the extra electricity the superchargers use will be bought from renewables.

10.  Does frequent supercharging hurt the battery?

Supercharging in general does not hurt the battery.  But I have heard but cannot verify from multiple sources including within Tesla that very frequent or only supercharging does have a small amount of increased battery degradation.

11.  What about Vehicle To Grid Charging (V2G)?

The idea behind V2G is to use the battery’s charge to add capacity to the grid during peak usage hours.  Theoretically in the future, a Model S owner could go to the supercharger fill up the battery for free and sell the electricity back to their power company.  In a sense, using a Model S with V2G could operate like a Powerwall to play grid arbitrage.  V2G technology is not available yet.

12.  Will supercharging have a cost sometime down the line?

I feel it is quite possible that supercharging will have a cost sometime down the line for the 3rd or 4th generation of vehicles.  With the Model S, supercharging was an option for the 60 kW version and not available for the handful of 40 kW versions that were sold.

13.  Is supercharging sustainable with more cars on the road?

With Model S and the upcoming Model X at a high price point, the typical owner has significant resources and likely will not try to save pennies by abusing superchargers.

The next generation car is targeted to cost $35,000.  This car will be aimed at a different demographic that may consider it worth their time to save $10 for a fill up.  But more importantly many of these owners will likely live in apartments or condominiums without dedicated parking spaces.

Perhaps a different supercharging cost will occur for generation 3.  A lot of different charging models could take affect for a different class of vehicles.  Perhaps other car companies could use the superchargers and would be included in a new pricing model.

14.  Has Tesla changed their message?

There has been some heated discussion if Tesla has changed their message.  The message that superchargers are free forever has now subtly been changed to free for long distance travel.  Exactly what their message is today is not completely clear.

15.  So exactly what is supercharger abuse?

No one exactly knows the answer to this question.  A handful of people do use supercharging regularly even though they have a way to charge at home.  Perhaps Tesla considers these folks “abusers” ?

Fortunately just a handful of Tesla owners feel it is their right to supercharge whenever and wherever they please.  One colorful blogger wants to use a close to home supercharger near his home in order to get back at his electric company by charging at the supercharger tied to the same electric company.  In every group of people, there will always exist a few who will try to maximize their advantages in a given system without much consideration for others.

Summary

The real question goes beyond the Model S, Model X, generation 3 and Tesla:

How do we facilitate wide EV adoption amongst drivers who do not have a dedicated place to park their car?

Perhaps Tesla’s statement should for the supercharger should be something like:

Charging at home is very convenient, inexpensive, and easy.  Superchargers are free forever for road trips.  If you have problems charing regularly at home or work, feel free to charge at a convenient supercharger,  but please be considerate of other drivers.

2015 Shareholder Meeting

I attended today my first Tesla shareholder meeting. For somewhat bizarre reasons, I did not become a shareholder in Tesla till last year when I bought some shares.  The amount is quite small (far less than 1% of my net worth) and has no bearing on the honesty of my blog.

Unlike traditional dull shareholder meetings in the past, this meeting was quite enjoyable.  The business part was over quickly and included a warm thanks from Elon to the retiring CFO.  Elon gave a short overview speech and answered about 10-15 questions from the audience.

After the official meeting, I went to charge my car at the new supercharger located in the parking lot.  As I was chatting with a fellow shareholder I met at a supercharger in Oregon, I noticed the CTO JB Straubel talking to some owners.  I took the opportunity to join in the conversation and ask some questions myself.

Model S / Autopilot

Elon mentioned that Teslas (not 100% sure if Roadsters are included) have been driven 1 billion miles as of today June 9, 2015, and that the new 70D is about 1/3 of Model S sales.  Elon has been testing the autopilot features and will be released to Beta customers by or near the end of the month.

Model X

Elon did say the Model X is coming in 3 to 4 months and had a photo of it on the screen.  I think the following quote is quite telling:

“The Model X may be a better SUV than the Model S is a sedan”.

Powerwall

Both Elon and JB expressed dissatisfaction with the current information available about the Tesla Energy products.  Elon announced that the Powerwall now has a significant increase in power output making it a more usable solution for backup power in case of a power outage; a typical home can now run everything except air conditioning.  Price with install for an existing solar customer will be $4,000.  They are prioritizing deliveries to existing Tesla customers with solar.

I asked JB about the huge interest Tesla is seeing for the Powerwall as my return on investment with existing solar is 18 years.  He said there are very specific markets:  Germany, Australia, and South Africa where the economics make sense. He also mentioned the large interest in the Powerpack product for utilities. If they need to expand, they can add Powerpacks to existing substations.  This advantage saves physical space and wires.  JB mentioned keen interest among specific utilities.

Superchargers

The new Mountain View supercharger was opened up.   I charged at my 86th supercharger today.

New Supercharger Cable

New Supercharger Cable

Tesla had representatives hanging around to talk to the customers.  The only real difference now is that the charging cable is liquid cooled, flexible, thinner and lighter.  The cable is the same width as the one we use at home.  In California and warmer climates, the existing supercharger cables work fine, but in colder climates the existing cables can get very stiff.

These cables will support more voltage than today’s cables.  So eventually we will be able to charge above 120V.

Elon clarified that superchargers are really for long distance trips.  He acknowledged that there are some people using them for daily driving, and mentioned that a few are getting notes to that effect.  An owner can technically and legally use only superchargers for daily driving.

Elon did say that eventually all superchargers would be powered from renewables.  Where possible and appropriate they will have solar panels, or they will buy electricity from other renewable sources.

Battery Swap

Tesla does not think there is much interest in battery swapping.  The initial 200 people that were invited to the Beta of the station at Harris Ranch, only 4 or 5 swapped their batteries and only did it once.  Tesla has now invited all the owners in California, and they are receiving about the same amount of interest as the initial group.

Space X

A shareholder asked Elon if SpaceX will ever go public as he wanted to own the trifecta of Elon’s companies (including Solar City).  Elon said that wall street lives quarter to quarter and that model does not work with long times for launching rockets.  He said that “Space X will go public once they have regular flights to Mars”.

Conclusion

The shareholder meeting was quite an enjoyable event.  Listening to Elon and his clear vision of “sustainable transport” and a few interesting tidbits was well worth the short drive.  The extra treat was to be able to ask a couple of questions directly to the CTO.  Just being around two very intelligent people doing interesting and valuable things is inspiring.

Battery Swap Invite

I just got an unsolicited invite for the battery swap program.  I have a few thoughts but no plans to drive to Southern California in the next couple of months, so I may (or may not) be giving them a call depending upon my plans.  I would love to try out the battery swap station, so perhaps I should firm up my plans.

“We invite you to participate in the pilot of our expanded battery pack swap program for your Model S. 

The program, operating at a facility located across the street from the Tesla Superchargers at Harris Ranch, CA, is intended to refine the technology and assess demand. 

We would very much appreciate your feedback during or after any planned trips using battery swap to help us shape the program going forward. In the pilot phase, battery swap is available by appointment and will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan. The pack-swapping process takes approximately three minutes and Tesla staff at the station will assist you with your swap.”