Spending a few hours interviewing drivers at a Tesla Supercharger location is like playing whack-a-mole: no sooner have you finished quizzing one than another has wafted silently into another bay, plugged in and gone to Starbucks. You go after them and another turns up.
The plan had been to arrive at 10.30am to prepare for the promised 11am-6pm peak period: have a coffee, ready a few questions on the lines of what’s it like and do you come here often – that sort of thing.
What I hadn’t reckoned on was that South Mimms services, tucked away in the armpit of the A1(M) and M25, is one of the electric marque’s busiest Supercharger locations. So when I arrived, four of its 12 chargers were in use – and was that another Tesla owner I could see plugging his motor in? Better collar him before he goes for that latte...
“I’ve arrived with 13% power left,” says Model S owner John Stephenson. “I wasn’t worried: a friend reckons his S was still running with minus 16%! We’ll have a coffee while it goes back to 85%. It should take around 45 minutes.”
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Linda, his wife, likes the South Mimms set-up: “There are plenty of chargers so we’ve never had to wait, but you soon learn not to use adjacent ones because they share their power and take longer to charge.”
Plenty of chargers? True, South Mimms has 12 of the totem-style chargers and during our five hours at the site no more than five were being used at any time, and the company says it has a plan to cope with growing demand in the coming years.
It’s increasing the size of existing locations, as well as rolling out additional ones. For example, its Hopwood Park services location near Birmingham has recently gained a further 10 chargers (from six to 16).
The trouble is, short of taking more car parking space, I’m not sure where it will find the room at South Mimms. Fortunately, each Supercharger powers two bays but, as Linda pointed out, they share power, meaning the charging rate drops. Better make that two lattes at Starbucks...