Posted on September 15, 2017 by Charles Morris
The first question the EV-curious ask is “How much range does it have?” A close second however, is “Where do you charge it?” We enlightened EV owners explain, with a patient smile, that you normally charge at home overnight. However, there are a couple of situations in which one has no choice but to use public charging.
Above: Tesla's new city charging station in the Aqua Building in Chicago (Reddit: krtrice)
One of these scenarios is long-distance travel - Tesla long ago foresaw this need, and addressed it with its Supercharger network. However, the advent of Model 3 will bring a new set of charging challenges. Fortunately (at least in many parts of the world) EV drivers have a growing number of convenient options for keeping their lamps trimmed and burning, so to speak.
Above: Tesla's new city charging stations now appearing in Chicago and Boston (Image: Tesla)
Most Model S and X buyers are probably suburban dwellers, who happily plug in every evening in their garages (some are even able to top up during the day at work) and stop at a Supercharger when they take a road trip. However, the mass-market Model 3 is expected to bring EV ownership to more middle-class drivers. For those who live in apartments, charging may be a challenge, especially in city centers, where many residents don’t even have an assigned parking space - they have to catch as catch can on the street. As Jalopnik recently pointed out, contrary to popular belief, dense cities are not actually friendly habitats for EVs.
Above: Another look at Tesla's new city charging station in the Aqua Building in Chicago (Reddit: krtrice)
With this situation in mind, Tesla is beginning to expand its Supercharger network beyond its traditional locations along major highways. It’s building a new wave of Superchargers in city centers. These won’t be the same chargers Tesla designed for highway use, but rather a new species, optimized to fill its urban niche in the charging ecosystem. As Tesla explained: “Superchargers in urban areas have a new post design that occupies less space and is easier to install, making them ideal for dense, highly populated areas. To increase efficiency and support a high volume of cars, these Superchargers have a new architecture that delivers a rapid 72 kilowatts of dedicated power to each car. This means charging speeds are unaffected by Tesla vehicles plugging into adjacent Superchargers, and results in consistent charging times around 45 to 50 minutes for most drivers.”
Above: Here's the first video overview of Tesla's new urban supercharger in Chicago (Youtube: KmanAuto
As Electrek reports, Tesla’s highway Superchargers have a capacity of up to 145 kW, whereas the vehicles can charge at up to 120 kW. Thus, when multiple vehicles are charging, the available power is divided, resulting in a slower charging rate. The new urban stations have a fixed charging capacity of 72 kW per stall, so city dwellers can count on a consistent charging time. Pricing will be the same as at Tesla’s existing chargers, based on the recently introduced Supercharger Credit pricing scheme.
The first two urban stations are in Chicago and Boston, and many more are planned, in cities small and large all around the country.
Above: Meanwhile, non-Tesla public chargers are sprouting up worldwide to address the onslaught of new Model 3 (and other EV) owners (Image: Reuters via IEA)
Tesla chargers are by no means the only option for topping up away from home. Model 3 comes with a J1772 adapter, so you can use non-Tesla public Level 2 chargers to add about 25 miles of range per hour. ChargePoint, which operates a network of over 40,000 public chargers around the US, has shared some handy tips for charging the new Model 3. Drivers can use the ChargePoint app to find stations in the vicinity, including Tesla and other non-ChargePoint stations. The app can also tell you if stations will be busy when you plan to charge, and can deliver price estimates based on your EV and planned charging time.
Above: With 40,000 public US chargers, Chargepoint remains another reasonable, and widespread, non-Tesla charging option (Image: Chargepoint)
Most ChargePoint stations are free to use, and the rest are cheap: according to the company, the average Tesla charging session on ChargePoint costs just $1. There’s no membership or subscription fee.