Are Tesla Superchargers worth it in Australia?
It’s often argued that the Tesla Supercharging network is a key unique selling point to buy and own a Tesla electric vehicle model, but does it hold true in Australia?
Whether it's the popular Tesla Model 3 small sedan, Model Y medium SUV or the venerable Model S and Model X, Tesla EVs benefit from exclusive access to its own Level 3 fast DC Supercharging network worldwide.
This has been widely mooted as a key reason to buy a Tesla, despite the company opening some locations for all EV models.
But is is the Tesla Supercharging network a reason enough to purchase a Tesla EV?
In Australia, there are currently more than 60 Tesla Supercharging locations connecting major capital cities and towns from Perth, to Devenport and Gympie composed of either 120kW (V2) or 250kW (V3) fast-charging DC stalls.
At each site hub in Australia, there’s anywhere between three to 10 stalls available, so it can accommodate more Tesla EVs charging at the same time than any other public charging network right now.
This is an uncommon sight as most major charging providers like Chargefox and Evie Networks usually offer a cluster of one or two stalls at each location instead.
It's also known that Tesla Superchargers are more reliable than stations from manufacturers such as Tritium and ABB, with a lower chance that a stall would become ‘out of order’.
For what it's worth, Tesla claims 99.96 per cent uptime for its Superchargers globally in 2021 (with at least half of each location's stations working).
While the Supercharging network is slowly opening up to all electric car models globally, Tesla EVs still have exclusive reign over most Superchargers and benefit from cheaper charging costs than non-Tesla EVs without a subscription.
If you own any pre-2020 Model S large liftback or Model X large SUV, then only V2 Superchargers feature the proprietary Tesla Connector without the need to use a CCS plug adapter.
NOTE: Above map updated on May 19, 2022
On a similar note, many slower public AC Tesla Destination chargers are locked to Tesla EVs only, even though the wall box can juice-up any electric car model.
It's also more convenient as the first to adopt seamless ‘plug and charge’ technology, where the charger authenticates your Tesla account and payment method with the car – without needing to fumble with a mobile app or RFID card.
Tesla’s built-in navigation system also automatically plans Supercharging stops if needed, it preconditions the Tesla EV battery for optimal fast charging speeds (when only set on a Supercharger as the destination), and even tells drivers how many stalls are in use in real-time with pricing on the touchscreen.
While the prevalence of Tesla Superchargers are seen as a key selling point overseas, Australia’s network is much less common.
Its white and red chargers caters more to long distance interstate trips, instead of being prominent in metro areas.
Tesla Superchargers (∼60+) trail behind Chargefox (∼250+) and Evie Networks (∼100+) in the number of available public DC fast EV charging locations offered Australia-wide.
Compounding this is the rapid adoption of the best-selling Model 3 small sedan and Model Y medium SUV in Australia – beating the cheaper BYD Atto 3 EV last year by a significant margin – with queues likely forming during peak holiday periods.
The American company has also enforced automatic ‘high usage’ throttling rules when particular locations are popular at a given time, which forces owners to stop charging at 80 per cent and risk incurring idle fees.
Furthermore, Tesla’s charging fees aren’t as affordable compared to other providers. It now reportedly uses variable pricing depending on the time-of-day and demand, which could vary between $0.50 to $0.69 per kWh.
That’s compared to Chargefox and Evie Network’s standard rate of $0.45 per kWh on fast 50kW chargers or $0.60 per kWh on ultra-rapid 350kW chargers.
On the Chargefox network, some chargers are even free – especially slower AC stations and NRMA DC chargers (for now) – while the Queensland state government's Electric Super Highway costs $0.30 per kWh, and drivers who have a motoring club membership can receive a 20 per cent discount for each DC charging session.
Jolt is also emerging in urban Sydney, Melbourne Adelaide with DC chargers, with 7kWh free charging available daily and $0.46 per kWh thereafter.
Supercharging bottom line
So, is it worth buying a Tesla EV just because of the Supercharging network?
While charging at home is the most convenient, cheapest and reliable way to top-up your EV, there’s fewer Tesla Superchargers available in Australia to justify the reasoning that people overseas argue.
However, it’s known to be more reliable, more convenient with ‘plug and charge’, seamlessly plans Supercharging stops (essentially eliminating 'range anxiety'), and the exclusive rights (mostly) allows Tesla owners to have the peace-of-mind to essentially access all available public chargers with a Type 2/CCS2 plug in the country.
This means Tesla Superchargers can be a unique selling point in Australia – even though it shouldn’t be the only reason you choose a Tesla over the growing list of other EV competitors from the likes of BYD, Hyundai and Volvo.
Tables and figures by Danny Thai
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