Are Tesla Superchargers worth it in Australia?

Tesla EVs at Supercharging hub

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 crossover or the venerable Model S and Model X large EVs, it allows exclusive access to the automaker’s own Level 3 DC Supercharging network worldwide using a seamless ‘plug and charge’ system.

This has been widely mooted as a key reason to buy a Tesla, despite the company expanding trials to open Supercharging access for all EV models overseas. But is this reason enough to purchase a Tesla EV?

Supercharging benefits

Toombul Tesla Supercharger stall with Tesla Vehicle Charging sign on the wallImage by - Henry Man

In Australia, there are currently 48 Supercharger hubs connecting major capital cities from Perth, to Devenport and Gympie composed of either 120kW (V2) or 250kW (V3) fast charging DC stalls. The company is also planning 18 new sites across the country, but have been delayed.

At each Supercharging hub in Australia, there’s anywhere between three to 10 stalls available, so it can accommodate more Tesla EVs charging at the same time.

This is an uncommon sight as most major charging providers like Chargefox and Evie Networks usually offer a cluster of one to four DC stalls at each location instead.

Additionally, it’s often known among EV owners that Tesla Superchargers are more reliable than DC charging stalls from manufacturers like Tritium and ABB with less chances that a station will become ‘out of order’, though this hasn’t been definitively tested.

For what it’s worth, the company claims 99.96 per cent of its Superchargers globally had at least half of each site’s stalls working in 2021.

Tesla EVs also have exclusive reign over Superchargers (at least for now) and are the first to adopt ‘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.

An increasing number of EVs like new Mercedes-Benz EQ and Volkswagen ID models are featuring ‘plug and charge’ tech in Europe using select Brisbane-made Tritum DC chargers.

Tesla’s built-in navigation system automatically sets Supercharging stops if a route exceeds the vehicle’s remaining driving range, it preconditions the battery for optimal fast charging speeds if set on a Supercharger as the destination, and even tells drivers how many stalls are in use in real-time.

Supercharging disadvantages

White Tesla Model Y Supercharging

While the prevalence of Tesla Superchargers are seen as a key selling point overseas, Australia’s network is much less common and caters more to long distance interstate trips.

Tesla Superchargers (∼50) trails behind Chargefox (∼250) and Evie Networks (∼60) in the number of available public DC fast EV charging stations offered Australia wide.

Compounding this is the rapid adoption of the Model 3 small sedan in the past year, with sales figures skyrocketing from ​​only 2960 in 2020 to 12,094 in 2021 – which represents a 308 per cent increase year-on-year – and is nearly eight times more than the second-best selling EV in Australia last year, the MG ZS EV (1388).

With the long-awaited Model Y SUV coming soon, this will put more pressure on the fledgling Supercharging network Down Under.

The automaker has already placed automatic ‘high usage’ throttling rules at popular locations, which forces owners to stop charging at 80 per cent and risk incurring idle fees.

Furthermore, Tesla’s charging fees aren’t as competitive compared to other providers. In October 2020, it raised its standard Supercharging rate to $0.52 per kWh.

That’s compared to Chargefox and Evie Network’s standard of $0.40 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 a limited time), while the Queensland Electric Super Highway (QESH) costs $0.30 per kWh on 50kW chargers, and drivers who have a motoring club membership can receive at least a 20 per cent discount for each session.

Jolt is also emerging in urban Sydney and Adelaide with 25kW DC chargers at $0.40 per kWh, which starts after the limited free charging offer of up to 7kWh in capacity per day is used up, powered by advertising revenue built-into its substations.

Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Ys Supercharging

So, is it worth buying a Tesla EV just because of the Supercharging network?

While charging at home (if you're able to) is the most convenient and cheapest way to top-up your EV, there’s simply too few Tesla Superchargers available in Australia to justify the reasoning that people from other countries argue.

However, it’s known to be more reliable, more convenient with ‘plug and charge’, and the exclusive rights (for now) allows Tesla owners to essentially access all available public chargers with a Type2/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, Mercedes-Benz and more.

Figures by Danny Thai

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