All about Charging a Tesla

Since we're in the pioneer days of cross-country electric car travel, it takes a bit more planning to take a long trip in a Tesla Model S than in a VW Squareback.   Luckily, we have some modern tools at our disposal.

First, there is the Supercharger map, available on the Tesla Motors site.  This page has the names and addresses of all the currently operating Supercharger locations.  It also has a slider that can peek into the future for the planned infrastructure over the next few years.

The Supercharger network today.

The Supercharger network today.

The Supercharger network later this year.

The Supercharger network later this year.

One nice thing about Models S is that they have a universal charger built-in.  That means with the right adapter, you can plug them in to just about any kind of power.

NEMA 14-50 Wall Outlet

NEMA 14-50 Wall Outlet

For example, I have a 200 amp electric service to my house.  That means that I could put in the High Power Wall Charger (HPWC) in my garage for a recharge at a rate of about 53 mph.   But I really don't need it.  I have a NEMA 14-50 charger in my garage that charges at a rate of 23 mph.   In a typical day, I drive less than 30 miles, so a top-off recharge takes a little more than an hour.  It is literally the same level of effort as charging any other electronic device like your mobile phone or iPad.

Think about how much it costs to build a gas station.  We've had a century to install giant tanks of petrochemicals underground, often in rust-prone containers with the possibility of leaching into the ground water, not to mention the possibility of explosions and toxic fumes.   Gas stations are bright and gaudy and make most of their money from selling beer and soda anyway.  I'm not going to miss them when they are gone.

Now think about the infrastructure required to install an electrical transformer with a high voltage DC outlet.    You run a big wire, hook it up to a transformer and some fat DC charging cables with a plug on the end.  The permits and environmental impact studies alone for a petrol station are likely more than the cost of an entire Supercharger installation.

In October, we took the Tesla about 100 miles away to the Lake Louisa state park.  What people don't realize is that the electric infrastructure is far better developed than the petroleum infrastructure.  Lake Louisa happened to have an RV campground with electric service.   What kind of electric service is available at RV Parks?   You guessed it, NEMA 14-50 240v 50 amp service.   The rangers were kind enough to let me park my Tesla in an empty spot and charge overnight for free while we stayed in nearby cabins.

Here's what you don't want to do.  You don't want to charge with an ordinary 110v wall plug.  That is only 15 amps of service.  It charges at a  rate of about 6 miles per hour, which is pointless, really.   When I first got my car, I had not installed the 240v service, and after plugging it in over night and still having 24 hours of charging left, I got the new service hooked up post haste.

But the good news is that we've had the same amount of time to build up our electric infrastructure as we have had to build up our petroleum infrastructure.   The last (264) mile problem has been solved.   Apps like Recargo can help with trip planning as well.  

That, and a good attitude will get you pretty far.

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