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Supercharging experiences in Norcal this weekend. Is Tesla ready for primetime?

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by gordo, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. gordo

    gordo Member

    Jan 16, 2015
    I spent the weekend in Reno, NV -- as it turns out with about 30,000 bikers all up there for the Street Vibrations festival... Headed up in the ol P85D.

    The outbound route was to leave San Mateo Friday morning, stop in Tiburon for a passenger pickup and head east on 37 around the bay to I-80, stopping at the Roseville Galleria for a quick lunch and supercharge. I noticed about 20 minutes before we arrived, the car NAV re-routed me to Rocklin, but I figured somehow it was messed up, so ignored it and re-routed for Roseville. As it turns out, the car was smarter than me, because when we got to the Galleria Supercharger, it was completely full. I waited for 10 minutes, but with 4 hungry guys and no idea when one was going to leave, I figured we were better off just to go to Rocklin and take our chances there. Rocklin had 2 free slots open fortunately, so wasn't catastrophic, though fewer eating options.

    I destination charged at the Eldorado Resort in Reno, and despite a pair of Tesla HPWCs as well as another couple generic chargers, I appeared to be the only EV in the whole place all weekend.

    On the way back, we drove straight to Vacaville SuperCharger and got the last spot before 2 more Tesla's pulled up to wait.

    So... to my point:

    First of all, I understand that Northern California is a unique place when it comes to Teslas and is probably a few years ahead of everywhere else in terms of adoption, but I also see it as a sort of 'canary in the coal mine' capacity test for Supercharging infrastructure.

    Some observations:
    * Roseville Galleria is on a temporary lease and Rocklin as is would clearly not be able to handle the *existing* area load itself without significant expansion (i.e. doubling).
    * Vacaville was more than maxed out on a random Sunday afternoon in late September
    * Tesla shows no existing site or new location expansion plans on the radar along the I-80 corridor
    * There's currently and probably will not be an ability to stop or significantly curtail locals from charging
    * There are only ~50k Tesla's in California, increasing at a clip of about 2000 additional Model S/Xs each month going forward (assuming 50k cars produced this year, 50% sold in CA and divided by 12)

    Net-net, my anecdotal back of the envelope calculation says the current Supercharger situation looks to be unsustainable (i.e. Supercharging becomes a major hassle and serious customer satisfaction issue for Tesla) by next spring. Model 3? Yikes. Something significant is going to have to happen ahead of any Model 3 launch (like Tesla signs an unprecedented deal to put a pair of stalls at every Chevron station or something). One way or another, something's gotta happen or we're going to have a group of pretty angry Tesla owners by next summer.
  2. tenstringer009

    Nov 3, 2012
    SF Bay Area
    Sorry to hear supercharging was a bit of a challenge this weekend. However, I will say, I sat on a plane next to a Tesla employee deeply involved with supercharger development, and based on our discussion, due to the Gigafactory being built, there are a lot of Tesla executives traveling that route along 80 quite a bit. Given that, I'd be inclined to believe that they'll expand capacity as necessary, especially if some execs have an experience similar to yours.
  3. Eclectic

    Eclectic Member

    Nov 8, 2014
    Bay Area & Montana
    I had a similar experience today. I needed to go up to the Sacramento area for a quick trip and the superchargers were at capacity. I had to wait at Vacaville (almost 30 minutes just to get hooked up, then the time it took to charge) and Roseville was a wait as well (about 15 minutes to get hooked up).

    It's not unworkable, but it's getting pretty close to inconvenient. 45 minutes waiting for Superchargers, another 45 minutes to charge, and that's in an area that, as you say, is ahead of the curve in Tesla infrastructure. I'm already seriously considering using my F150 for the next trip. Yeah, it only gets 20 mpg, but it has a 36 gallon fuel tank, so I'll save 90 minutes in exchange for the cost of about 10 gallons of unleaded. If the supercharger network isn't expanded (both in terms of the number of stations and the number of charging stalls per station) pretty soon, it will make using the Tesla for these trips a poor second choice.
  4. trils0n

    trils0n 2013 P85

    Feb 12, 2013
    SF Bay Area
    Friday and Sunday afternoons are generally peak usage times for Superchargers. Friday when everyone is leaving for the weekend, and Sunday when everyone is returning. Tesla is certainly aware of it -- they mentioned the usage distribution back when there were only 6 or so total Superchargers in the world. Seems like Saturday afternoon is also getting busy as well. 15-30 mins waiting is busier than I've ever seen those locations.

    I usually end up needing to visit superchargers at odd times of the week, and am often the only one there, even in busy CA. Problem is they have to size for peak demand, even if they sit idle most of their life. If you're concerned about wait times at a location, you should probably send off an email to Tesla to note your concerns. They monitor the data, but actual customer feedback is good too. Tesla seems to expand sites that get too busy fairly quickly. Gilroy and Fremont are good examples that expansion really helped with. I bet Vacaville is a good candidate for 2-4 more stalls, or another location on the other side of the freeway at Nut Tree.
  5. m6bigdog

    m6bigdog Member

    Mar 29, 2015
    San Ramon, CA
    #5 m6bigdog, Sep 28, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
    I couldn't agree more.
    The Achilles' heel of the Supercharger topology is location and quantity.
    There is no way to use an EV for long distance travel if the wait time for a charging stall is long and/or unpredictable; both in-route & destination.

    Since EV's and ICE cars are used the same way it seems only logical that the real solution is to collocate EV fast DC charging (Tesla & CHAdeMO) with Gas Stations.
    The down-side is if EV Fast DC charging was collocated with a Gas Stations, I anticipate it is going to cost for the convenience.

    The up side is the EV is the better vehicle and they are here to stay, regular daily charging is done at home where there is no competition for the EVSE, so I anticipate the details and demand for "on the road" fast DC and destination charging will work itself out as the EV becomes more dominant and can command the infrastructure for long range travel.

    Will there be some growing pains? I anticipate there will be, but it will be short lived (a few years) as there is no practical alternative but to grow the fast DC charging infrastructure.
  6. germinal

    germinal Member

    Sep 22, 2014
    The only reason I didn't buy a tesla is the lack of SUC where I live.

    Tesla really needs to put em on highway locations or as close to as possible. At present that's not the case here. ( Belgium)

    Once every highway petrol station would have a few stalls I see no reason NOT to buy an EV anymore.

    But at present I don't see myself driving 15 mins of the highway to charge 30 mins and then back 15 mins to the highway.

    I just don't have the time, nor am I willing to.

    Ofcourse one has to take into account that charging takes about 30-45 mins bit fuelling up only 3-5 mins.

    So you would need 10 times as many stalls compared to petrol pumps.
  7. ArtInCT

    ArtInCT Always Learning

    Sep 2, 2014
    Southern Connecticut
    One topic of discussion at the recent Wellsely Mass. party hosted by Pollux was the fear that the Supercharger network would be very stressed when the Tesla Model 3 begins rolling out. A few folks were saying that the Supercharger network could use a reservation based augmentation for those doing long distance traveling. I am sure some bright minds are working on something at Tesla Motors regarding the future of SuperCharging and the growing fleet.
  8. Larry93428

    Larry93428 Member

    Feb 26, 2014
    Cambria California, United States
    There is some illogic that the new cars will have twice the range and therefore will need fewer chargers. I hope Tesla does not rely on that.
    One suggestion is to avoid travel on the weekends, a time when even the gas stations are crowded.
    Yes, as the other comments state, overcrowding may become a news item.
  9. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

    Aug 24, 2012
    Boston North Shore
    I really don't see how a reservation system for long distance travel could possibly help or even work in any heavily traveled area like the North East. Because of rapidly changing traffic flows, an estimate of the time of arrival at Milford, CT from Boston, never mind Hamilton, NJ, within even 15 minutes during normal travel times would be impossible most of the time.

    Then what happens? If you're late, is the reservation held for 30 minutes, meaning that someone is sitting there waiting while chargers are empty, or is there a short time window, perhaps 10 minutes, after which the late reservation car is on standby waiting for a non-reserved slot to open? What if you're early? Presumably you wait while there are empty slots which have been reserved. What happens on a holiday weekend when all the reservation slots are taken between 9AM and 9PM? Tesla owners just have to forgo their trip? None of this sounds very appealing or a viable strategy for mass marketing vehicles. The ICE companies and car writers probably would mention it.

    Fundamentally, there has to be enough capacity in the system to reasonably handle peak loads without long waits if electric vehicles are going to be anything other than a very small niche market IMHO. Fortunately, increased sales volumes provide capital to expand the system, but I don't see any other solution than rapid expansion of Supercharger sites and stalls unless battery swapping becomes practical.
  10. zer0cool

    zer0cool Member

    Apr 26, 2015
    charlotte, nc
    This is why pure electric vehicles will never become mainstream. The fact is it will always take too long to recharge, due to both battery physics, and ultimately grid flow capabilities. There's is NO WAY a large portion of the population can drive pure EVs while being able to charge at high speed. The grid is simply not built for that.

    If you think today's SCs are overcrowded, then just wait till the Model 3 becomes available...

    The future clearly is in gas electric hybrid vehicles (with small batteries, plug-in for better mileage and performance, but able to go on gas alone), like the BMW i8, Porsche 918, etc. With such vehicles, SC would only take a few minutes, and gas + charging can be done at united stations.
  11. Merrill

    Merrill Active Member

    Jan 23, 2013
    Sonoma, California
    I went to Vacaville and Folsum Friday round 11am and only 1 Tesla at both and at Folsum it had a manufacture plate and was very dirty. Maybe coming from the gigafactory?
  12. cantdecide

    cantdecide Member

    Dec 21, 2012
    Boulder, CO
    2 years ago gilroy and Folsom were in similar states to what was described here. With most Tesla employees living in the bay area this was rapidly fixed with gilroy expanded and Folsom replicated with roseville etc... And now with Manteca I avoid Vacaville (worth the detour for me as I prefer red robin).
    I'm sure Tesla have plans for what to do next on this corridor and expect something to be implemented by ski season. The rumored south lake Tahoe supercharger may help a little but only if they expand Folsom.
  13. JMG

    JMG Member

    Feb 26, 2015
    NE Texas
    Nothing material to add here, but just some sympathy. That would be frustrating. I just got back from a 6hr (one way) road trip yesterday from a weekend trip (drove down Friday, 3 SC stops) and then back Sunday night. I guess that is one of the good things about being in a state where mass adoption isn't a reality yet (Texas). Of my weekend trip, I had 5 supercharger stops (Corsicana, Waco, San Marcos, Waco, Corsicana). The amount of other Teslas at the superchargers at any one time was 1, 5, 1, 0, 1 respectively. The five was at Waco on a Friday evening about 4:00PM. Other than that it was clear sailing.

    I would've been supremely frustrated if I would've had to wait. So far, I've thoroughly enjoyed the supercharging experience.
  14. apacheguy

    apacheguy S Sig #255

    Oct 21, 2012
    So Cal
    This problem only exists in CA, and maybe Norway. We drive more Model S than any state or country in the world. TM really needs to build out and expand the SpC capabilities in existing locations. Instead, tesla chose to aggressively expand in Germany which carries a fraction of the marketshare compared to CA.
  15. pnaecker

    pnaecker Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    The challenge of "peak use" or "peaking" is an interesting problem in engineering and economics, and it has been very heavily studied in academic circles. Engineers have encountered it almost all infrastructure: highways, the electrical grid, water supply networks, water resource systems, telephone systems, air traffic, cell networks, etc. Each of the systems above is slightly different in the dynamics, economic pressures that can be brought to bear, and adaptability to changing conditions. For example, cell networks can somewhat "hide" slowness and congestion, whereas it congestion is much more obvious in highways. Congestion is very obvious at Superchargers, as the cost of waiting directly increases your total service time.

    There are three obvious ways to manage congestion:

    1. The first is to build more capacity. But since average utilization is relatively low at superchargers, this is an expensive proposition, and ties up a lot of underutilized capital.

    2. The second method is congestion pricing. That's been used for a long time in cell networks, electrical networks, airlines, and water supply (off-peak/on-peak, summer/winter pricing) and recently added to auto transport (congestion pricing for HOV lanes and city access). It's hard to do congestion pricing without charging, however, so it's not clear how Tesla will take advantage of this.

    3. The third method is providing information to help users avoid congestion. Tesla could do this easily in two ways: publish historical data about supercharger usage in a way that would allow individuals to make estimates of how busy the supercharger will be at a particular time, and make formal estimates of business (say a day or week ahead) so that users could adjust their plans to avoid the busiest times.

    The last method might be only marginally effective. For example, if Manteca is busy from 11AM-2PM, one could adjust travel plans to be there before 11 or after 2. On the other hand, if Harris Ranch is not busy only after midnight, folks may not want to make the necessary adjustments. But it is at least inexpensive and might work if there are strong patterns in congestion
  16. liuping

    liuping Active Member

    Jul 23, 2013
    San Diego
    "Never" is a long time. The limitations you mention are just current limitations, they are not insurmountable.

    When a large portion of the population charges at home/work/overnight, in transit charging is not as big of a part of the equation. It's not like the need for gas stations on ever corner.

    Local storage at charging sites can ease the instantaneous load on the grid. Yes, it's not a convenient as just connecting to the grid, but remember we built a network of gas stations with huge underground tanks and we deliver gasoline by truck to them. Where there's a will there's a way.

    Battery chemistry changes will allow significantly faster charging in the future. Getting 200 miles range in 15 minutes, on the few occasions your overnight charge was used up, it not that big a deal. and that's likely possible in the next few years. just imaging what will be possible in 20 or 50 years.
  17. Jaff

    Jaff Active Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    Grimsby, Canada
    Imo, you have this completely backwards...there is no way (currently) that a Small portion of the population will be able to drive EV's due to lack of high speed charging.

    There is ample time for Tesla to figure out traffic patterns and "fill in" / supplement the gaps in their current Supercharging network. Musk has said many times that the grid will be able to handle the load given the changes coming i.e. reduced load through less refining of gasoline. Also, through research, battery physics will / are changing for the better as new discoveries are employed in their manufacture.

    Clearly, ICE vehicles are not an option going forward.

    Your comments lead me to believe that you currently do not drive an EV...would this be correct?

  18. David99

    David99 Active Member

    Jan 31, 2014
    Brea, Orange County
    There are a handfull of Superchargers across California compared to thousands of Teslas. Of course that causes some shortage at peak times. The solution is not that hard. Superchargers aren't that expensive to build and run. They will build more, no doubt.
  19. schonelucht

    schonelucht Well-Known Member

    Mar 10, 2014
    In the Netherlands, there is startup for highway side fast charging ( Currently they have 38 sites in an area only a little bit bigger than Maryland. Fastned is currently technologically limited to 50kWh since Tesla doesn't want to share the proprietary protocols to charge faster with them but they are on the record of wanting to implement them if Tesla gives the necessary documentation. Fastned is also open to brand-wide deals where the manufacturer pays them for offering free charging (they just announced such a deal with Nissan in fact). So another way for Tesla would be to seek co-operation with these local partners. For Tesla owners it would be as if the the number of supercharger locations increased from 6 to 44 overnight! It would also align very well with Tesla's stated goal of opening its patents and seeking to further the overall EV market instead of just its own market position. Fingers crossed it is going to happen!
  20. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    #20 ItsNotAboutTheMoney, Sep 28, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
    There's currently enough spare capacity for 70% of all miles, and Supercharger peaks are not generally at grid peaks.

    Successful electrification implies cheap batteries. Cheap batteries implies the ability to scale capacity rapidly. Grid capacity would have zero problem. In fact, cheap batteries would allow for economical storage at Superchargers, to the point that total Supercharger battery output could be greater than the current output of the grid.

    Successful electrification also implies current barriers to home charging would be eliminated, reducing Supercharger miles per car. Not only that, but destination charging would become more common as the utilization and returns would be higher.
    Successful electrification also implies:
    - lots of owners with less disposable income, and ability or need to travel.
    - lots of owners with 2nd BEVs, which would not add to Superchargers demand.

    Successful electrification also implies a minimum of not the 8kWh approach model, but the GM 18kWh approach because the 8kWh approach is inherently compromised.

    Successful Model 3 would enable Tesla to build a stupendously large number of Superchargers and destination charging. Just $600/car would mean 8 new stalls for every 500 cars. Right now, Tesla needs coverage. With $600/car, 500,000 Model 3 would mean _1000_ new sites, which means coverage would no longer be a problem, and Tesla could concentrate on adding capacity. With high-penetration electrification, I'd expect that finding willing host sites would become easy.

    And that's without even talking about swapping. Swapping is not what Tesla's wants to do right now, because faster charging would be better and would determine the ultimate need for swapping, but I would argue that any all-EV future would involve battery swapping, both to handle the super-peak periods and also to make battery installation and replacement cheaper.

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