Electric Vehicles

What is a Tesla Supercharger?

Tesla’s Supercharger gives Tesla owners a way to quickly recharge. (Image/Tesla)

Any conversation about electric vehicles is bound to include Tesla.

The United States-based auto manufacturer is notable not only for the electric vehicles it produces, but also for the innovations it brings to EV-related technologies.

And the Tesla Supercharger is a good example of that.

No, Not That Kind of Supercharger

If you’re new to all this, understand there are two types of superchargers now in the automotive dictionary. One refers to a forced air induction system for an internal combustion engine (AKA “a blower”) and the other alludes to a specific type of proprietary electric vehicle charger. The two have nothing in common.

1970 camaro supercharger
See that tower of chrome sticking out of this Camaro’s hood? That’s a forced induction supercharger. So yeah, it’s totally different than a Tesla Supercharger. (Image/Summit Racing)

The former is where the term comes from and its connection with awesome hot rods is probably why the word “supercharging” is engrained into America’s pop culture lexicon. Tesla simply adopted that term as a hip name for its electric vehicle charging system.

Want to really get into the weeds on engine superchargers? Read this: Blower Basics (Part 1): A Guide to Supercharger Types & Terminology

How Long Does it Take to Charge a Tesla?

In simple terms, a Tesla Supercharger is a remotely-located charging station that, according to Tesla, allows drivers to charge a Model S, Model X, or Model 3 in minutes rather than hours.

That’s because the Supercharger is substantially more powerful than a Level 1 or Level 2 charger you’d find in a residential home. Tesla says a Supercharger can deliver up to a 200-mile charge in as little as 15 minutes.

If you can plug in a vacuum cleaner, then you have the electrical know-how to charge most electric vehicles. (Image/Tesla)

Charging is a simple plug-and-play. Tesla (and most other vehicle manufacturers) are working to make the battery charging process as easy as possible. Once plugged in, charging happens automatically with no need to swipe a credit card, and you can monitor your charge via smartphone.

Can Other Electric Vehicles Use a Tesla Supercharger?

The short answer is no. Or at least not many at the moment. While Tesla has released its patents to encourage collaboration and knowledge-share within the automotive industry, adoption of Supercharger-compatible charging has been slow.

Some companies are currently building-in compatibility with Tesla Superchargers, but most mainstream EV manufacturers are instead relying on the industry standard charging parameters, and the requisite SAE J1772 EV charging connector plug. This plug allows EV owners to connect to most EV chargers in the United States.

(We’ll have another article soon that’ll delve deeper into EV charging time along with the differences in Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging.)

Teslas are equipped with a SAE J1772 plug adapter too, so owners can connect to either a standard EV charger OR a Tesla Supercharger, when available.

How Tesla Superchargers & Level 3 Charging Can Improve Electric Vehicle Adoption

Electric vehicle charging time is a big deal. You can fill a traditional car with gasoline in a few minutes and conceivably get several hundred more miles of range. So electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla are working hard to replicate that with battery electric vehicle charging systems.

As you’d imagine, quickly charging an electric vehicle battery is vitally important to improving EV practicality. That, in turn, will presumably increase the adoption of electric vehicles.

More importantly, while you can charge an electric vehicle at home or your destination, being able to charge en route is critical to quell the “range anxiety” that a lot of folks list as a reason why they’re hesitant to own an EV. (Ever been low on gas and can’t find a fill-up station? That’s what we’re talking about here…)

Where Can You Find a Supercharger Station to Charge Your Tesla?

Tesla designed and built its Superchargers to directly confront both the range anxiety and charging time concerns of current and potential electric vehicle owners.

So to understand the importance of the Tesla Supercharger means understanding that it’s not just a charging source. Rather, it’s a network of strategically-placed electric vehicle chargers, located at “Supercharger Stations,” that allows Tesla owners to recharge on the go. In simple terms, it’s the Tesla analog to a gas station.

At the time of this article, there are over 20,000 Superchargers located worldwide. Tesla is putting its Supercharger Stations at strategic points across major routes where they’ll offer most benefit to Tesla owners. (Image/Tesla)

Tesla says it’s putting Supercharger Stations near roadside restaurants, wi-fi hotspots, and shopping centers—basically most places you’d expect to see a standard filling station anyway.

Better still, Tesla’s website will show you exactly where these Supercharger Stations are, so you can plan your trip route to ensure you’ll be able to find a station when you need one.

Want to learn more?

Get the latest on Tesla’s Superchargers here.

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5 Comments

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