Tesla Prepares for Model 3 With Expanded Charging and Service

By · April 27, 2017

Tesla will expand its Supercharger network by increasing the number of stations at each location.

Tesla announced this week that it plans to double its charging network by the end of 2017. It will add new locations in city centers while expanding existing highway sites so drivers don’t have to wait for access to a charger. The company said that it’s taking these steps to prepare for sales of the Model 3, its first mass-market car.

To date, Tesla has nearly 850 Supercharger locations with more than 5,400 individual chargers. The company aims to expand the number of individual chargers to 10,000 before the end of this year. While much of its work on charging has focused on enabling road trips by positioning Superchargers in between destination cities, Tesla is also rapidly expanding its support of charging at local sites, such as hotels and restaurants. In other words, it’s a two-pronged approach in which the busiest Supercharger locations will expand to accommodate as many as several dozen vehicles charging at once—and new sites away from highways will be added to make “charging ubiquitous in urban centers.”

There are more 200,000 Tesla owners around the world today, but Tesla continues to assert that with the Model 3, the company will sell 500,000 units annually as soon as 2018. This obviously will put a strain on the company in a number of ways, including increased competition between Tesla drivers for high-speed public charging stations. If drivers need to queue up behind one another at a Supercharger location, it would turn an otherwise manageable refueling pit stop of 30 or 40 minutes into a considerable inconvenience.

Tesla will also need to provide expanded service and maintenance. As reported by Ben Sullins of Teslanomics—a community of Tesla enthusiasts focused on data—Tesla so far has been able to keep up with demands for customer service. Sullins cross-referenced the number of Tesla Service Centers with the number of Tesla vehicles on the road to determine that the growth of service locations has moved in sync.

The red pins show the current Supercharger locations. The gray pins show approximately where locations will “open soon,” according to Tesla.

A key part of Tesla’s service strategy is the use of mobile “Ranger Service” teams that performs minor repairs at a customer’s house or workplace. Tesla says that about 80 percent of service is minor and easy to perform on location. “Ahead of the Model 3 launch, we are re-engineering and expanding our operations as we anticipate the needs of a much larger family of Tesla owners,” said Tesla, in a letter to investors.

The company has a big head start over its competition with its Superchargers, but it’s not the only automaker with plans for a high-speed charging network. In December, a global consortium of automakers—including BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen—announced a joint venture to deploy a highway-based network of 400 high-power charging sites in Europe beginning this year. The consortium said the number of stations would grow to “thousands” by 2020. Many of those locations are expected to charge at a 150-kW rate. That’s the same, or maybe a little faster than a Tesla Supercharger, which can add 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes. However, a some of them will provide 350-kW charging—a rate that provides nearly 200 miles of added EV range in around 20 minutes.

Nearly all electric car charging takes place at home overnight when the EV owner is sleeping.

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