Tesla To Make Supercharger Network Available To All Automakers

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 59

Tesla's 100th Supercharger

Tesla’s 100th Supercharger

Aurora Supercharger

Aurora Supercharger

A recent Engadget article opens with this:

“Tesla’s CEO has been carefully dropping hints that he might “do something controversial” with his company’s collection of technology patents, and now we know what he’s on about. Speaking at the UK launch of the Tesla Model S yesterday, Elon Musk said that he specifically wants to open up the designs for his Supercharger system in order to create a standard technical specification that other electric car makers can adopt.”

So, Superchargers for all then?

Musk had previously stated that Tesla’s intention was never to have Superchargers become a “walled garden,” meaning closed off to other automakers/owners of electric vehicles, so this latest revelation of opening Superchargers to other plug-in vehicles is as expected.

Engadget continues:

“Then again, Superchargers are more than just fancy plug-in points: they’re also a business model in which electricity is given away “free for life” for Model S owners, with all costs factored into the upfront price of the car. Musk is very clear that other EV makers would have to subscribe to this same business model if they want to partner up.”

Since the initial Engadget article went live, Tesla’s communication department reached out to Engadget to provide clarification, especially on the topic of patent sharing.  As Engadget states:

“Update: Tesla’s PR people have been in touch to clarify a couple of things. Firstly, although the company is indeed offering to share its charging and adapter specifications with other manufacturers, on the conditions described above, this won’t necessarily involve sharing patents. Secondly, some sort of “patent giveaway” or “patent release” is still on the cards, but the company isn’t quite ready to announce the details just yet.”

As for Elon Musk, his comment in which he revealed the Supercharger giveaway occurred when a journalist at the UK launch of the Tesla Model S asked this question:

“Is that sort of aimed towards the superchargers and allowing other car manufacturers to use your charger network?”

To which Musk replied:

“The intent of the Supercharger network is not to create a walled garden. Any other manufacturer that’s interested in using them, we’d be happy to accommodate. It’s just that they need to be able to accept the power level of the Superchargers, which is currently 135kW and rising, so any car needs to meet the Supercharger standard. And they’d also need to agree with the business model, which is we don’t charge people on a per-charge basis. They’d need to contribute to the capital costs proportional to their fleet’s usage of the network. So we think that’s pretty fair.”

Of course, none of this Supercharger giveway information is new news.  If you’ve been following Tesla Motors and CEO Musk, then you’d be well aware that this Supercharger technology sharing was always the intention, even at the start of creation of the charging network.  Musk has gone on record several times stating that Tesla is open to sharing its Supercharger network, provided that certain criteria are met.  Even when asked in the UK at the Model S  launch event about this Supercharger sharing, Musk reiterated that Tesla has long stated that Supercharger sharing is the automaker’s intention:

“That was already said. Actually we’ve [Tesla Motors] already said that.”

So, nothing new here.  And we’d like to add that it’s highly unlike that we’ll see a plug-in vehicle (w/o a Tesla badge) hit the market that can accept 135 kW (and rising) anytime soon.  Even if we do, will the maker of that vehicle agree to free charging and be willing to “contribute to the capital costs proportional to their fleet’s usage of the network?”  We doubt it.  So, the Supercharger network is open to all automakers, but will even one bite?

Snappy video recap of the Supercharger sharing situation posted below:

Sources: Engadget

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59 responses to "Tesla To Make Supercharger Network Available To All Automakers"

  1. David Murray says:

    Why does the vehicle HAVE to be able to accept 13 kKW charging? Surely the superchargers are smart enough to negotiate a slower charge rate if the car says it can’t handle it. Or is Tesla concerned about people hogging up the charger too long with a slower charge rate?

    1. mutle says:

      Yes, the Super Chargers are able to charge at much lower rates. This seems like Elon is saying “once the other manufacturers use equally big batteries (e.g. in a few years time) we will allow them”.

      I don’t think they’re concerned with hogging up the charger since if for example a Leaf or i3 could charge at their regular DC levels they would still finish charging quicker than a 85kWh Tesla even though they would not need the full charger output and a Tesla would be able to load with the remaining capacity in the next bay.

      1. Mikael says:

        They will be hoging the superchargers if they can’t charge at the same speed. It would be extremely stupid to let slow chargers hog the spots.
        Let’s say that they can charge at 50 kW then they will still take up more than 2,5 times the time a Tesla will for driving the same distance. Plus the initial driving distance before needing to charge is shorter which will add to that time.

        It’s easy math and it’s a given that the cars being allowed to charge at their stations will have to be able to charge at full speed of the charger.

    2. scottf200 says:

      I think LEAF rates drop to 25 kW pretty quickly according to graphs I’ve seen. I don’t want to wait on a LEAF while I’m traveling. It is a city car.

      1. scottf200 says:

        LEAF charging powr as a function fo time. Ugh. http://i.imgur.com/3vVFU2F.png

        1. Aaron says:

          Where did you find that? You do know there are now 25kW CHAdeMO charging stations. Supposedly they are priced cheaper than the full 50kW CHAdeMO stations.

          This is all news to me because I’ve heard of 62kW CHAdeMO stations, and the standard was designed to handle up to 100kW.

          1. protomech says:

            The standard maxes at 62.5 kW – 500V 125A. Most CHAdeMO stations in practice are limited to 50 kW total, and some are limited to a maximum of 100A or a minimum of 200V.

          2. scottf200 says:

            The graph shows it starting over 25 kW tho. Just taking the chart title and plug it in google: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=charging+power+as+a+function+of+time+epri

        2. Suprise Cat says:

          That is a 3 years old graphic.

          1. scottf200 says:

            And LEAF DCFC charging hasn’t changed in 3 years…

      2. GeorgeS says:

        Exactly Scott.
        That’s what I posted below.

    3. Mikael says:

      13 kkW = 13 MW = one nasty supercharger for Elon’s electric space rocket 😉

    4. Brandon says:

      Anyone can use the supercharger if they dont build a half ass EV. Start making real completely usable EV’s like Tesla

    5. Spec9 says:

      ” Or is Tesla concerned about people hogging up the charger too long with a slower charge rate?”

      This. People paid big bucks for Model S cars that can use the supercharger network. And they are gonna be very angry if they have to wait for some non Tesla owner charging up at 25KW.

    6. JakeY says:

      Because otherwise they can just stick with CHAdeMO or CCS. Going with superchargers only make sense if you want to charge beyond ~100kW (the limits of both of those standards).

  2. GeorgeS says:

    Elon is smart.
    He will NEGOTIATE a deal that is beneficial to Tesla.

    No way will Elon risk pissing off a bunch of Model S owners by letting some lesser caliber EV’s hog up a super charging spot.

    After all, having access to the SC network is a status thing. You are part of an elite group……it’s all about selling the car.

    1. evnow says:

      Exactly, it is a status thing.

      Infact early on when the announcement was made that 40 kwh model won’t have supercharging – many people on the Tesla forum were happy because they didn’t want the lowly 40 kwh models to “hog” the supercharger.

      1. scottf200 says:

        Superchargers are stated as being for traveling not local charging by city sized battery cars. For the needy, not the greedy.

        1. evnow says:

          Not sure what you are trying to say – were you actually replying to my post ?

  3. CeeBee says:

    It is quite smart of Tesla to position this as a “gift” for the sake of humanity. It is very clear however that they will benefit most of this, because it will allow chargermakers to produce chargers with the Tesla connection. The supercharger roll-out is way too slow to meet demands already today. So imagine what will happen when the nex gen car is here. Tesla simply has no choice but to do this…… When you choose a non-standard connection this the inevitable result.

    1. John Hansen says:

      The rollout is too slow? The Super Charger network is the ONLY viable charging network in the United States! Chademo will only allow you to get around within a city, where a Tesla wouldn’t even need to recharge because if its longer range. The only sensibly placed Chademo chargers are along a few highways in the Northwest, and those are still only for the true believers who have the time to kill, limping across the country 50 miles at a time.

      If (when) the other auto-makers come out with non-compromising EVs, they will need to upgrade their relatively slow charging networks or be compatible with SuperChargers.

      1. protomech says:

        In a couple of years there will probably be several vehicles out with 40-50 kWh battery packs.

        50 kW CHAdeMO would charge these vehicles at ~170 freeway miles/hour, and 62.5 kW CHAdeMO could charge at 200 miles/hour. Not nearly as fast as the Supercharger stations, sure.. but not useless either.

        Larger battery packs in smaller vehicles would allow them to gain useful range, 80-100 miles from 20% to 80% in 25-35 minutes. That’s a 300 mile trip in ~4.5 hours of driving and two 30 minute charging stops .. not unreasonable IMO.

        50 mile hops now are required due to the smaller batteries fitted to these vehicles .. part of why Tesla killed the 40 kWh version of the larger Model S (but only one part).

  4. Chris O says:

    Guess the automakers need to choose between a future of free long range travel for their customers or the hydrogen alternative which will burden their customers with high cost. The likes of Toyota, Hyundai and Mercedes seem to already have made their choice so I don’t expect them to be a knocking on Tesla’s door.

    Of course high cost travel and free travel can’t co-exist so something will have to give. Maybe that’s why Tesla is showing interest in patent sharing, realizing that otherwise his company might be considered an obstacle in the way of a successful future for his competitors, a dangerous position to be in.

  5. Lou says:

    George:

    You might have that backwards. If other EV makers were to join in and become part of a Supercharging Network of sorts, that would, by logic, imply a lot more of them(SC’s) would be available, meaning Tesla owners would be able to SC at locations much more convenient for them. Right now there are SC’s not “too” far from me. However, they are too far if I am driving a small BEV(I am)…it would cost too much of my range to go there and charge. However, if the SC’s were more prevalent, instead of having to drive 35 minutes to get a SC, maybe I could drive there in 5 minutes. And, if “I” could do that,so could Tesla owners. It would be a win/win. The more widespread implementation of a SC network would greatly enhance the prospects of an EV driver using his car for trips beyond what we see today(that is 60-80 mile highway trips). It would (or could)be a tipping point in widespread adoption of EV’s. Just my $.02….

    Lou

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Agreed it is a balance. The idea is to expand the network…..but do it without causing an inconvenience to current Tesla owners by increasing wait times. That’s why there will be a careful negotiation and contract before Elon signs them on.

      1. evnow says:

        Don’t worry. There won’t be any contracts signed – no OEM is stupid enough to fall for this. Not even the likes of GM.

  6. Nelson says:

    I’d like to know which manufacturer will be first to take him up on his offer. I would imagine Mercedes could be first since they already use a Tesla battery in their B-Class Electric Drive.

    NPNS! SBF!
    Volt#671

    1. Chris O says:

      I doubt it. The way Mercedes sees it BEVs are for compliance, hydrogen is the long term future. There is a reason the B class EV isn’t Supercharger compatible: it’s just not how Mercedes sees the future and they don’t want fastcharging BEVs to confuse their customers about the need for hydrogen.

      1. pjwood says:

        I don’t think so. No manufacturer sees FCEV as the future. They just market it.

        Next, the CNG Impala will come out, and the high-priced dearth of stations will kill it. The Impala’s 7.8GGE storage, and 150mi range (19mpg) is a cost turkey. Soon Toyota won’t be able to hide from the same kind of math, at actual $2mm hydrogen pumps. The two are DOA, and it is very difficult to imagine these companies haven’t accepted this behind closed doors.

        If FCEV had a future, we’d be seeing EREV prototypes, by now.

        1. Mark H says:

          If FCEV had a future, we’d be seeing EREV prototypes, by now
          +1 pjwood

    2. Phd says:

      You have to remember that despite the fact that they have not compatible EV model on the market yet that Mercedes is also part of the CCS group.
      The likelihood of adopting Tesla standard is therefore extremely low.

  7. Gsned57 says:

    I’d be pretty pissed if I spend 90k on a car to wait for 10 leafs to charge before I can go. In that case maybe battery swap makes sense

    1. evnow says:

      LOL. What happens when you have to wait for 10 lowly Tesla Gen 3s in 3 years ?

      1. Spec9 says:

        Well if they have a 200 mile range then such a Gen 3 Tesla would not be ‘lowly’.

    2. David Murray says:

      On the bright side, with more manufacturers in the game, there should be more money available to build more stations.

  8. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    Smart to require fast charging rates, and probably an up-front chunk of change comparable to what is rolled into Model S’. One wouldn’t want some slow-charging vehicle clogging up spaces, so other automakers wanting in on Supercharging need to either up their game or buy battery tech from Tesla.

    If I were Elon I would have 90kW be the _minimum_ top-end charge capacity for other automakers to handle, even if the batteries are much smaller.

    Presumably, if stations start getting too crowded, there’ll be a smartphone/in-car “take a number” system as well.

  9. ffbj says:

    Nice discussion as always, although I was a bit surprised no one brought up the charging stations that will placed in large cities.
    Musk mentioned New York, London, and one other.
    I think this revelation was meant to counter complaints from high end high rise apartment dwellers that they have few places to charge in the city. Musk said as much with his comment about living on the 30 floor and having no place to charge.

    1. Mikael says:

      I did some quick calculations and even though a large percentage of Tesla owners would charge almost 100% at superchargers they would still make enough money to be covered just by the supercharger surcharge. And have money left to build the supercharger network.

      I first thought that might be a problem for them. But in reality it’s not.

  10. pjwood says:

    The CHAdeMO adapter isn’t here, yet, and given how slow the SC roll-out has been relative to forecast, I am not so sure Tesla is concerned about wait times (there’s plenty of it already going on). The circumstances that would invite others into the garden could be inversely related to how the company does over time.

    What is clear, to me, is that CCS rollouts in the ZEV states, Nissan’s CHAdeMO growth, and Tesla’s format are all setting up a need for convergence.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      What is the highest L2 (AC) charging rate one can get on the CCS SAE spec?? Tesla is doing 20 kw if you order the TWO 10 kw chargers so that’s 20 kw on AC. Just curious how high the “Frankenplug” can go on AC.

      1. GeorgeS says:

        Answered my own question. The new CCS SAE plug will go to 19.4 kw….same as the Tesla with twin chargers:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_J1772

  11. Lou says:

    Remember that the Superchargers are not meant for everyday charging. Most people will continue to charge overnight at their homes. In fact, the advent of common, longer range, larger batteries will probably increase the sales of EV’s all the while decreasing the congestion at SC facilities. As an example, if typical EV has 125 mile range, how often would that EV driver need to Supercharge? Possibly a few times a month at most and more likely a lot less than that. But the mere existence of a Supercharger safety net wil allay the range anxiety fears that supposedly exist. I cannot predict the future, none of us knows how widespread EV adoption will become and when that might happen, but it seems pretty clear that the convenience and low cost of EV operations will win people over. My suspicion is that an enlarged SC network that includes other OEMs will not increase congestion overall, but will increase EV adoption.

    Lou

  12. Mark Z says:

    The distance between SuperChargers would require the cars to have a 200 mile range or greater. Only a new design that matches or exceeds Model S could use the SuperCharger network. It will be years before that occurs.

    As far as the Hydrogen question in the video? No way!

    1. Bloggin says:

      There you go…

      Elon has stated all along that other manufacturers could ‘invest’ in the Superchargers so their EVs can charge for interstate travel. But it may be 2015 when we see the first new 200+ mile EVs from anyone but Tesla.

      I expect that to be Ford with the Model E.

      If you have noticed, Musk has had disparaging things to say about most every automaker’s EVs except Ford. Only compliments. And it is expected that Ford will be one of the first major automakers offering a high volume EV to benefit from the Tesla battery Gigafactory.

      1. evnow says:

        LOL. Anyone who reads your posts would think Ford is serious about EVs. They don’t even offer QC on their only EV !!

        BTW, no OEM will take up Tesla “offer”.

        1. Mikael says:

          I’m not so sure about that. There might be some of the smaller automakers that are interested in getting in on a network like that. Companies that are not that big to be able to do something like that on their own and that are not in the pissing contest of the big dogs.

          Maybe Volvo with a BEV XC60/XC90, which would benefit from charging networks in their three largest markets China, USA and Sweden.
          Or maybe Mazda once they realise they need to jump on the EV bandwagon too.

          I highly doubt that one of the big ones like GM, Toyota, Volkswagen etc. will jump on that offer though.

  13. Marshal G says:

    Several months ago there was a survey sent out (presumably on behalf of Nissan) that asked if I would be willing to pay up front for free charging for life. I really really really hope Nissan is considering taking Tesla up on their offer.

    1. evnow says:

      Definitely not. No serious EV maker will want to depend on a competitor’s infrastructure and contribute to it. They will only use open standards (even there we have a fight between CHAdeMO & CCS). It would be like Google agreeing to use Apple store early on.

  14. Spec9 says:

    Damn. I wish I could start an EV company to build some large batteried EVs and take advantage of that network. I think the Supercharger system is genius and we need more cars that can take advantage of it.

  15. Lou says:

    Mark: Right now the Superchargers here on the East Coast are well below 200 miles apart. In fact travelling from the Hamilton, NJ location to the Wilmington, DE site is probably less than 50 miles. My feeling is that other EV makers joining in would hasten making the distances between SC locations even less than that…

    Lou

  16. jzj says:

    1. Soon battery chemistry will enable vastly greater charge-discharge capacity, and therefore at 135KW a Leaf or Fit or i3 or whatever with a typical approx. 25KWH battery pack will be able to fill up in 10 minutes.

    2. With 10 minute fill-ups, you don’t need a home charging station and you can own and drive an EV like any other car without range anxiety.

    3. This makes fast-charging station economics viable — logically, they would be installed in existing gas stations, because gas stations are obviously already located where they need to be for ready access.

    1. Mikael says:

      Some pretty big flaws in that comment.

      Home charging will always be the main charging point for anyone having access to electricity where they park, mainly house owners.

      Not having to go to a gas/charging station to fill up is a perk, which means that public charging stations will still mainly be used for longer trips (or some shorter if not having a large battery pack).

      To make charging stations economics viable you would need to pay a hefty premium on the electricity cost, which will limit the number of viable charging stations.

      1. jzj says:

        @ Mikael:

        1. Of course charging will be done at home for those who can charge at home. But I’ll take a WAG and say that that might be only half of auto ownership, so there is plenty of the potential EV market that cannot charge at home. And, not so coincidentally, those are the persons — perhaps urban, perhaps younger, perhaps less economically stable — who would like to get a (non-Tesla-priced) EV, but presently have no home in which to charge it.

        2. People don’t want to go a gas station. People have to go a gas station. Same thing with publicly charging an EV, no matter where that public charger is located.

        3. I believe the numbers will bear out that public charging will never cost more than buying gas. As long as it is no more expensive, it will be the better solution. Of course, in most every instance, it will be cheaper, or potentially cheaper, and it will be desirable for that reason — among the many other reasons.

  17. Anderlan says:

    It’s so funny that no one other than Tesla even sells a vehicle that can even fully utilize any power level greater than 30kW because of the limitations of lithium ion itself.

    The reason that Tesla’s can eat 90+ kW is because they have 85kWh batteries. I think even the 60kWh S’s only drink at 100kW during a brief part of the charge cycle, and then only when it’s freezing outside (for all I know).

    The point is this: the speed of the SC network has a LOT to do with the fact that Tesla has the balls to sell big-batteried cars, and just a little do with the tweaking and micromanaging the communication between pack and charger.

    I mean, the latter finesse is where margin is. But the margin is between where Tesla was last year and where it is this year. The margin between the pack sizes is not a margin, it’s a gaping chasm.

  18. Just_chris says:

    A few things that I think are worth mentioning.

    CHAdeMO is not one standard its 3, one for the plug, one for the charger and one for the comms. Since we know that Tesla’s can already use CHAdeMO with a plug adapter we can probably assume that the Tesla’s speak CHAdeMO and the Leaf and co. probably speak Tesla. The charging voltages are probably not all that different either. I assume that the plug standard just defines the shape and power ratings of the plug with the charging standard defining the output; voltage range and current range.

    Neither standard is likely to limit anything, in that it will be perfectly possible to make a 135 kW plug and charger for a CHAdeMO vehicle, all it will mean is that charger/plug is way above the standard. That will mean that it meets and exceeds the standard not that it fails to meet the standard. Any limit is purely hardware related and is not a new issue as can be seen with the “rapid” chargers that are currently limited between 10-25kW. These work fine, if the car requests more than the charger can output then the charger doesn’t explode it just limits its output. In the same way if you connect a leaf that is almost completely charged then it limits the power it accepts rather than trying to overload the batteries and catch fire.

    It is a no brainier to start bringing some of the charging standards together. There is no reason that Tesla’s and Leafs cannot share the same charging infrastructure it is a complete win-win for everyone. The only thing that has to happen is that people need to be less obnoxious and start to share. The Leaf driver has every bit as much to loose from a Tesla blocking up a CHAdeMO charger for 3 hrs while it chargers as a Tesla driver who has to wait for 4 leaf drivers in front of him for 30min bursts on the fast charger. Lets not forget that the fast chargers split their power anyway so IMO you are far more likely to end up with a single stall with a CHAdeMO plug one side charging a Leaf at 20kW with a Tesla the other side charging at 100kW with 15kW of spare capacity not being used for anything because both cars are at a point in their charging cycle where they limit the current.

    It makes even more sense for Tesla to share in the UK which already has a fast charger network on its motorways run by Ecotricity. Why not add to an existing network rather than build a new one?

  19. qwerty says:

    100KW charge rate should be the minimum.

    But if a lowly other EV charges at 50KW, is it still a “SuperCharger”?……lol
    Or a “StupidCharger”?

  20. CherylG says:

    Will other manufacturers be able to use Tesla’s vast network of battery swap stations too?

  21. Gasless says:

    the talk about hydrogen fuel cells is a smoke screen meant to divert attention away from auto makers who have missed the boat on EV’s. The infrastructure for EV’s to charge is mostly already in place, available with little modification in most garages. hydrogen is expensive to make and very expensive to transport. an infrastructure would cost trillions, which would have to be passed on in fuel costs. why bother when we can already charge EV’s for pennies a mile? we are on the cusp of bigger, cheaper battery packs, then it will be game over for oil, hydrogen and just about anything else for a long time to come.