Tesla’s Quarter-Megawatt Supercharger Enables Fasts Model 3 Pit Stops
Tesla this week announced unprecedented charging rates — meaning the amount of power delivered, not the cost — for the Tesla Model 3 on the latest version of Tesla’s public-areas network, now called Supercharger V3. At a Supercharger 3 network, a Tesla Model 3 Long Range can add 75 miles of charge in five minutes and charge at rates of up to 1,000 miles (of range added) per hour. The Model 3 will charge at up to 250,000 watts (250 kW) for brief periods, or a quarter of a megawatt.
With no standards body or squabbling tech committee members to get in the way, Tesla continues to push the pace of progress on its proprietary Supercharger network. Tesla owners should enjoy the fun while it lasts. Future or expanded fast-charge stations, at least those on public property, will most likely require charging be open to all automakers and technologies. Longer lines may be possible.
Here’s what we gleaned from the March 6 announcement on the Tesla blog and from talking with Tesla gurus:
The advances of Supercharger V3 start with the Tesla Model 3. Other Teslas will get some or most of the capabilities later. Existing cars will need over-the-air updates, as with most any advance in Tesla technology, but it’s seamless. The Model 3 driver will need to use the car to find and navigate to the desired Supercharger site. Tesla will use the drive-time to prep the battery, particularly with what Tesla calls On-Route Battery Warmup, “to ensure you arrive at the optimal temperature to charge, [potentially] reducing average charge times for owners by 25 percent.”
The fastest charge rate, up to 250 kW, pumped into the Model 3 Long Range (75-kWh battery, 310-mile range, $43,000 list) appears to be for a brief period when the battery is nearly drained. However, if you use the car’s battery power to warm the battery, you’d potentially run out of juice before you got to the charging site. We assume Tesla prioritizes getting you there under your own power. The maximum effects — more charge in less time — requires the Tesla V3 chargers that are just rolling out. There is no software switch sent to existing V2 chargers to make them V3. However, Tesla says it is “unlocking” its 12,000-plus V2 Superchargers “over the coming weeks” to allow up to 145-kW charging rates for non-Tesla Model 3 vehicles.
Tesla says the combination of faster charging rates, pre-warming, and more Supercharger devices “enables customers to charge in half the time and Tesla to serve more than twice the number of customers per hour.” Tesla shows one column chart that explains how the time gets halved: Battery Warmup and 250 kW charging.
Tesla Supercharger sites are located at toll road service areas, at some interstate highway interchanges, at Tesla services centers, and in some big urban garages or office parks. But not at home: The power delivered to a single-family home would bring in only one-tenth of the power needed for a single SuperCharger hookup. Supercharging V3 brings with it a new 1-megawatt (1 mW) power cabinet, capable of sending up to 1 million watts of charging power total to several vehicles connected to that segment. An adjacent vehicle doesn’t take from the max power available to your Tesla, unlike in the past.
The 250-kW rate may be short-term: less than 10 minutes, maybe just 5. But no matter how Tesla calculates, the idea the Model 3 can take on enough just for “up to 75 miles [suggesting city and not highway range]” is excellent. Getting to 80 percent charge, based on a Tesla-charging video, suggests you’ll be at the SuperCharge site for just under a half-hour.