The Tesla Supercharger network is still one of the top reasons electric car buyers are convinced to buy a Tesla rather than another company’s electric car. The network was a critical competitive advantage we identified years ago when surveying EV drivers and potential EV drivers, and it seems to be referenced every day in comments on CleanTechnica as a core competitive advantage for the Silicon Valley EV & clean energy giant.
We are finally seeing superfast/ultrafast charging stations rise up in non-Tesla charging networks, and hey, one day we’ll have a non-Tesla electric car on the market that can charge at 100 kW or more. But rolling out vast superfast/ultrafast charging stations takes time, and a lot of money.
When I went through our Tesla archives recently to highlight the history of Tesla vehicle sales projections and Tesla Model 3 forecasts, I ran across some old Supercharger maps and announcements. I thought they were rather striking, especially since I had basically forgotten how sparse the network was just a few years ago.
Exhibit A (2011) — Longtime Tesla director of battery technology Kurt Kelty says, “We don’t need a charging infrastructure throughout the country.”
(That actually sounds quite similar to what some major automakers claim today, automakers that don’t have widespread superfast charging infrastructure available for their drivers and don’t have cars that could use such infrastructure.)
Exhibit B (2013) — A whopping 6 Superchargers in California + 2 Superchargers on the US East Coast!
Exhibit C — Also in 2013, big new Supercharger announcements (for the time). Supercharger max power gets boosted from 90 kW to 120 kW. Tesla adds lightning bolt symbol to in-car navigation so that drivers can easily find a Supercharger. Tesla starts adding grid storage at some of its Superchargers, allowing you to survive a Zombie Apocalypse if need be — or at least charge your Tesla during one. Dramatic increase in Supercharger deployment, which leads to …
Exhibit D — A January 2014 tweet from Tesla: “We’ve just opened a bunch of Superchargers to help us get closer to energizing our cross-country route!” Look at this humongous, jaw-dropping, volt-whopping network:
Exhibit E — Around the same time, Tesla patents a system allowing a charging station to prioritize charging based on need and arrival time.
Exhibit F — By the end of 2014, Tesla’s Supercharger network explodes to “884 individual charging points spread across 141 Supercharger stations, as compared to the 776 CHAdeMO charging points now operational in the US.” Check out the exciting map of the time:
Exhibit G — In the second half of 2015, Tesla is up to 487 Supercharger stations globally, with a new one opening nearly every day.
(By the way, another note at that time from TeslaMondo: “Five years ago, Tesla produced 800 cars per year. Now it can produce 800 in three days.” And one more note from Tesla on the initial Autopilot rollout, which was just about to start: This is just the beginning. Don’t treat the initial release like it’s the final one. Hmm, maybe a topic for another article. …)
Exhibit H-oly Cowabunga — This is where the Supercharger network is today, not even 5 years after Exhibit B: