More Teslas on the Road Meant Hours-Long Supercharger Lines Over Thanksgiving

The busiest travel weekend of the year was an interesting test for Tesla’s fast-charging network.

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More Teslas on the Road Meant Hours-Long Supercharger Lines Over Thanksgiving © More Teslas on the Road Meant Hours-Long Supercharger Lines Over Thanksgiving

Black Friday shopping lines weren’t the only queues frustrating people this past weekend. A number of Tesla drivers took to social media to vent about extremely crowded Supercharger stations that turned a promised fast stop into an hours-long slog to recharge during one of the year's busiest travel times. With Model 3 mass production in full swing, there are now well over 400,000 Teslas on American roads, and it appears that growth is exposing the Supercharger network's pain points in high-traffic times like this past weekend.

One Facebook clip shows a line measuring roughly a quarter mile in length, consisting of 50-odd Teslas waiting at a Supercharger in Kettleman City, California, just off Interstate 5. To be fair, the station's popularity is compounded by its location about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but even its 40 stalls aren't enough to accommodate the increased demand, especially when all that simultaneous recharging lowers the speed for everyone. The video's caption—"When you regret your Tesla"—has got to ring true for some of these drivers. Or maybe a modified version: When you regret bringing your Tesla.

Another video shared to YouTube detailed a similar situation on Thanksgiving Day around 5 p.m. in San Luis Obispo, California. Although it's a bit milder, with about 15 Teslas waiting to charge, it still led to an hours-long wait for some drivers. 

It doesn't take crowded charging stations like these to prove there’s room for improving our electric vehicle recharging infrastructure in the United States, but they certainly help drive home the point. Tesla's done the best of any manufacturer in building out a robust charging network that approximates the limitless experience of finding a nearby gas station, and the Supercharger network rightly remains a giant draw for first-time buyers. Still, the 1,636 stations across the country are but a drop in the bucket on high-traffic routes, doubly so during a busy travel time like Thanksgiving weekend. 

This capacity issue will keep popping up until we see more of the automaker's upcoming 250 kW-capable V3 Superchargers, capable of giving 75 miles worth of charge to a Model 3 in just five minutes. There are only a small handful of those stations online at the moment, though, and a nationwide rollout will drag on through 2020 and beyond.

Tesla's current map of Superchargers in North America, Screenshot -

Really, all these long lines show is how our recharging infrastructure is woefully behind the demand for electric vehicles. Initiatives like Electrify America are a solid start, but even its 5,000 chargers won't come close to matching the convenience promised by a gas station. What we need is a massive national investment—public, private, or a combination thereof—to create a fast-charging network to rival the pipes, trucks, and pumps that make 87 octane flow like water for most folks. 

Growing pains are tough. But so is being unprepared for the future.

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