Currently reading: How Tesla's supercharger network is transforming for all EV owners
As Tesla trials opening up its Supercharger stations to rival EV owners, here's what that means for all

UK Tesla owners are bracing for impact: is 2022 the year in which the velvet rope that separates its Supercharger network finally removed?

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.

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year opened an investigation into the exclusive rights agreed by Electric Highway, initially owned by Ecotricity and now Gridserve, with motorway services operators.

Had other operators been free to open chargers, Tesla’s 21 motorway-located Superchargers might have been left alone, but the CMA concluded that Tesla’s closed network offered no competition for Electric Highway, and being forced to open up might be the collateral damage of that.

The fate of the other 90 or so Supercharger sites in the UK either opening or opening soon isn’t known and Tesla wouldn't say.

Tesla owners in the UK have already been complaining that competition for Supercharger connectors is growing. Statistics published by the Tesla Owners United Kingdom show that there are around 85 Teslas per connector (Supercharger sites average around 10 connectors each), compared with 69 cars per connector globally, based on Tesla’s own figures.

“In the past two years, the UK ratio has gone from being significantly better than the global average to significantly worse,” UK Tesla user Petit Bateau wrote on the Motors Club forum. “The UK could benefit from a bit more love and attention.”

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Other users pointed out that the UK statistics came even before Tesla’s huge tranche of registrations in December that pushed the Model 3 to become the UK’s second best-selling car overall for 2021, after the Vauxhall Corsa.

On the flipside to that, Tesla’s rollout of faster V3 Superchargers should reduce waiting times, at least for compatible cars.

The overall reliability and ease of use of the Supercharger network has been a big draw to Tesla for those put off by reports of the poor usability of the patchwork created by the UK’s myriad charger providers.

On the other hand, there’s no doubt that being allowed to tap into the premium experience offered by the Supercharger network would tempt in more than a few EV fence-sitters.

However, being asked to wave in the ‘muggles’, as owners of EVs from other brands have been snootily described by some Tesla users, could cause a bigger uproar than when Tesla removed the free charging benefit back in 2017.

How do you charge your non-Tesla EV at a Supercharger?

Any EV owner wanting to use these 10 trial Superchargers has to download the Tesla smartphone app, then select ‘charge your non-Tesla’. You have to add a payment method onto that app, but other than that, it should be seamless.

Your car has to be fitted with the combined charging system (CCS), so no Nissan Leafs with the Chademo system, for example, and you also have be based mainly in the Netherlands. You also pay more “to reflect additional costs incurred to support charging a broad range of vehicles”, according to Tesla, although paying for a charging membership will lower the per-kWh price of electricity.

Tesla owners still get it better, says the company, for example with "seamless integration" and preconditioning technology that better prepares the battery for charging.

The bulk of the trial Superchargers in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are on the premises of hotels in the Van der Valk chain, suggesting that Tesla is also trialling extended commercial tie-ins, possibly aimed at boosting revenues for both Tesla and the site hosts.

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Tesla has also made it clear that "dynamic pricing", meaning higher costs for charging at peak times, is also coming in order to reduce queues.

That’s the stick, but the carrot is possible free charging at slow times, which was announced for certain Superchargers in the US over the Christmas holiday.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Tonrichard 19 January 2022

I’m not a Tesla owner but I do run an EV and are hugely envious of their Supercharger network. Unlike other manufacturers Tesla out the horse before the cart and have scored a real strategic advantage by having a reliable international charging network that is seemlesely integrated with their models SatNav and software systems. Far from being altruistic I think Tesla are only offering up their charging network to appease the competition authorities and regulators. There is however a major difficulty for most other EVs who try to hook up and that is that the Tesla cables are very short and only designed to extend to the charging port at the rear of the car - Tesla ports are on the rear nearside corner - so will not extend to the port on most EVs. You can also be sure Tesla will (rightly) charge a premium rate for non Tesla vehicles. The answer to the present woeful lack of reliable working chargers at motorway service areas and on major trunk roads is for the Ionity to consortium (VW group, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Ford and Hyundai) to invest much more in rolling out big charging hubs to mirror what Tesla have done.  They also need to integrate these within their SatNav systems so that suggested charging locations are planned for journeys beyond the vehicle’s range. I am not a great fan of Tesla cars (dubious buIld quality, poor choice of options, over minimalist interior) but there is absolutely no doubt that Tesla have removed all the anxiety of going Electric. 

lambo58 19 January 2022

Right on most counts but try and book a test drive in a model 3 for build quality. I think you would be surprised at how good it actually is. I had german company cars for years particularly BMWs and they never failed to dissapoint over the long term.

Tesla have definitely got the supercharger network absolutely spot on for ease of use and modest costs. I would want other cars to be charged a premium for using the network.


lambo58 19 January 2022

Not sure letting the muggles charge at teslas supercharger network is a good idea unless the muggles are charged more than I get charged at supercharger locations which is also a USB that us Tesla owners enjoy. Everyone knows that the other charging competitors are very unreliable and very expensive to use so Tesla should also charge non Teslas appropriately

bol 19 January 2022

As a Tesla driver I say bring it on. It'll be good for EV take up, which is the main thing for me, but may reduce some of the anti-Tesla sentiment. It's getting so bad it feels like I'm driving an Audi some days. 

xxxx 19 January 2022

Agreed bol. And certian people will still be ranting about Tesla fanboys after topping up at a Tesla charger, hyprocrites.

Tom Simons 19 January 2022

Ha Ha - Brillant. 

Its especially hard to acccept the EV revolution if invested in ICE for 100 years, its glory of noise, power, complex ingenuity, gear changing & mastering its power peaks.

But please, Autocar keep the playing field level, inspite of advertising, foreign jollies, big oil and 2 faced FUD from some foot dragging auto makers.


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