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Do supercharger users not care about price?

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
359
524
Sunnyvale, CA
I am curious to collect opinions from people on how much supercharger users care about price. (Obviously I mean the ones who pay, not those with older Model S and unlimited charging.)

Looking at two Superchargers near me which are very close together, less than 2 miles apart on Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino
What's interesting is it's not unusual in the evening to see the older one full or nearly full, while the other has a similar number of users and is thus less than half full. This happens even though one is double the price of the other. Indeed, Tesla does the peak pricing at more popular chargers to drive people over to others, yet it's not clear how much it's working.

Now too be clear, the Cupertino Main Street is a much nicer location to hang out, with better restaurants, people around and a nice nighttime vibe. The other is more suburban strip mall but has better shopping. (It has decent restaurants, ignore the Tesla web page.) However, another couple miles down the same road is Santana Row, which is a major attraction with tons of restaurants and shopping, free (but usually full) destination chargers and a Valet supercharger as well as self-park. As far as supercharger locations go, Santana Row is 10/10, Cupertino Main Street is 9/10 and the Target is 7/10 -- still well above average. CMS is an artificial attempt at a downtown in a town whose former best guess at a downtown was the cluster of retail around the Target supercharger. A new bigger one is coming in between the two. CMS is also 1/4 mile from Apple HQ.

But at double the price? Try to imagine if there were two gas stations not far apart where one was $3/gallon and the other $6/gallon. As we know, the $3 one would get a line around the block and have a wait that compares to the time for a supercharge.

Electricity for EVs is of course cheaper than gasoline. At 24c/kwh, a typical 50kwh charge is $12 and the peak-time charge is $24. That seems like enough of a difference to notice. Add to this having 250kw chargers vs paired 150kw and the cheaper one will also be decently faster. And the greater risk of a wait at the smaller charger.

So, obviously all things being equal, people would pick Cupertino Main Street (or Santana) but at double the price for a slower charge? It's interesting to contrast the desires of Tesla drivers vs. others. As urban area chargers, the people there are not road trippers passing through town, they are mostly locals who don't have charging in their own homes. Such folks, usually renters, should be a bit more conscious of cost, though this is course a very rich town. (At home it's 18c/kwh, or $9, with the huge advantage that it happens at home while you sleep. Even though these are the closest chargers to me, I have only visited once in 4 years, back when I had only level 1.)

So I get that Tesla drivers may not be too money motivated and are more conscious of what they do with their time, so don't tell me that. Instead tell me specifics about how this decision goes down for you.
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
359
524
Sunnyvale, CA
When you're paying >47K for a vehicle, you are probably not too concerned about charging prices.
From a psychological standpoint, perhaps. As you may know, a Tesla is actually cheaper than the similar gasoline car (if there is one.) Over the life of the car you will spend less in total cost of ownership, in large part because you get energy for so much less. Though not if you go to 48c/kwh superchargers.
 
From a psychological standpoint, perhaps. As you may know, a Tesla is actually cheaper than the similar gasoline car (if there is one.) Over the life of the car you will spend less in total cost of ownership, in large part because you get energy for so much less. Though not if you go to 48c/kwh superchargers.
The people sensitive to "fuel" prices are lower-income and are unlikely to drive Tesla(s).
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
359
524
Sunnyvale, CA
The people sensitive to "fuel" prices are lower-income and are unlikely to drive Tesla(s).
Sort of. If they were rational they would realize that the Tesla is the cheapest car to buy. However, they are not very rational about it. But those who do buy Teslas are either people with more wealth, or people who are looking for the lowest cost (but have or can borrow enough to pay more now and less later.)

But anyway, even accepting your point, it's a rare person who doesn't care about paying $24 for something that's available for $12 just down the street. Even when rich. At 48c/kwh you are paying more than the cost of gasoline in an efficient hybrid car. If you said, "I will get an EV, and save on gasoline" it doesn't work at 48c. But if Tesla buyers don't care at all, then even 48c is too low and they should jump it to 60c and be able to put in more stations.
 
If you're using the car's nav system, it's easy to just go to whatever supercharger fits your route and not have a clue about the rates. In fact, I think you have to dig a bit to know the rates before you plug in. I recently drove a 7 hour road trip and hadn't a clue about rates at individual chargers, I was just happy to have a place to charge.

Also, while I agree with the $6 vs $3 gasoline comparison, it might be better to think of it as $10 vs $20... and while that's mathematically equivalent, it's less money. In an area where home values are 5-10 times the national average, many people might just not bother to look at the rates.

If course, as you mentioned, a bunch of those people sitting at the SC could be charging for free.
 
Last edited:

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
359
524
Sunnyvale, CA
For most it is not easy to see the pricing as it is not posted. Yes one can dig but that is not easy at 70mph.
This can be a factor, but there is no "dig." Just click on the supercharger (which you must do to nav to it) and it tells you the price.
But also, these are the locals who charge here all the time, not road trippers. There are no road trippers going through Cupertino at 7pm.
 
Sort of. If they were rational they would realize that the Tesla is the cheapest car to buy. However, they are not very rational about it. But those who do buy Teslas are either people with more wealth, or people who are looking for the lowest cost (but have or can borrow enough to pay more now and less later.)
That's not how it works.

Someone who is lower income would struggle with a higher down payment as well as obtaining financing and paying a higher interest rate.
 

bradtem

Robocar consultant
Dec 18, 2018
359
524
Sunnyvale, CA
That's not how it works.

Someone who is lower income would struggle with a higher down payment as well as obtaining financing and paying a higher interest rate.
Yes, I said that. I know how it works. Oddly, it's not how it should work, perhaps because banks are not yet smart enough. EV makers should actually fix this by doing financing (The big car OEMs make more money from financing than they do from selling cars, so this is a very natural business for them.)

If I want to buy an EV, and I can show ( pretty easy if I use the bank's credit card) that I am spending $2K/year on gasoline and $500 on maintenance, then the bank should be willing to loan me a fair bit more to buy an EV, because I will have at least $1500 or more extra money available each year to make payments. Now, would it loan me $15K extra, the typical premium of an EV? Perhaps not, because they want to pay off the car in 5 years, so you will only benefit from a fraction of those savings in the first 5 years, and those savings will come over the 15-20 year life of the EV. (Or so we think, no Tesla is that old.)

But the banks should definitely loan you more for an EV.

A friend of mine has a new startup, called SpringFreeEV which effectively tries to do this by renting EVs out to those who can't come up with the initial money. More things like this will come. I know they are not common yet.
 
For me, that's about $10 vs $20 for a charging stop. Neither one is expensive. All things equal I of course take the $10, but if that station is less convenient in some way and I need some electrons, the extra $10 isn't a big deal, no.

$100 to get a tank of $6 gasoline? That's another story :)

Roughly my approach as well, sort of. I don't charge at home, I go to the nearest Target parkinglot after 7pm and charge for $0.24/kWh. If I'm out about town, on a road trip, or in some other way find it inconvenient to hit a Supercharger after 7pm - I just go anyway and fill up because "once in a while" isn't going to deplete my kid's college fund.
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Moderator
Nov 28, 2018
14,589
18,665
Riverside Co. CA
am curious to collect opinions from people on how much supercharger users care about price. (Obviously I mean the ones who pay, not those with older Model S and unlimited charging.)

But, thats the thing. The real interesting piece of data that would be totally relevant to that, is how many of those people in the more expensive supercharger are actually PAYING (and thus care), vs "free unlimited supercharging" and thus dont care.

If you are not paying at all, how much it costs doesnt matter but amenities around the station do matter. If you are traveling, the amenities matter, and might outweigh the difference in cost (traveling = vacation).

The only time they dont matter is if someone is paying, and not traveling (a local without home charging).
 
I am curious to collect opinions from people on how much supercharger users care about price. (Obviously I mean the ones who pay, not those with older Model S and unlimited charging.)

Looking at two Superchargers near me which are very close together, less than 2 miles apart on Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino
What's interesting is it's not unusual in the evening to see the older one full or nearly full, while the other has a similar number of users and is thus less than half full. This happens even though one is double the price of the other. Indeed, Tesla does the peak pricing at more popular chargers to drive people over to others, yet it's not clear how much it's working.

Now too be clear, the Cupertino Main Street is a much nicer location to hang out, with better restaurants, people around and a nice nighttime vibe. The other is more suburban strip mall but has better shopping. (It has decent restaurants, ignore the Tesla web page.) However, another couple miles down the same road is Santana Row, which is a major attraction with tons of restaurants and shopping, free (but usually full) destination chargers and a Valet supercharger as well as self-park. As far as supercharger locations go, Santana Row is 10/10, Cupertino Main Street is 9/10 and the Target is 7/10 -- still well above average. CMS is an artificial attempt at a downtown in a town whose former best guess at a downtown was the cluster of retail around the Target supercharger. A new bigger one is coming in between the two. CMS is also 1/4 mile from Apple HQ.

But at double the price? Try to imagine if there were two gas stations not far apart where one was $3/gallon and the other $6/gallon. As we know, the $3 one would get a line around the block and have a wait that compares to the time for a supercharge.

Electricity for EVs is of course cheaper than gasoline. At 24c/kwh, a typical 50kwh charge is $12 and the peak-time charge is $24. That seems like enough of a difference to notice. Add to this having 250kw chargers vs paired 150kw and the cheaper one will also be decently faster. And the greater risk of a wait at the smaller charger.

So, obviously all things being equal, people would pick Cupertino Main Street (or Santana) but at double the price for a slower charge? It's interesting to contrast the desires of Tesla drivers vs. others. As urban area chargers, the people there are not road trippers passing through town, they are mostly locals who don't have charging in their own homes. Such folks, usually renters, should be a bit more conscious of cost, though this is course a very rich town. (At home it's 18c/kwh, or $9, with the huge advantage that it happens at home while you sleep. Even though these are the closest chargers to me, I have only visited once in 4 years, back when I had only level 1.)

So I get that Tesla drivers may not be too money motivated and are more conscious of what they do with their time, so don't tell me that. Instead tell me specifics about how this decision goes down for you.
Maybe stop there and ask them? This thread can raise some interesting points, but those aren’t the same as actual answers.

If I was one of them then most likely it would be because of ignorance. They ought to be the same price and I would probably just run with the assumption they were instead of looking up the numbers.

I’m sure there are many that don’t care. Like “why do people shop at Whole Foods?”
 

miimura

Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2013
7,314
7,293
Los Altos, CA
I also noticed the difference in price between the nearby Cupertino Superchargers. However, it doesn't matter to me since I have home charging and free L2 charging within walking distance of my home. The only time I use Superchargers is when we're traveling away from home. When traveling, the services around the charging site are far more important than the fee for charging.
 
I used whatever SCs were most convenient when I was burning off my "free" 400 kWh from the referral. I suspect most of these folks are doing the same. Since I burned off all of those kWh, I don't SC in the Bay Area anymore unless I am returning from a road trip and need just a little bit more energy, which is very rare. I just charge at home now.
 
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I get 95% of my electrons at home, so when I’m picking a SC I look for the one that will give me the shortest stop (arrive with low state-of-charge), without any regard for price. In fact, I was somewhat happy to see Tesla raise SC prices somewhat (unpopular, I know). Why? Because it reduces the number of people who use the SCs as convenience chargers. But what about the people who need to use SCs for regular charging? I suspect that Tesla will end up offering subscription pricing for them.
 
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