The network is arguably the jewel in the crown of Tesla ownership, the element that has taken much of the stress out of early EV adoption, but CEO Elon Musk has made clear that he wants to throw it open to non-Tesla EV drivers.
In November last year, the company opened 10 Supercharger stations in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to compatible EVs in a trial that will be “closely monitored” by Tesla.
Musk has made it clear that other countries will follow suit, although Tesla wouldn’t give us a date for the UK.
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Opening up was billed as an altruistic move by Tesla. “It's our goal to support the advent of sustainable energy; it's not to create a walled garden and use that to bludgeon our competitors,” Musk told investors on the second quarter investor call last year.
Tesla owners were also told that what’s good for the company is good for you. “Increasing the utilisation of the network actually reduces our costs, which allows us to lower charging prices and make the network more profitable, allowing us to grow the network faster. That's the good thing there,” said Drew Baglino, Tesla’s head of powertrain and energy engineering, on the same call.
Tesla owners are understandably unhappy at the thought of sharing their network. “I wouldn't have bought any other electric car because only Tesla had Superchargers,” UK Tesla user Candida wrote on the Tesla Motors Club forum. “I've tried the public charging network when I've been forced to it by Superchargers being blocked and it's a world of pain.”
Fears range from longer queues to overstretched grid capacity and blocked charging bays. This last worry is due to the fact that while Tesla locates its charge ports on the rear-left of the car, few others do. To charge the Volkswagen Group MEB cars, for example, would likely have to straddle two bays.
Tesla might not have any choice in the matter, at least in key motorway service station locations. Along with Electric Highway, Tesla is one of only two charger providers with any kind of presence in the service-station network, and the UK government wants to end this duopoly as it deploys its touted £950 million fund to expand the charger network.
“We're considering requiring existing providers of chargepoint services at motorway service areas to make their charge points open access rather than only open to an exclusive network or group of networks or manufacturers,” the government said in a review published last September.