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California Supercharger Locations FAQ

bmah

Moderator, Model S/X, California Forums
Mar 17, 2015
3,905
7,015
Lafayette, CA, USA
TMC California Supercharger Locations FAQ
Maintained by @bmah
Last updated: 24 January 2021

A compilation of frequently-asked questions, with answers, on the “California Supercharger Locations” sub-forum on the Tesla Motors Club (TMC) Web forums (California Supercharger locations). Much of this material is applicable to Tesla Superchargers in other states and countries as well.

S. Site Selection

S1. A site close to me has been “coming soon” on the Tesla “find us” map for years. What gives?

We’ve found that it’s usually best to treat the “coming soon” sites on the Tesla “Find Us” map (Find Us | Tesla) as aspirational. Crowd-sourced sites such as TMC and supercharge.info typically have more reliable (but unofficial) information about Supercharger sites that are known to be in various states of planning or construction.

S2. That’s an odd location to put a Supercharger, why did Tesla do that?

There are a couple of explanations for this. The “coming soon” pins on Tesla’s “find us” map (Find Us | Tesla) are usually placed at the geographic center of the city where the site will be located. This is almost never the actual site of the (future) Supercharger.

If you’re looking at a site under construction or one that’s already open, note that Tesla doesn’t have absolute power to put a Supercharger station wherever it wants. There are typically negotiations involved with property owners and local governments, and there can be some utility constraints or other technical issues that can force the location of a Supercharger site.

S3. How do people find new Supercharger sites?

The “coming soon” pins on Tesla’s Supercharger map can often give hints about where to look. Some members of the community have become extremely adept at searching municipal Web sites for construction permits for Supercharger sites.

Occasionally, Tesla manages to sneak in a Supercharger without anyone in the community realizing it before it goes live. One example is Patterson - Speno Dr. (Supercharger - Patterson, CA - Speno Dr. (LIVE 29 Aug 2020, 8 V3 stalls)).


C. Construction

C1. What are the steps for construction?

As with any construction project, things usually start with selecting a site and permitting. There will often be some demolition / excavation of part of a parking lot (Superchargers are often built in existing parking lots). Tesla equipment such as charging cabinets, pedestals, etc. will usually be installed next (see T1 below). Eventually there will be some inspections from the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). A utility transformer (from PG&E, SCE, etc.) is usually the last piece of equipment to be installed. Repaving, painting, and installation of parking stops will also usually happen late in the process, as do landscaping and lighting enhancements. Tesla will do some testing, and then enable charging, usually without fanfare. Often the last thing to happen is the site showing up on the in-car navigation screen, the mobile app, and the Tesla Web site (not necessarily all at the same time). However some recent (2020) builds have seen the site show up in Tesla on-line services as “temporary closure” before the final testing steps.

C2. How long does construction of a new Supercharger take?

This process can vary widely. Usually it takes on the order of a few months from ground-breaking to power-on. Some have been a few weeks from discovery to commissioning, while others have languished for over a year in some condition (for example, Dublin (Fallon Gateway) as of late 2020).

C3. When’s it going to open?

For any given site, we don’t know. Often this isn’t until the power gets turned on and someone manages to charge there. Typically nobody outside of Tesla knows exactly, and sometimes even they don’t.

C4. Why can’t I take pictures of construction sites?

The contractors doing construction work for Tesla are often under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), which prevent them from discussing the details of their work. This has sometimes extended to admonitions to enthusiasts not to take pictures or approach the construction sites (in addition to the usual safety concerns surrounding any construction site). It's highly recommended that you politely respect these requests.


T. Technical Details

T1. What are the various parts of a Supercharger deployment?

  • Pedestal: The structure (usually ground-mounted) that holds the cable.
  • Charger cabinet: Structures with the actual charger electronics. Typically white, about 8 feet tall, and located in proximity to the pedestals.
  • Switching cabinet: Another structure similar to the charger cabinets, part of the connection between the Supercharger site and the electric utility.
  • Boost-buck transformer: Small boxes (usually white, about one foot tall) containing circuitry to make minor voltage adjustments between the utility and the Supercharger site. Can be ground-mounted or on top of other equipment. Not all sites have boost-buck transformers.
  • Utility transformer: A large metal box, usually painted green, and supplied by the electrical utility (PG&E, SCE, SMUD, et al.). Often one of the last components to be deployed, so the presence of a transformer is usually taken as a sign that a site will be powered-on soon (for some definition of “soon”).
  • Battery storage: Some Supercharger sites have Tesla Powerpacks, which are utility-scale batteries in cabinets, or Megapacks, which are batteries in a structure about the size of a small shipping container. These batteries are used for decreasing the amount of electricity used during peak utility pricing. Examples of sites with Powerpacks are Gilroy and Kettleman City. The Supercharger in Jackson has a Megapack, as do some other sites under construction in late 2020.
  • Solar panels: Some Superchargers sites have large solar panel installations. These can be mounted as a canopy over the charging stalls, to generate electricity and to provide shade for vehicles charging. Examples of solar panel-equipped Supercharger sites are Kettleman City, Firebaugh, and Tejon Ranch.
  • Pads: The concrete bases for each of the ground-mounted components. The bases for pedestals are usually pre-cast off-site.

T2. What are the different types of Superchargers?

In California, Tesla has deployed (as of late 2020) roughly five types of Supercharger pedestals.

  1. The first Superchargers (V1) were deployed in limited numbers, in the early days of the Supercharger network, beginning around 2012. They were capable of a maximum of 90kW. These were seen at the original Supercharger sites such as Tejon Ranch, Harris Ranch, and Gilroy, but have all been replaced by V2 or newer.
  2. The second-generation Superchargers (V2) are the most common as of late 2020. Initially capable of a maximum of 120kW, many were upgraded in 2019 to deliver a maximum of 150kW, with pairs of stalls being limited to a total of 150kW.
  3. Tesla deployed a limited number of V2 Supercharger pedestals with liquid-cooled cables. These were only seen at the Mountain View Supercharger in 2015, and were removed after a few months. These liquid-cooled pedestals were the predecessors of the V3 pedestals, below. (Supercharger - Mountain View, CA (12 V2 stalls))
  4. First introduced in 2017, Urban Superchargers are deployed where higher-occupancy and longer charging times are expected (such as in shopping mall parking lots in cities, as opposed to highways). Urban Supercharger stalls deliver a maximum of 75kW, but while they are deployed in pairs, charging on one “side” has no effect on the other. Urban Supercharger pedestals are somewhat smaller, with the cable hanging from one side. (Supercharging Cities)
  5. Third-generation Superchargers (V3), introduced in 2019, can deliver a maximum of 250kW per stall, with four pedestals wired together in a more flexible configuration to try to reduce the effects of throttling due to multiple cars charging. The pedestals are physically similar to V2 Superchargers, although V3 pedestals have thinner, liquid-cooled cables. (Introducing V3 Supercharging)

T3. How does Tesla make up for increased demand for Supercharging?

There are several ways that Tesla can temporarily increase Supercharger capacity. One is the use of Supercharger pallets, which include the charging electronics and three Urban Supercharger pedestals. Only two of the pedestals are configured for simultaneous use, depending on the physical topology of the parking area where the pallet is to be deployed. (Supercharger pallet - Triple urban SCs)

Tesla also has a small set of Mobile Superchargers. These consist of a Tesla Megapack (battery) on a flatbed trailer, with up to 10 Urban Supercharger stalls. These can be deployed to locations where increased Supercharger demand is anticipated, for example during heavy travel weekends such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. The Mobile Supercharger can have its battery charged before being deployed, although it has been seen to charge from utility power in the field. As of late 2020, the Mobile Supercharger trailers have only been seen in California. (Tesla Mobile Supercharger - Battery and Pedestals on Trailer)

T4. Why can’t canopy-mounted solar panels provide all the power needed to run a site?

(Provided by @ecarfan)

It can take acres of panels to run a site like Kettleman City. Even sites with just four pedestals would need far more panels than could be installed if the entire site was covered by a solar canopy. The canopy panels only serve to charge onsite batteries, which can reduce peak demand.

U. Using Superchargers

U1. How can you tell the difference between V2 and V3 pedestals?

V2 pedestals have thicker cables than V3. Also V2 pedestals are silent, whereas V3 pedestals have a faint humming noise when they’re charging a vehicle. Finally, if one gets close enough to read the labels, V2 pedestals are labeled with a number followed by a letter “A” or “B” (usually on the outside of the pedestal). V3 pedestals are labeled with a number followed by a letter from “A” to “D” (sometimes on the inner, red surface of the pedestal).

U2. Why do I sometimes see Supercharger cables looped over the top of the pedestal?

This can be an unofficial signal from an owner that the stall is out of order, and that other owners shouldn’t waste their time trying to plug in there.

U3. Why don’t I get the maximum rated charge rate at the Supercharger?

There are many factors that affect the rate of power delivery a Tesla can achieve at a Supercharger. These can include: Current state of charge of the vehicle, the vehicle’s battery pack configuration, adjustment of the Supercharger throttling curve for vehicles with certain battery packs (i.e. 85 packs), ambient air temperature, temperature of Supercharging components or the vehicle’s battery pack, sharing of power with other cars at the same Supercharger.

Please resist posting this question to a Supercharger thread unless you’re prepared to give information related to the various factors mentioned above. A post consisting of just “this Supercharger is slow” with no supporting information is likely to annoy other members or at the least get ignored.

U4. Why do some Supercharger stalls allow general parking? Shouldn’t these be dedicated for Tesla’s use?

Restrictions for parking (dedicated charging or not) are generally the result of negotiations between the property owner / landlord and Tesla, especially for Supercharger installations in shopping mall parking lots / garages. There may also be some municipal regulations regarding parking spaces as well.


F. Forum Specific

Some material in this section was incorporated from a prior post written by @ecarfan, titled “From the moderator: guidelines for this sub-forum”.

F1. When do you mark a Supercharger thread as “under construction”?

Usually this requires a post with a picture of some Tesla-branded equipment on-site (such as pedestals, pedestal bases, or charger cabinets).

F2. When do you mark a Supercharger thread as “live”?

Usually this requires a picture of someone’s car charging at a Supercharger stall. Sometimes a picture of the mobile app or nav screen with a non-zero count of available stalls will suffice. Generally we also require that barricades / cones be removed to the extent that at least one stall (preferably all of them) are accessible.

We really want to mark a site as live only when we’re reasonably certain about it, to avoid sending owners to a site that’s really not ready yet.

F3. Why is it important to stay on-topic in this forum?

Because the Supercharger threads in this Supercharger forum are often used as reference material for people traveling to or through these sites. Their value is diminished if readers have to wade through a lot of irrelevant posts.

Specifically, general discussions about EV charging can be done elsewhere. There are threads in the main California forum (California) and in the Charging Standards and Infrastructure forum (Supercharging & Charging Infrastructure) for discussions of issues like general charging congestion, other types of EV chargers, and the ever-present ongoing controversy about “locals” using Superchargers. Those topics can be discussed there, not in the California Superchargers forum.

Ask for trip planning advice in the main California forum. Most trips longer than what you can do on a single charge involve more than one Supercharger. If you need trip planning advice for trips in California, please use the main California forum.

F4. Why are the names in Supercharger thread titles sometimes confusing?

On TMC we use Tesla’s naming, as shown on the Tesla “find us” map and the in-car Nav system. Sometimes the names that Tesla chooses are non-intuitive (particularly to locals) or confusing. Examples are Gustine (located in a place normally called Santa Nella) and Bakersfield (nowhere near the city center).

F5. What if there’s no forum thread for a Supercharger?

If you can’t find a thread for the specific Supercharger location you want to post about, first use the forum search function (the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page) to make sure the thread doesn’t already exist (see item F4 about naming). As the number of California Supercharger locations grows, it can be hard to find a specific location by scrolling through the entire list of threads in this sub-forum. If you start a new thread about a Supercharger location for which there is already an existing thread, your new thread will (hopefully) be merged with the existing thread.

If you believe you have identified a brand new Supercharger location for which there is no existing thread, start a new thread following the thread title format you see in this forum. Please provide evidence in the form of building permits applied for or approved, or photos of site construction in progress. Saying “I was talking to someone and they said a new Supercharger was going to be built here” isn’t sufficient. Even if it was a Tesla employee you spoke to.

There are sticky threads for general discussions about possible future Supercharger locations in both Northern California (Superchargers in Northern California (location speculation)) and Southern California (Superchargers in Southern California (location speculation)).
 
Last edited:

bmah

Moderator, Model S/X, California Forums
Mar 17, 2015
3,905
7,015
Lafayette, CA, USA
Thanks all, I'm glad this is useful. I'm hoping that as our community grows we can just point newcomers to this FAQ rather than need to repeatedly answer common questions.

Please feel free to send corrections, suggestions, or additions (I guess either PM me or add to this thread).

Bruce.

PS.

@fritter63: LOL my hobby is really this: Superchargers Visited. I'm not keen on traveling during a pandemic, so I decided to just write about it instead.

@Chuq Good suggestion about a wider scope...someone else mentioned this to me privately also. Lemme think about that a bit more.
 

Kevy Baby

Dis-Member
Aug 11, 2019
1,880
1,856
Brea, CA
This is a post I wish I could give multiple responses to: Informative, Helpful, Thumbs Up, Love. Even as a 17-month (and counting) owner, I learned some new things.
 
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Reactions: aerodyne

floatplane

Member
Aug 4, 2019
80
75
Kirkland WA
Can I suggest one more FAQ to add? When all superchargers are occupied, what is the etiquette for starting or joining a line to charge?
I’m about to make my first road trip to CA from WA and hear the superchargers can get congested in parts of CA.
It’s never been a problem in my travels around the Pacific Northwest, when I only had to wait one time, and that was for 3 (yes, three!) minutes at Woodburn OR due to one v2 cabinet being offline due to overheating.
Thanks
 
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bmah

Moderator, Model S/X, California Forums
Mar 17, 2015
3,905
7,015
Lafayette, CA, USA
Can I suggest one more FAQ to add? When all superchargers are occupied, what is the etiquette for starting or joining a line to charge?
I’m about to make my first road trip to CA from WA and hear the superchargers can get congested in parts of CA.
It’s never been a problem in my travels around the Pacific Northwest, when I only had to wait one time, and that was for 3 (yes, three!) minutes at Woodburn OR due to one v2 cabinet being offline due to overheating.

Let me think about this for a bit. This is kind of a general ownership question, and not really specific to California. There are some places where there are fairly obvious places to form a line (like big, open parking lots) and some that are really hard (Cupertino comes to mind, or almost any Supercharger in a parking garage). In my experience (which I don't claim to be representative) if you're not traveling on holiday weekends, waiting isn't super-common common.

Bruce.
 

CalBlue 85D

Member
Aug 27, 2016
387
460
SF Bay Area
Bruce, great work on this! Very informative. The one item I would suggest is adding some information about using PlugShare to check-in and share information about different locations. I used to find a lot of great information about locations in areas that I don't normally visit from regular users would post so that I would arrive knowing what to expect. I also recall people posting contact information so that someone could text them if they needed to vacate a stall if it got busy. Lately, when I check-in I usually find that I'm the only person who has checked in for several months. Oh well.
 
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floatplane

Member
Aug 4, 2019
80
75
Kirkland WA
Bruce, great work on this! Very informative. The one item I would suggest is adding some information about using PlugShare to check-in and share information about different locations. I used to find a lot of great information about locations in areas that I don't normally visit from regular users would post so that I would arrive knowing what to expect. I also recall people posting contact information so that someone could text them if they needed to vacate a stall if it got busy. Lately, when I check-in I usually find that I'm the only person who has checked in for several months. Oh well.
I concur. I just completed a trip to CA from WA and used 12 different superchargers on 19 occasions. Even if I forgot to check in on PlugShare at the time, I’d do so later. Still, I often was the only check in on PlugShare for that location for days or weeks despite being surrounded by others charging at the same time as I was.
 

Chisale

Member
Sep 28, 2019
217
195
Ohio
Great post. Very informative. Especially great advice about posting on the forum. One very annoying post that is quite frequent is the variety: "I stopped at the supercharger construction site today and it's still not operational." Sometimes this type of posting goes on for several pages.
 

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