Taking too long? Close loading screen.

Supercharger SuperGuide

cars charging

Use this guide to help you charge faster, understand how Supercharging works and much more!

Which Supercharger Location?

In many situations, there will only be one choice on your travel route. Sometimes there are multiple closely spaced Supercharger locations that allow you the luxury of selecting a specific location.  There are several strategies to consider when you have multiple choices.

Select the location that leaves you with the lowest State of Charge (SOC), along with some safety buffer. This is a good choice for longer trips, as the charging is fastest at low SOC levels.

Select the location with the most free stalls. This avoids a potential wait, and you’re more likely to find a pair of stalls that are free, which speeds your charging.

Select the location with the amenities you want such as restrooms, food, coffee and shopping.

You can see Supercharger information on the navigation map by tapping any red Supercharger pin. It shows the total number of stalls, those that are free, and a list of amenity icons. All other Superchargers in the area will also show the stalls open and in use (with up to a 5-minute delay).

map

Salinas, CA Supercharger information on the main screen map

Picking the Right Stall

At a busy Supercharger, you can often dramatically speed your charging by picking the right stall. At an empty location, any stall should offer the maximum charging speed. At a busy one, if you have more than one choice, the wrong choice might take you considerably longer to charge!

Each group of two stalls are connected to a single Supercharger cabinet. Each cabinet has a number and the pedestals in each stall are labeled with that number and A or B.  Now for maximum charging speed, you want to select a stall where you will be the only vehicle at A and B for that Supercharger cabinet.

When vehicles occupy both stalls for a single Supercharger cabinet, the power is divided between the two vehicles. The first vehicle gets the most power, but the second vehicle will get at least 30 kW. As the first vehicle charges beyond 50% SOC or so, the power is tapered down to protect the battery. The excess capacity is then diverted to the 2nd vehicle. When the first vehicle completes charging or leaves, the second vehicle gets the entire capacity of the Supercharger.

In most locations the A and B stalls for the Supercharger cabinet are adjacent to each other. You do have to look, as some locations seem almost random as to the stall layout.

AB Pedistals

The pedestal number appears at the bottom of the pedestal – 4A and 4B at this location

If the only open stalls are ones that have a vehicle in the adjacent pair, look for a stall where the vehicle that has been charging for a while. This is not easy to determine, short of asking drivers that might still be in their cars or nearby.  Another trick is to choose a stall where the adjacent vehicle is a Model 3 or a S/X 60 or 75. All these will top out at 105 kW, which means more power for you sooner.

Supercharging with a trailer
Tesla vehicles with a trailer pose a tricky problem at Superchargers. Clearly you can detach the trailer and use any stall, but in some locations, it may be possible to keep the trailer attached.  It’s also possible in some locations to go across a long group of stalls to charge, but it blocks other vehicles from using those stalls. Only do this if there are plenty of other open stalls available for other owners. Please be considerate.  Also check out this list of trailer friendly locations at TMC.

Opening the Charge Port Door

The easiest way to open the charge port door on any Tesla is to press the release button on the charging connector. On some vehicles you may need to press the button while holding the connector a foot or two behind the door or above it so the vehicle’s antenna sees the signal.Handle

You can also release the door from the Tesla app on a smartphone. Select CHARGING and tap the UNLOCK CHARGE PORT button.

Other ways to release the charging port door depends on the vehicle:

Model 3

  • While the car is unlocked, or an authenticated phone is nearby, tap the bottom of the charge port door
  • On the touchscreen, tap the charging icon and press OPEN CHARGE PORT

Model X and Model S with newer self-closing charge port door

  • While the vehicle is unlocked, tap the front of the charge port door
  • On the fob, hold the trunk button for 1-2 seconds
  • On the touch screen, tap CONTROLS, then Charge Port

Model S with older manual closing charge port door

  • On the fob, hold the trunk button for 1-2 seconds
  • On the touch screen, CONTROLS, then Charge Port
Port States and Colors

On the Model 3 and the Tesla Semi there is a small Tesla logo that lights up to the left of the port. On the S/X the ring around the charging port changes colors to indicate what is going on. In European S/X, the charge indicator to the right side with 3 LEDs (not shown).

charge ports

Model S – Unlocked (left), Model 3 – Charging (right)

StateMeaningAction
White/Light blueUnlockedReady for insertion or removal
Deep BlueConnected, not chargingIndicates the charging will start at a later preset time.
Green – SolidConnected, fully charged
Green – PulsingConnected, chargingPulses slow down as it nears completion of charging.
Amber – SolidNot fully plugged inRemove and insert.
Amber – BlinkingReduced AC chargingPossible line voltage sag at higher currents, so power was reduced for charging.
RedFaultSee instrument cluster for description of the error. No charging will occur.
Understanding the Main Charging Screen

When charging, the main and instrument cluster screens will show various charging information – including an estimate of how long it will take to reach your desired charge level, the current percent of charge (27%); what SOC it will stop charging with the white triangle indicator (100%); The current charging rate, how much has been charged and the average rate of charge since starting to charge in miles per hour (94 kW, 1 kWh and 241 mi/hr).

Main Screen Supercharging

To minimize the time at a Supercharger, if the last 20% of range or so is unnecessary, stop charging earlier to dramatically reduce the charging time. We’ll talk more about this below in the Tapered Charging section.

I recommend checking the screen (or the phone app) a couple of minutes after you connect to a supercharger. In rare cases the charging may stop or have a much lower power than desired, and it’s best to know about it quickly so you can resolve it.

Maximum Charging Power
By Vehicle Battery
The vehicle battery pack size and battery cell design limits the maximum charging power. Unless otherwise stated, maximum charging power is DC via the Supercharger.
VehiclePack VoltageMax Charging Power
Roadster – Original375 V16.8 kW (AC only)
S85 with “A” Battery (2012, early 2013)400 V90 kW
S40/S60/X60/S70/S75/X75350 V105 kW
S85/S90/X90/S100/X100400 V120 kW
Model 3 – Long Range350 V120 kW
Model 3 – Standard350 V105 kW*
Roadster 2020400V x 2*240 kW*
Semi800V x 4*1 MW*

* Early WAG

Utility Limitation
Power at a specific Supercharger can also be limited by the utility power transformer(s). For example, the 8 stall Sequim, WA Supercharger has a utility transformer rated at 300 kW.  If  8 stalls were charging at an equal rate, only 37.5 kW would be available at each stall!  (Thanks to milesbb for this discovery)
Tapered Charging

Tesla changes the amount of power used to charge up the pack, depending, in part, on the State of Charge (SOC).  When the vehicle is below 45% SOC, the taper curve starts at 10-15 kW below the maximum, and quickly move to the maximum power, where it starts to taper off around 45% SOC and drops to zero when fully charged.

power vs soc

This means is you get the fastest charging when you are in the range of about 20% to 55% and then it slows down the closer you are to 100%.  When travel requires multiple Supercharger stops, the best plan is to stop charging when you have enough power to reach your next charging stop, plus a 10-20% reserve. Of course, in very cold weather a larger reserve is necessary.

The chart above is for the 100 packs made today. The 75 packs follow a similar curve, but is limited to 105 kW max.  The 2nd gen 60 packs are really a 75 pack and charge at the same rate as a 75. This special case stops charging when the real pack SOC reaches about 80% SOC, and is shown within the vehicle as 100% SOC.

Most older packs with the original battery formulation, such as the 40/60 (1st gen)/70/85 start to taper off earlier.

Tesla uses this technique to provide the fastest charging without damaging the batteries or reducing longevity. A typical consumer item like a phone, usually charges at the maximum rate from start to finish, which often leads to the battery degrading quickly, and needing replacement in a couple of years.

Temperature Considerations

The best case is shown above in the tapered charging graph at 70°F. If the battery pack is either too cold or too hot, the power will be further reduced until the pack temperature gets within the safe fast charging range.  The vehicle’s HVAC system is used to cool or heat the battery during this period. Charging at the best rate usually occurs within 5 to 10 minutes.

While rare, the Supercharger itself may limit the power if its own electronics are too hot. This is fairly rare, but might occur if ambient temperatures are above 110°F and 100+ kW is being drawn from the Supercharger cabinet.

Charging Speed Reduction from DC Fast Charging

If the battery is mostly charged via Superchargers and/or CHAdeMO DC charging, the charging speed may have to be reduced as the battery ages. Here’s the details from Tesla:

“The peak charging rate possible in a li-ion cell will slightly decline after a very large number of high-rate charging sessions. This is due to physical and chemical changes inside of the cells. Our fast-charge control technology is designed to keep the battery safe and to preserve the maximum amount of cell capacity (range capability) in all conditions. To maintain safety and retain maximum range, we need to slow down the charge rate when the cells are too cold, when the state of charge is nearly full, and also when the conditions of the cell change gradually with age and usage. This change due to age and usage may increase total Supercharge time by about 5 minutes and less than 1% of our customers experience this.
Tesla is not slowing down charge rates to discourage frequent Supercharging – quite the opposite. We encourage our customers to use the Supercharger network at their discretion and we committed to doubling the number of worldwide chargers just this year. We also want to ensure that our customers have the best experience at those Superchargers and preserve as much vehicle range as possible – even after frequent usage.”

 

Idle and Use Fees

charging complete

All owners are subject to an idle fee, if you remain parked after your vehicle has finished charging. There is a 5-minute grace period. If the car is still not moved Tesla will charge you $0.40/minute ($24/hour) from when the vehicle completed charging.  The fee is waived if the Supercharger is less than half full, but it still common courtesy to move your car once charged. You can use the Tesla phone app to alert you when charging is complete, with notifications.

Model 3 screen

Model 3 with paid supercharging (bottom right)

Depending on the vehicle and program you are in, there can be a use fee. These vary by state, province and country. It is usually billed by kWh consumed, but a few areas require billing by time. Pricing is quite low, often lower than residential rates, and far cheaper than gas or diesel for the miles traveled. For more on fees, visit Tesla’s Supercharger Support page.

MegaCharger

We don’t know much about this yet. Presumably, from the name, it can provide 1 MW or more of power. From images of the new Tesla Semi, it shows a connector with four high-power DC pairs. A logical assumption is the MegaCharger is a group of four 250 kW or larger power connections.  One guess is these may be 800 volts each. We’ll update this as more information comes out.

megacharger port

Tesla Semi Charging Receptacle

Evolution of Superchargers

The first 6 supercharger locations appeared in the fall of 2012 in California. These all maxed out at 90 kW, which was also the limit of the first Model S battery “A” packs.

90kw

Harris Ranch, CA, with a single stall (2012)

In the Spring of 2013, Tesla introduced the 120 kW Supercharger to match the charging ability of the newer S85 at that time. It has undergone many small design tweaks over the years, to the newest style with the illuminated “TESLA” on top as shown at the top of this article. All 90 kW Superchargers have been replaced now.

Fremont Supercharger

Fremont, CA with early 120 kW Superchargers (2013)

For a few months, Tesla tried out a liquid cooled Supercharger cable in Mountain View, CA.  These cables were noticeably thinner and easier to handle. They did work, but at some point, Tesla reverted to the prior design. Perhaps they were not as reliable.

Mountain View Supercharger

Mountain View, CA with thin charging cables (2015)

Sometime in 2016, Tesla introduced a Gen II Supercharger, with 135 kW power. Each vehicle is still limited to 120 kW, but it will charge two vehicles sharing the same Supercharger slightly faster. We suspect there is still a mix of 120 to 135 kW Superchargers, but in our 2017 travels, we couldn’t find a 120 kW Supercharger.

In late 2017, Tesla introduced an urban Supercharger that is limited to 72 kW. This appears to use a 145 kW Supercharger cabinet for two pedestals, but is configured to split the power evenly all the time.  You don’t need to worry about which stall to choose. A new smaller pedestal design also appeared with the urban supercharger.

Boston Supercharger

Boston, MA Urban Superchargers (2017, image courtesy of Tesla)

Elon has teased a new higher capacity Supercharger V3 may be announced at the end of Summer 2018.  This may be higher power in the 240 kW range, to support the Roadster 2020 and speed shared charging for all existing Model S/X/3 vehicles so they always get the maximum charging speed.  Of course it could be years before these are commonly available at most locations.
Inside the Supercharger

Supercharger Cabinet

There are 12 chargers within the cabinet along with a couple of large circuit boards.

Charger module

An original 10 kW vehicle charger module with top removed

In the 120 kW Supercharger, these charger units were like the ones in the pre-refresh Model S.  (i.e. 12 * 10 kW = 120 kW). The European chargers were rated at 11.25 kW as are the newer 48-amp S/X chargers. Twelve of these yields 135 kW total power. The newest urban chargers appear to use a 145 kW cabinet.

cabinets

Gilroy, CA – Rear of late 2017 Supercharger Cabinet in foreground and older 2016 cabinets in background

More Supercharger Cabinet Facts

  • The Supercharger can route power in 1/12 increments to either the A or B pedestals.
  • Each charger module is liquid cooled. It’s unclear if a refrigerant cooling system is used, or just a pump/fan/radiator system. We suspect the latter.
  • The cabinet uses 3-phase power at 277V per phase, or also called 480V.  To get 480, multiply 277 by the square root of 3.
  • A typical 480V installation is supplied power through a 250 amp 3-phase breaker.
  • A single cabinet weights 1320 lbs.

Supercharger Cabinet Label

Label

Sunnyvale, CA – Generation 2 Supercharger Label (Installed Dec-2017)

Pedestal Charging Post

The Illuminated “TESLA” at the top is backlight with LEDs that in total take 4.3W.

From the Supercharger Cabinet to the Post has 5 signal wires, a low voltage line, and four high power DC lines (doubled power), and two grounding conductors. These are fed through a 3” diameter conduit.

The cable to the connector uses two sets of two smaller high-power DC lines, a ground, and 2 signal wires. This is routed to the 5-pin connector (North America and Asia).  Europe uses the 7-pin Type 2 Mennekes connector.

Typical Installation (only 2 pedestals shown)

Components and Connections

Components and Connections

Pedestals

Pedestals being installed – June-2018

Common Questions

Q: How long to charge?

A: This depends on the current state of charge, charging power and what level you set to end charging. When you start charging, within a couple of minutes, the instrument display and the Tesla phone app will show how long it is expected to take.

Q: I’m having trouble getting the charge connector in (or removing it). How can I fix this?

A: First the ring color must be white (or light blue) to insert or remove the connector. If any other color, depress the button until the color changes and then insert/remove.

If the vehicle is new, some charge ports are very tight. You might need to apply quite a bit of pressure. Usually within a month it becomes easier. If it truly is too hard to use, contact service to have the port replaced.

In all cases, check if the connector is damaged or dents in the connector. Although rare, in a few cases a Supercharger connector was dropped, denting the connector edge. You can try another stall. It’s helpful to alert Tesla to the issue with the location and pedestal id, like “4B”.  An 800 number is listed on the Tesla pedestal.

When trying to release when pressing the connector button, if the port will not unlock (turn light-blue), try using the fob (Model S/X) by holding the trunk button in for 1-2 seconds. On rare occasions the charge handle button just doesn’t work.

Q: The charging seems quite slow – what can I do?

A: This could be normal. If you are the 2nd vehicle connected to the Supercharger, you may get a low rate (see Picking the Right Stall at the top).  If you are above 70% SOC, this also limits the charging speed (see Tapered Charging above). Lastly it could be the battery is very cold or very hot and the temperature must be brought within band to allow charging at the full speed (this is all done automatically).

In rare instances, there could be a problem with the Supercharger. If there are other stalls free, you can try another stall. It’s helpful to let Tesla know about problems. They are very proactive in keeping the equipment functioning properly.

Q: Why are the fans running in the front of the vehicle while charging?

A: When either the outside temperature is hot, and/or the battery gets hot from fast charging, the battery is automatically cooled by turning on the AC and the fans in the front of the vehicle. Sometimes this can be quite noisy, if maximum cooling is required.

Supercharger Related Links
  • Desktop Supercharger – from Tesla
  • EV Trip Planner – Tesla specific mapping for your model type as well as routing through Superchargers – Considers current traffic, temp, speed and elevations!
  • PlugShare – Includes Tesla Superchargers and other chargers
  • Supercharger Map shows Superchargers in North America along with those under construction and those with permits.
  • Tesla Interactive Supercharger Map – You may need to first log into MyTesla to view this.
  • Tesla Trip Planner – Enter start and end locations, and it does the route with Supercharging stops and the estimated time to charge. Does not support discontinued models.

Leave a Reply