The Battle of the Supercharger: Congestion in the face of increased Model 3 production

Tesla Supercharger in Allentown, PA

The will they or won’t they argument about free Supercharging for life with Model 3 has been debated backward and forward. Fears have been accelerated since last week’s news of an ambitious goal to get 100,000-200,000 Model 3 vehicles on the road in 2017. Elon’s exact words at the unveil have been analyzed and rehashed time and time again. I won’t venture to assume I know what Tesla will decide, or even give my opinion on how they should price or restrict access. What I can say is that we need a strategy and we need it fast. I call it: etiquette education.

We needn’t mince words here. We’re all adults. We also needn’t take sides on the already exhaustive debate of whether or not it’s proper to charge locally just to save a few bucks. (Opponents argue it’s contrary to the point of chargers, while those for it stand on the ground that they paid for “free for life” access.) All we need to do is spell out good etiquette. I mean really spell it out.

Truth 1: Superchargers are intended to enable long distance travel.

Rule 1

Travel on the network as often as you like, anywhere your 4 wheels can take you.


Truth 2: Superchargers are for charging, not parking.

Rule 2

Charge as much as you need, or even a bit more, then promptly move your vehicle. Do not park overnight, do not go on a shopping spree and absolutely do not use it as a premium parking space without even plugging in.

Oxnard Supercharger

Tesla Model X at the Oxnard, CA Supercharger via app check-in

Truth 3: Charge rates dramatically slow down after you’ve reached approximately 90% charge. You will thus occupy a stall for much longer than you did for any other 10% portion of your charge.

Rule 3

Do not charge beyond 90% at a Supercharger unless you absolutely need it to get to your next destination (including a buffer of course) or there are many other open stalls.


Truth 4: Waiting in line to charge when you’re on a road trip can derail plans, exacerbate tiredness from traveling, and would all around suck.

Rule 4

If you are charging close to home (whether returning from a road trip or otherwise) and have enough to get there, stay with your car and immediately vacate if or when all of the stalls at that location are occupied.

Tejon Ranch Supercharger

Long queues known to form around the Tejon Ranch Supercharger

Truth 5: Someone out there either needs or wants to save a few bucks on electricity. Someone out there has no home charging solution available. Someone out there accidentally fried their home charger with a failed DIY attempt and can’t get it fixed until next week.

Rule 5

If intending to visit a local charger just for the sake of charging (eg: not returning from a trip), do so off peak. Do not go during known commuting hours, holidays or busier weekend hours. Plan to charge in the evening, mid-weekday or early morning hours. (Tesla should consider releasing peak charging times per SC location for this and trip planning purposes.) Also refer to rule 2. If you fall into the camp of visiting a local charger just for sake of charging, do not leave your vehicle unattended. Immediately vacate the charging space if or when all of the stalls at that location are occupied.

Truth 6: Tesla knows or can figure out who uses local Superchargers “rather aggressively.”

Rule 6

You may receive a warning letter – with attached peak charging schedule for your local location – that you have been identified as using your local charger aggressively. The letter will remind you that the Supercharger network was intended to enable long distance travel, set Tesla apart from the rest of the industry and bring in sales which ultimately benefits us all and provides funds for additional chargers. (Okay, this one is speculation and wishful thinking on my part. But I think this paired with a rigorous educational program as spelled out above would go a long way.)

No, Model S and X owners don’t deserve some kind of priority and shouldn’t bellyache about the presumed onslaught of Model 3 drivers hogging up all the chargers. After all, a successful Tesla Motors is good for everyone. However even today, we all need a stern lecture on proper Supercharger etiquette and Tesla should feel no shame in very clearly spelling it out to us and the rest of the world. Education is the missing piece here, not some complicated pay-per-use or tiered charging access.

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