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    We Tested Refueling At The Tesla Supercharger With Several Models

    Aug 16,2022 | Chloe Lacour

    While the deployment of charging stations on the secondary network in France is struggling to deploy massively, the Californian manufacturer - and historical pioneer of the genre - is opening its fast charging stations to all-electric vehicles. We tested this service with different models and feedback on an experience that proves that things are improving.

    On January 31, 2022, the manufacturer Tesla formalized the opening of its Supercharger stations to all owners of electric cars, whatever their brand and whatever their charging power. The only conditions to take advantage of it: have a car with a CCS charging socket (well placed) and agree to create a Tesla account to pay the bill.

    Nothing very complicated, or even very restrictive in theory, but we wanted to get to the bottom of it by going to one of the stations open to everyone. Back on an interesting experience, but which had nevertheless started badly.

    A PILOT PROGRAM TO IDENTIFY BUGS AND CONSTRAINTS

    If Tesla has opened access to its Superchargers, it still remains under certain conditions. It is important to keep in mind that this is an extension of the pilot program initiated on November 1, 2021 in the Netherlands. Since January 31, France and Norway are now among the countries to join the experiment, but with a very specific framework. While the network of Tesla Superchargers today has more than 700 terminals spread over more than 100 stations, only 16 of them are concerned by this pilot program.

    In total, there are thus 230 terminals with a CCS socket that are accessible according to a geographical arrangement which would have been the subject of a very precise analysis on the part of Tesla. The manufacturer reminded us at length that the objective of the experimentation is to identify possible problems while taking care not to spoil the user experience that Tesla customers know today. This is why the Californian firm would have analyzed the attendance data in particular to select the Superchargers eligible for the tests.

    This also explains why, out of the 230 terminals selected relatively sparsely across the territory, only forty-two are of the V2 type. Remember that these are capable of delivering a power of 150 kW, but that they operate in a power-sharing mode. Enough to supply a good number of models of electric vehicles whose on-board charger is limited to 100 kW for example.

    For the rest, these are V3 Superchargers, delivering up to 250 kW under very specific conditions, namely the level of charge remaining in the battery and if the vehicle takes a battery preconditioning mode. Anyway, we share with you again below the list of stations:

    • Salaise-Sur-Sanne
    • Montelimar
    • Rivesaltes
    • Labouheyre
    • Perigueux
    • Angouleme
    • Herbaria
    • Blois
    • Le Mans–Saint-Saturnin
    • Lorient
    • Velizy
    • Laxou
    • Valenciennes
    • Vierzon
    • Montlucon
    • Buchelay

    THE BEGINNINGS DID NOT MAKE SPARKS

    The day after the opening of the SUC to all, we went to the Velizy station, with sixteen V3 Superchargers. Our test companion: an Opel Mokka-e that we just had available. A choice that seemed all the more relevant to us as it is built on the same basis as its cousins ​​in the PSA/Stellantis group, namely the Peugeot e-208 and e-2008, the Citroen e-C4 or even the DS3 Crossback E-Tense.

    An ECMP platform, it should be remembered, uses a 50 kWh battery pack (46 useful kWh) and claims a maximum charging power of 100 kW in direct current. Unfortunately, that day, the experience turned out to be complicated. While we thought we had filled in the personal information necessary for the creation of our Tesla account on the mobile application, once in front of the terminal, we came across a problem: each time we tried to start charging. After connecting “the gun” to the vehicle and selecting the terminal – be careful, this is the order of the steps to follow – we were confronted in return with an error message.

    After a call to the Tesla teams, they told us that you have to be careful to fill in your postal details, both in the wallet space – where you enter your credit card or IBAN information – and under the menu "  coordinates  ". According to Tesla, this is explained by the fact that you must specify that you are a French resident to access the service.

    If it was possible to neglect these steps during our first day of testing, which gave rise to said error message without the possibility of knowing the cause when launching the load, the manufacturer quickly corrected the situation with an update to the configuration procedure. From now on, it is imperative to correctly fill in all the necessary fields in the application, otherwise, it will not give you access to the option of activating the load.

    A word of advice: if you are nevertheless faced with a problem when activating the charge, enter your IBAN in the application rather than your bank card information. This was part of the solution to our problem.

    To finish with the application, we must recognize that the interface of the application is rather simple to understand. The application locates us and identifies the nearby station. The " site details " pane   allows you to select the charging station and provides information on the price per kWh delivered. It is 0.56 cents here if you have not subscribed to the subscription of 12.99 euros per month or 0.38 cents with membership. Naturally, there is information related to power, but we especially appreciate the information on the "  commodities  " available on site.

    A SECOND MUCH MORE CONVINCING ATTEMPT, UNDER CONSTRAINTS

    Rather frustrated by the result of our first experience, but noting on social networks that we were not the only ones to face the plasters, we contacted several car manufacturers, including Tesla, of course, to try to find out more. At Tesla, the explanations are clear: “  We are still in the test phase for this pilot program. Nevertheless, we have indeed feedback from our network which points to a concern for compatibility with certain models  ”. At this point, the Peugeot e-208 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are identified as having problems.

    On the PSA side, Citroën immediately offered to provide us with an e-C4 to renew our test. BMW will do the same with an i4 eDrive40. In the meantime, we receive an SMS from Peugeot telling us that the service should be operational and that Tesla would have done the necessary. That's good, it's accompanied by a Peugeot e-208 driver (Didier Méance, an active member of the Peugeot e-208 forums and who was curious to share this experience with us), but also by a journalist colleague who was testing the Cupra Born that we went to the same station, four days later — on Saturday, February 5th. The opportunity to quickly confront one of the main constraints of use and which also animates the debates on the forums, namely the locations of the charging sockets on the cars.

    The charging steles are ideally designed for Teslas which have their charging socket at the rear left of the vehicle. Which, you can imagine, is not suitable for several competing models. This has also given rise to the publication on several forums of the diagram above which represents the location of the charging sockets on competing for electric vehicles.

    We were able to experience this with the BMW i4 as well as the Cupra Born for which the CCS socket is located at the rear right. As a result, we occupied the wrong stele and, ultimately, two parking spaces, unless we park next to another car affected by the same problem.

    A first concern therefore widely denounced by Tesla customers who are already seeing their comfort and the quality of their charging network called into question. And this is understandable, especially since if the Model S, 3, X, and Y are equipped with a route planner which will allow them to optimize the charging speed and therefore spends a minimum of time at the terminal, many competing models will not take advantage of such technology and you will find your charging power limited.

    This is what we were able to observe with our test vehicles since the Peugeot e-208 and Citroen e-C4 were clearly limited to a power of around 30 kW, whether at 50 or 70 %. We bet that the power will rise when the battery is weaker, which we could not test on these first two models (we preferred to take our precautions because we were not sure of being able to recharge). We are also firmly convinced that Tesla will further develop the charging power, in the same way, that it was able to very quickly correct the connection problems with the PSA platform.

    The same should be true for Porsche Taycan owners. We came across one of them during our test morning and, for him too, the Tesla application indicated a charging power limited to some 50 kW while the battery level was at around 50% according to him. . Attention: the idea here is above all to tell you that the Superchargers also work with the German electric sports car and not to draw conclusions about the charging power. It is possible that the charging power increased beyond the ten minutes we spent with this driver.

    However, for comparison, during a Porsche Taycan test, we were able to recharge the vehicle on the Ionity network. Within minutes, the charging power was sky high and we had recovered over 46kWh in just over 17 minutes. Thank you to the planner and the 800 Volt network which makes it possible to reach a charging power on Taycan of around 220 kW!

    The Cupra Born was the fastest on the charge this Saturday with a power which will reach 68 kW at peak because it is also the one which arrived the most out of breath – remember that its maximum power would be 125 kW. On his meter, there was only 14% battery left, which then allowed the terminal and the vehicle's electronics to rise to this power, but for a short time nonetheless. And since this one arrived with a low battery level, here are the few data that we can share that we find quite significant. When we arrived at 11:28 am the car was at 14%. At 11:43 a.m., the peak at 68 kW of power is reached and at 11:49 a.m., we decide to stop charging when the battery is at 50% according to the Cupra application. At the same time, on the Tesla app, we can notice that the power begins to drop, with 62 kW displayed, but we still recovered 23 kWh for a bill amounting to almost 13 euros. Autonomy estimated by the Cupra application: 174 km with this 50 % battery.

    It was only two days later (Monday 07/02), with the BMW i4 that we had emptied up to 17% this time — we knew we could recharge once there — that we reaches the highest charging power. Remember that the BMW i4 accepts a maximum direct current charging power of 210 kW. A power that we did not reach on our V3 Supercharger, whose power is 250 kW, but it is nevertheless the Bavarian who reached the first step on our podium of the models tested.

    The screenshots above speak for themselves. As soon as we plugged in the i4, the Tesla app showed a power of 69 kW and the ramp-up is very fast, peaking at 142 kW after just 6 minutes.

    Unfortunately, this peak was not reached for very long since in the minute that followed, the power dropped to 122, 114, and then 103 kW.

    At this stage of our tests, the BMW performs the best performance, but, taken by time, we could not go up to 80% of the load. So if the power was constantly dropping and finally when it reached 103 kW, we were only at 42% battery. It is also possible that the service is even crazier on the Ionity charging network.

    SUPERCHARGERS OPEN TO ALL: GOOD OR BAD NEWS?

    Finally, the experience we had on these Superchargers turned out to be relatively conclusive. After only a short week of opening up its network to competing brands, we were able to perceive the developments both through our experience and via social networks where users are sharing more and more photos validating the compatibility of terminals. So, openness to all, good or bad news? As you will have understood, it all depends on which side of the barrier you are on.

    Not being a daily Tesla driver, you truly understand the concerns that this may cause for Tesla owners who are now forced to share this comfort acquired and as precious as it is terribly formidable. On each of the long trips we have made behind the wheel of a Tesla, we have always been impressed by the power of the Superchargers, the ease of use, and the reliability of these terminals. In addition, we also had the opportunity to observe that when leaving on vacation, some stations are already bottled up at mealtimes, which can reinforce the concern of seeing competing models arrive (much) slower to recharge and potentially improperly parked.

    But aren't these congestion situations ultimately only seasonal and occasional? Every time we've had a chance to observe what's happening at a station, the charging speed is such that we see Tesla drivers park, plug in the car, then drive off again 15 to 20 minutes later. 

    And then, shouldn't we also consider that these new customers are also a way for Tesla to subsidize its Superchargers and, no doubt, to further extend their density? Why not with very high-end sites like this resort in Le Mans, which even uses solar panels to collect energy?

    Anyway, if Tesla has already shaken up the electric vehicle market, it seems that we can now count on the Californian firm to give another kick in the anthill and, we hope, motivate the operators of the charging networks to accelerate the deployment of their stations. Because on the Ionity side, to name a few, as powerful as the refills are, we have a bit of the impression that the deployment takes place at the speed of a snail. The situation borders on the ridiculous and the discomfort are sometimes palpable in the manufacturers who have integrated the Ionity program.

    If Tesla were to announce the generalization of access to all its Superchargers for everyone, in the current state of things it would be, in our very clear view, a real humiliation for the competition.

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