Supercharger Anxiety

Supercharger Anxiety

We are all familiar with the term 'Range Anxiety'. Tesla has solved this with the superchargers, but has created a related anxiety: 'Supercharger Anxiety'. This anxiety appears to arise from three concerns: 1) Will all the supercharger stalls be occupied when I arrive, either by other cars charging or ICEd; 2) Will only a single spot be open and therefore I will have to split the charge and thus prolong my stopover and 3) Will the supercharger be functional. I have experienced all three. Last summer, multiple stalls at the Tejon Ranch supercharger were down when I arrived (another thread today indicates this has happened again). This week, I drove to Vegas from Southern California via the Barstow supercharger. I experienced anxiety about all spots being occupied and/or only a single spot being open. Both turned out to be true on the outbound and inbound trips. While this does not bother me, it is a major problem for my wife and kids. This is the crowd Tesla needs to make happy to get widespread adoption of BEV.

I think Tesla is working to fix 'Supercharge Anxiety' with more supercharges and more stalls per site (this approach has appeared to work at Gilroy). However, I would have preferred that they had first focused on improving the high-use supercharges like Barstow before making a cross-country route that very few will use.

Bighorn | April 21, 2014

Excellent--if you need anything while in WY, let me know. I'm headed down through Casper to Denver today.

Volleyguy | April 21, 2014

Does anyone ever wonder about this whole model? Is it sustainable?

What is the expected cost to Tesla over say 10+ years of MS life?

Does one really think model E people will really pay for something that MS get for free?

Thomas N. | April 21, 2014

@ Damian

"How does that work exactly. I would have assumed you were either behind one of the 3 lanes or perhaps the number one spot in a WAIT LANE, like they do at a bank where various windows open up gradually. How could she have pulled ahead of you?"

There are six stalls at Tejon. 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B. When the SUV pulled in there was still one available spot left for a Tesla should one have arrived. Perhaps that was why she thought "who cares?".

mb30 | April 21, 2014

Why didn't Tesla build in a way to prevent ICE cars from parking in the spots? It seems like a really simple thing - like an arm coming down in front of the spot, or spikes that retract into the floor. The spots can sense a Tesla (or other compatible cars in the future if that happens) and let the person into the spot. This doesn't seem very expensive if done during the construction and i'm pretty sure the care has the proper sensors to activate the devices in this manner.

tes-s | April 21, 2014

@volley - at $2500 per car, I believe it is sustainable. If Tesla finds it is not, they can simply add more to the purchase price to make sure it is. The most difficult part is building coverage when there are few cars - high installation cost for low usage. As there are more Teslas, their will be higher utilization to amortize the supercharger cost - so adding capacity for congestion is easy.

@mb - there is no more need to prevent parking in charging spots than for preventing parking in handicapped spots. Better to save the cost of the barriers and build more EV charging. Over time, I think laws and regulations will adapt to be similar to handicapped - a required number of charging spaces, and fines for illegal parking. | April 21, 2014


Vokerize the topic around SC sustainability--been covered before and you will find some threads that lay out the math behind it. BTW, no one gets the SC for free--we all pay for it one way or the other. :)


wizexo | April 21, 2014

Haven't gotten my S yet, delivery June 15th, but drove my ICE from CT to NYC for Rangers game yesterday on the Merritt Parkway.

Drove past the Greenwich, CT SC's at about 10:30AM, and then back to CT around 4:40. All of the SC's spots had been ICE'd with SUV's. I know it was Easter and lots of traveling going on, but I do see this as the biggest problem.

Michael | April 21, 2014

While we do have an embarrassment of SC riches in CA, I still understand the OP's point. I use the Fremont SC all the time, so I am well aware of busy time periods and adjust my trips accordingly. However, if I needed to hit Gilroy or Hawthorne, I would not have a clue when they are busy, so I do run the risk showing up and finding a line of Tesla's in front of me.

A while back, I passed a suggestion to Ownership that they post historical hourly usage for each SC on the SC page, so for those of us planning trips, we could figure when "rush hour" typically is and plan accordingly. I would also love a real-time feed, but I am figuring its going to be a while before Tesla's SW elves get to something like that.


tes-s | April 21, 2014

@wizexo - I drive by Greenwich all the time, and occasionally charge there, including on Saturday. Saturday saw one other MS, other than that all other spots were open. Never had or seen a problem where an MS could not pull in and charge.

mdemetri | April 21, 2014

Yes, the spots being ICEd is a major part of the anxiety and I have updated the original post to reflect this.

@Damian - 'Clarification for number 2 "2) Will only a single spot be open and therefore I will have to split the charge and thus prolong my stopover" '. Each supercharger (90kw or 120kw) is split between two stalls. The first car gets the full 90kw or 120kw if the other stall is empty. If you plug in to the second stall you will get much less than half of the power of the supercharger (i.e. <45kw or <60kw) until the first car starts to ramp down as it nears a full charge. This increases supercharging time by 2 or greater depending on the status of the first car on the shared supercharger. For example, when I was the final car to plug in at Barstow I was charging at 75mph, whereas when I was alone at the Vegas supercharger I charged at ~290mph (both starting from ~50 rated miles).

Sustainability needs to include pro-active measures to prevent 'Supercharger Anxiety'. Building more stalls at busy superchargers is a must. But as others have suggested above, Tesla should have an app that tells us what the status of any supercharger is prior to our arrival, including which stall is the best to plug into if other cars are charging. We should also be able to report ICEd spots to Tesla, with them dispatching a tow truck for removal.

Volleyguy | April 21, 2014

Thanks I will look for the thread. Curious to these numbers.

Brian H | April 22, 2014

Think of it as a cheaper and more productive way to spend their marketing budget than TV ads.

TFMethane | April 22, 2014

@mb Parking arms are just one more thing to break, then the spot is unavailable to everyone. Also, imagine a malfunctioning spike taking out a tire in a non-spare-having Tesla. Not worth it for the infrequency of the ICEing problem.

bp | April 22, 2014

On my weekend trip, encountered two ICEs blocking parking spaces at a supercharger located at a hotel.

I immediately e-mailed Ownership - and they responded immediately that they would contact the hotel.

At my destination, I stayed at a hotel I had used several months ago. At that time, ICEs were blocking all but one of the EV charging spots - even though there were signs (like at the Tesla SC) indicating the spots were for EV charging.

I e-mailed the hotel manager - and he responded that he would research several options and implement an improvement.

This time, none of the spots were blocked by EVs. They have a sign posted near the spots warning drivers that cars parked blocking spots will be towed. And they had repainted the pavement for the EV charging spots with very large signs on the pavement indicating the spots were reserved for EV charging.

The combination of the towing sign and the extremely visible signs painted on the parking spots - seems to have done the trick. Even though the lot was pretty full, and these spots are located next to the door - no one parked in them.

While an arm or some other solution might help - Tesla could try doing something similar with some of the SCs - posting a towing warning and repainting the parking spots - and see if that helps.

TomServo | April 22, 2014

As a Volt owner having witnessed other EV's being ICE's I wonder if Tesla should start installing their SC network on "Tesla Property" and not leased etc space in area's like mall's etc. You don't see cars blocking fuel pumps at gas stations.

Just a thought going forward which BTW is why I own TWO Volt's, am operating over 94% of the grid, but in those instannces I need to wander from home I just go w/o much thought or planning.


Volleyguy | April 22, 2014

Exactly and what I meant about the current model of the SC's. No one complains about other car companies SC network. The problem being if they owned the land??? Now costs are going up...

Ohmman | April 22, 2014

I think the OP has a good point. It's an area of concern for me as well. As far as expanding the network for better coverage vs. upgrading existing superchargers, I'd argue that upgrading makes sense in some cases. This is a case of managing expectations. If a SC is advertised, drivers expect to be able to SC. If there's no SC in a location, drivers don't expect it.

Barstow seems to be an area of upgrade that would benefit the company as a whole. Remember that the marketable base in LA is still very, very large. If LA residents hear of troubles at local SCs, that's a very big deal for Tesla. If Tesla doesn't have or offer a SC in South Dakota, expectations are not that they have one, so drivers will make appropriate plans to work around the lack of SC (while complaining, I recognize).

Full disclosure - I haven't used Barstow, and don't have any plans to do so anytime in the future. I'd love an I-80 route but my vote is to make sure existing SCs are serviced and of appropriate capacity.

tes-s | April 22, 2014

Serviced - yes!

Appropriate capacity - yes! But appropriate capacity can be achieved through expansion (increased capacity) or adding alternate locations (lower demand).

Ohmman | April 22, 2014

Agreed, if expansion means intermediate locations on existing routes. I'd argue that from a permitting and installation standpoint, that's a more difficult solution - but not being educated on it, I admit I don't know for sure.

tes-s | April 22, 2014

I'm sort of thinking the gas station model. Around here, there are not many "superstations". 8 to 16 pumps is pretty typical. But they are everywhere.

I was thinking something similar for superchargers.

And I like the app that shows the stall-status at the superchargers, like Chargepoint does. If a supercharger is busy, you can just stop at the next one.

church70 | April 22, 2014

I noticed supercharge station south of Pittsburgh had a sign saying cars could park there for up to 30 minutes but maybe that was part of the deal with Burger King or whatever restaurant it was

Newampster | April 22, 2014

There were 12 SC's when I took delivery of my M85. In Jan I drove 600 miles in snow from NH to VA and then shipped my baby to Scottsdale, because there were no SC's or slow chargers that would allow a reasonable route. I leave later today for a 3600 mi trip from Scottsdale to NH. I am delighted that the trip is possible and will report any Supercharger Anxiety issues. Personally, I think it only occurs in California.

dramingly | April 22, 2014

Definitely a real issue (before everyone starts jumping down my throat, like they did the OP's, I understand that we're early in the game, it's a huge improvement from even a year ago, etc).

For instance, I am planning to drive down to Baltimore from the New York area over Memorial Day weekend. Distance is maybe 180 miles. I will not be able to charge (other than maybe a 120 volt charger) and will probably do some local driving in town, so it would be perfect to stop at the Newark supercharger on the way down so I can be sure to make it home. However, with only 4 stations over a busy travel weekend, I have "Supercharger anxiety" and am considering taking my wife's horrible mileage hybrid SUV instead.

Ohmman | April 22, 2014

@church70, I see these signs at the Vacaville location as well, but I think they imply that Teslas should only charge for 30 minutes max (when cars are waiting). At least, that's my interpretation.

@newampster, you're probably right for now. Ownership density is much higher in CA. Hopefully what's learned here will roll out eastward to avoid any similar situations your way. Good luck on the trip!

Thomas N. | April 22, 2014

There are two of those signs at the Harris Ranch Superchargers as well. 4 stalls have normal signage and two stalls (back-in) say something about parking for only 45 minutes. My assumption was that patrons of Harris Ranch could use those two spots for up to 45 minutes without requiring an EV.

Your interpretation makes more sense since these two stalls seem to be newer and have more combined power between them.

tes-s | April 22, 2014

@dramingly - I have charged in Newark at least 5 times in the past 2 months, and only once seen another MS there.

It would be nice to see more chargers there, and perhaps there will be chargers in the Maryland rest areas they are rebuilding now.

dramingly | April 22, 2014

tes-s- That's nice to know.

I think the cheap way (for future installs) to prevent ICEing is to put the spots in the back. The reason they are taken by regular cars is usually because the drivers are too lazy to park further away (probably 90%) or resentful that they don't get a preferred spot (a small minority). Putting them in a safe, but not prime spot would largely eliminate the problem. It's like that at the JFK charger.

Thomas N. | April 22, 2014

The Tejon Ranch Superchargers are literally up on a hill and the very farthest spots from anything. They have a canopy, however, and that makes them more desirable than a spot right in front of a restaurant.

church70 | April 22, 2014

Just start keying in the cars that'll stop the problem LOL. JK

tes-s | April 22, 2014

The Newark supercharger location is interesting. It is right by the door that buses use. There are handicapped spaces, and some regular spaces, where the supercharger is. But most people would not drive to that part of the lot or even know there was parking there. Have not seen an ICEing problem there.

I think people are starting to get it. In Darien North two spaces used to get ICEd, so they put cones there. Now no cones, and no ICEing.

hamer | April 22, 2014

@tes-s and others: The Newark superchargers are in a terrible spot, since they are right by the doors, and thus ICE cars will park there. I agree that they should be in the least desirable locations.

church70 | April 22, 2014

The problem is with that is it cost more or it might cost more the reason they tend to be in the best spot is because it's cheaper to run the power

tes-s | April 22, 2014

@harner - have you seen ICE parked there? I've been there several times and have not. Most people don't even know there is car parking in that part of the lot.

hamer | April 22, 2014

@tes-s: I have not seen an ICE parked there. But I think putting those spaces right next to the building without the power to tow violators is asking for trouble.

Tiebreaker | April 22, 2014

To OP: Yeah, instead of expanding nationally, Tesla should just super-build up California superchargers and reinforce the notion that MS is a warm-weather California-only plaything for the rich.

plusplusjames | April 22, 2014

I had the same experience at Newark, DE on Sunday night. All stalls taken on arrival and when I could connect, it was slow. It was an excuse to go chat up other Teslans. I like the idea of being able to report problems from the car and seeing usage reports on the map before arriving.

Traffic on I-95 was nuts this past weekend!

Ohmman | April 22, 2014

@Tiebreaker -- I personally prioritize quality over quantity. Supporting existing infrastructure doesn't reinforce anything except the notion that they'll take care of their customers, at least in my opinion.

mdemetri | April 22, 2014

@Tiebreaker - re-read the post, I never said to do that. Places like Barstow will likely see at least 50-100X more use than superchargers in the middle of the country (e.g. California population ~38 million, Wyoming population ~600K). So yes, the priority should be where the most customers are located and the busiest SC. I know of no other business that is successful that does not prioritize where most of its customers are located.

Tiebreaker | April 22, 2014


"However, I would have preferred that they had first focused on improving the high-use supercharges like Barstow before making a cross-country route that very few will use."

It works perfectly if you are conveniently located near Barstow. Not good for the global acceptance.

mdemetri | April 22, 2014

"Preferred that they first focused on..." is far different than "Tesla should just super-build up California superchargers..".

church70 | April 22, 2014

To his defense he is simply saying that they should add more support to busy locations
Tesla has the money they can double up if they needed to I don't know why they don't

rallykeeper | April 22, 2014

While I appreciate the desire to expand the Supercharger network beyond California, I think that Tesla has actually fallen behind in Southern California -- not overbuilt it.

Southern California has ~23 million residents. That's 7% of America.

We deserve at least 7% of the superchargers and depending on how you define our region, we don't quite have that. On a market-adjusted basis (Southern California maybe has >20% of all Teslas ever sold), for all the reasons discussed in this thread, we need a lot more than that. That doesn't mean the rest of the country doesn't need more chargers too, but we should at least be keeping pace.

Tesla was so focused on the cross-country excursion that it fell behind on its own backyard with only Atescedero and Buellton coming online in Southern California within the last 12 months (and that was last July!).

Tesla obviously has some difficulty with Superchargers in Southern California with Primm, expansion at Barstow, 395 route, San Juan Capistrano and Ventura all falling behind. When all those get built out, I might concede that Tesla has adequately built out Southern California.

Northern California has done much better with its Supercharger roll-out and I hope they emulate that model throughout the country and the world. They really should start with their largest (2nd largest?) market, Southern California.

Pungoteague_Dave | April 22, 2014

@rallykeeper - Superchargers are there to escape from S. Cal, not to use within S. Cal. Perhaps more of the former, less of the latter is in order. ;^)

Seriously, it isn't at all about population density. In fact, it is the opposite of that. The sparser the population, the more a Supercharger is required. They are to be used where people DON'T live. Where they live, people already have (or should have) the means to charge.

BTW, no one "deserves" a Supercharger. Looking at the map, you have what you need, except that some residents feel entitled to not take care of their own charging requirements at home and/or work, and choose to use the Superchargers as their primary weekly charging tool. Shame on them for hurting the Tesla mojo.

Pungoteague_Dave | April 22, 2014

Another point - Superchargers, on average, are very little used. The most recent numbers show that the entire worldwide Supercharger network barely charges as many batteries in a month as a single high-volume gas station serves fill-ups. S. Cal appears to be the exception because in my roughly two-dozen times using a Supercharger, from Delaware to Southern Florida, I have seen only two other Teslas being charged.

mdemetri | April 22, 2014

Population density=more cars trying to escape=more superchargers/stalls

rallykeeper | April 22, 2014

@Pungoteague_Dave. Sloppy language on my part. Of course, no one "deserves" a supercharger, any more than any of us deserve our Tesla's.

I'd echo @mdemetri on density and escapage, but also point out that the Southern California map might be misleading to a non-resident.

You can't reliably travel to San Diego and back because Tesla has failed to deliver on that supercharger.

You can't reliably drive to Vegas without expecting very long waits (turning a 4 hour drive into potentially a 5 or 6 hour one).

You can't reliably drive up the 395.

Moreover, the only route that has decent coverage (the SF/LA route) isn't as traveled as San Diego-LA and LA/San Diego to Vegas. I have no evidence of this other than anecdotal and my own inclinations, but I think Model S owners are far more likely to fly the SF/LA route than drive. Free or not, it's still a 5-6 hour drive.

APU | April 22, 2014

U want a black hole of superchargers....visit Idaho. I am hoping and praying that we get a few here by the end of the year. I'm sure they are many who are chomping at the bit to see the route from SLC to Portland, OR finished soon...hopefully by the end of the year or sooner.

Rocky_H | April 22, 2014

No kidding. I see these comments about, "I had to sit and wait 30 to 60 minutes. It was the worst experience of my life!" And I compare that to having to sit at an RV park for 4+ hours and wonder what their problem is. Turning a 5 hour drive into a 9 hour drive is painful.

Thomas N. | April 22, 2014

It wasn't the worst experience of my life by any means but I was visibly annoyed by my wait. Not so much because all of the Superchargers were full but because there was an open spot that wasn't working and from my own experience and other people that have reported back here that has been the case for at least a couple of weeks.

I have made the Southern California to Northern California drive many times in an ICE and it takes me six hours on average. Heading North it took us 8 hours and heading South it took us almost 9 hours. That's a 50% increase in the amount of time! Over 30 minutes of that time was spent sitting in my car waiting for a Supercharger to free up and then an hour waiting for it to charge. That's a 90 minute stop for me and at 75mph average speed I could have been 112 miles down the road in an ICE.

So my 6 hour drive turned into a 9 hour drive - not far off from your example above. And the entire time at my destination I used a welder plug to gain 29mph of charge rate so that I could be out and about.

All of these problems are first world problems. I'm sure there's somebody somewhere in the world trying to get a warm meal tonight that doesn't want to hear about sitting in an RV park for 4+ hours charging.

It's all relative.

tes-s | April 22, 2014

+1 APU. I'm still looking forward to the first supercharger in MA. Sure CA has 5x the population, but there are plenty of Teslas in MA and not even one supercharger??

Cry be a river about waiting in line. I'll bet the total wait/charge time is much less than my charge time at a L2.

I like Elon's statement to his team in China - spend money as fast as you can without wasting it. Wish they had that attitude here - then there would be no debate about expanding in CA and building out critical routes in the rest of the country. They could simply do both.