Tesla Superchargers Can Charge Non
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Tesla Superchargers Can Charge Non

Jul 09, 2023

Tesla is opening up 7,500 Superchargers to the public to qualify for federal funds. CR tried two of them out with Kia, Lucid, and Mercedes-Benz EVs. Here’s what we found.

Tesla owners have exclusive access to a vast network of more than 1,600 Supercharger charging stations nationwide, which make topping up a Tesla convenient, seamless, and relatively quick. Owners of other EVs rely on a patchwork of chargers that aren’t always convenient to access, might not always charge rapidly, and require the user to fumble through an app or swipe a credit card to activate the charger.

Now, Tesla is making at least some of its charging network available to owners of non-Tesla EVs. In order to qualify for a slice of the $7.5 billion earmarked for EV charging network expansion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the company says it will open up 7,500 chargers from its Supercharger and Destination Charger network to non-Tesla vehicles by the end of 2024. Of these, at least 3,500 will be new and existing fast 250-kilowatt (kW) Superchargers along highways; the rest will be slower Level 2 chargers located at businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

Opening Superchargers to other cars and doubling the size of its nationwide charging network, as Tesla has pledged, should help address consumer concerns about access to chargers. In a nationally representative survey of 8,027 U.S. adults conducted by CR in winter 2022 (PDF), the top two barriers reported among those who weren’t already planning to buy an EV were charging logistics (61 percent) and the number of miles the vehicle can go before needing a charge (55 percent).

“This is a great step in accelerating charger availability,” says Chris Harto, CR’s senior policy analyst for transportation and energy. “But as our experiences show, there is more work to be done in building out a robust network of chargers nationwide that EV drivers can depend on.”

Tesla’s U.S. Superchargers use a proprietary charging plug. To enable non-Tesla EVs to use its chargers, the company has developed an adapter called the “Magic Dock,” which incorporates the popular Combined Charging System (CCS) charging standard into the existing Tesla plug. It will work with nearly all EVs but the Nissan Leaf, which uses a different plug standard.

How well do Tesla’s Superchargers work with other EVs? Our testers visited two of the first Superchargers that were made available in our region to find out. We also asked some Tesla drivers what they thought about having their once-proprietary network of chargers opened up to the EV masses.

Photo: David Abrams/Consumer Reports Photo: David Abrams/Consumer Reports

Alex Knizek, an automotive engineer at Consumer Reports, tried out the Magic Dock Superchargers at two different locations, first with a Lucid Air and then, later that week at a different station, with a Kia EV6. I joined him at the second station with a Mercedes-Benz EQE.

To use a Supercharger, non-Tesla owners first need to download the Tesla App (version 4.18.0 or higher) for iOS or Android, create a profile, and add a payment method. The app enables you to locate a charger that is available with the Magic Dock CCS adaptor. Fortunately we already have an account set up to charge any Tesla in our test fleets.

Non-Tesla owners should remember that there aren’t many Superchargers equipped with the Magic Dock—at least not yet. We went to the two that were closest to our Auto Test Center in central Connecticut. The first one was in Ballston Spa, N.Y., about 170 miles away; the other was in Brewster, N.Y., roughly 80 miles from our track.

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

Location: Stewart’s Gas Station, Ballston Spa, N.Y.Distance from ATC: 170 milesCharging fee: $0.49/kWh

Alex was the first CR staffer to try out the Magic Dock. He charged up our Lucid Air at a Supercharger located behind a Stewart’s Shops in Ballston Spa, N.Y., near Saratoga Springs. (Stewart’s Shops is a New York-based chain of convenience stores and gas stations that usually has food, outdoor seating, bathrooms, and other comforts.) “It isn’t really a terrible spot to wait, in my opinion,” he said.

Each charging station has a sign with a QR code on it, which takes users to a page that explains how to charge a non-Tesla. And each station had a Magic Dock, so EV drivers could charge at any location.

But the Supercharger’s short cord and the location of the Lucid’s charge port (between the driver’s door and front wheel) presented some challenges.

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

“Initially I parked normally, just pulling up to the charger, but the cord did not reach at all,” Alex recounted. “I got back in and inched the car forward, nearly touching the large bollard that was located in front of the charger to protect it. Having my dad there to tell me when to stop was the only way to get close enough.”

Even then, the cord was so taut that he was concerned he would break the Lucid’s charge port. He eventually performed a major charging faux pas by parking parallel to the charger and blocking access to two other chargers. (Fortunately, no other drivers in need of a charge pulled up while Alex was there.)

Tesla acknowledges this on its FAQ, saying “Certain Supercharger site layouts may not be suitable for some cars. Please do not obstruct other cars by parking over the lines if the cable cannot comfortably reach your car.”

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

After finally plugging in, the system worked without any hiccups. But it wasn’t nearly as fast as a Tesla could charge.

“I was limited to 49kW on all charge attempts, both with and without preconditioning the battery,” Alex said. “I suspect this is a result of Lucid’s 900-volt charging system, which can only accept 50kW from older, legacy 400-volt charging networks.” Lucid claims that under ideal conditions, the Air can add 200 miles of range in about 12 minutes of charging. It would have taken well over an hour to add the same amount of range at that 49 kW rate.

Most current DC fast chargers are 800- to 1,000-volt systems, and are more compatible with the Lucid, while Tesla’s current Superchargers output around 500V. Although more super-high-voltage cars like the Lucid will come in the future, most EVs currently for sale and on the road are based on 400 volt systems and should charge at a similar rate on a Tesla Supercharger as they would on other charging networks.

Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports Photo: Alex Knizek/Consumer Reports

Location: 1 Starr Ridge Road, Brewster, N.Y.Distance from ATC: 79 milesCharging fee: $0.49/kWh

Located near the junction of Interstates 84 and 684, this Supercharger sat behind a small shopping center with a Dunkin’ and a Sherwin-Williams paint store. There was only a gas station within walking distance, and drivers charging late at night could feel isolated, especially after the Dunkin’ closed.

Our experience getting hooked up mirrored what Alex experienced with the Lucid Air. Both the EV6 and EQE have their charge ports on the passenger-side rear, and they’re fairly close to the back of the car. But because the Supercharger cables are oriented on the right side of the charger and too short to reach the ports on the left side of the car, we had to park in the next space over rather than the one that corresponded to the charger. For example, to use charging station 1A you have to park in the space for station 1B—to the right of 1A—in order for the cable to reach. This effectively blocks 1B from being used by any Tesla, though a non-Tesla can potentially use it . . . by parking in space 1C.

The EV6 Alex drove would not charge on the first station he hooked up to. There were no issues accessing the charge plug and connecting to the car. We heard a series of clicks and other noises as the charging station and the car’s onboard charger communicated. The EV6 even made its standard “charging started” announcement. But within about 30 seconds a fault would appear on the app, and charging would stop.

This happened a few times, so we moved the car to a different charging station, which worked flawlessly. The Mercedes-Benz I was driving also connected without any problem and began charging on the first attempt.

We brought the EV6 because, like the Lucid, it uses a higher voltage electrical architecture that enables some of the fastest charging speeds available when connected to a 350kW charger (like those from Electrify America). But we saw a max of 40kW when connected to the Supercharger. The EQE, which charges at a similar voltage to a Tesla, reached a rate of 76kW.

These chargers are capable of charging a Tesla at a rate up to 250kW, which the automaker claims can add 75 miles of charge in 5 minutes and charge at rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour. This would equate to giving our EQE about 16 miles of range for every 5 minutes of charging time or just over 190 miles in an hour.

Photo: David Abrams/Consumer Reports Photo: David Abrams/Consumer Reports

Up until now, Tesla owners in the United States and Canada had access to a proprietary charging infrastructure that was sleek and seamless. Owners can locate and drive to a Supercharger using the in-car navigation system. Upon arrival and plugging in, the Tesla charging station communicates with the car and, if applicable, charges the owner’s account for the session. It is truly a plug-and-play system for Tesla owners.

But now, the doors to this private club have been flung open.

Scotty Olson, an EV enthusiast from New Jersey, drove more than 180 miles round trip with his wife to try out the Magic Dock in Brewster, the closest to their home. As the owner of both a Tesla Model 3 and a Volkswagen ID.4, he says he can see both advantages and disadvantages to the rollout of the Magic Docks.

“As an ID.4 owner, the Magic Dock makes the charging experience so much better,” Olson says. “It’s a great way to drive EV adoption. The number-one thing I hear from people considering an EV is worrying about where they are going to charge. It’s exciting that the biggest maker of chargers is opening up their chargers, and that excuse goes out the window.”

Even though it took him two attempts to get a charging station to connect to his ID.4, Scotty said that his experience with Superchargers overall has been very good. "If I pull up to an Electrify America station and they’re all working, I’m surprised. It seems as if one is always down. It’s pretty rare to find even one Tesla Supercharger that isn’t working even in a location with 12 stalls. I would choose a Magic Dock charger over Electrify America, EVgo, Chargepoint, and others because of the reliability factor. ”

He was slightly less enthusiastic when wearing his Tesla-owner hat: “I’m not looking forward to non-Tesla owners taking up two spaces when they are trying to charge,” he said.

As already noted, the Magic Dock charging speeds we experienced were not particularly fast, the short charging cables are an inconvenience and, for now at least, the nearest Magic Dock-equipped Supercharger may be more than a full charge away.

However, if you need a charge and your route takes you past one of the Magic Docks, it’s now another option—one that’s well-maintained and in working order: According to a 2022 survey conducted by J.D. Power, both Tesla Destination chargers and Superchargers rank highest in terms of customer satisfaction.

The same can’t always be said for other public charging options. In the J.D. Power survey, of the respondents who didn’t charge their vehicle during a visit to a public charging station, 72 percent indicated it was because the station was out of service or malfunctioned. And anecdotal evidence from CR staff members experiences using public chargers confirms this.

“Almost every time at least one stall is broken or malfunctioning,” says Alex. “Or the charger handles are broken. It once took me 30 minutes in the back of a dark, snowy parking lot in Albany to get an EVgo charger to work.”

CR auto technician Michael Crossen says he has had many similar experiences. “I was in Auburn, Mass., at an Electrify America station, and it was 12 degrees out and snowing," he says. "One charger was dark and not operational when I got there. I had to try three different chargers before one would connect to our ID.4.”

And at a local EVgo charger, he was never able to get more than 30kW in a charging session with our Polestar 2, even though it was supposedly a 50kW charger.

How Well Do Tesla Superchargers Work for Non-Tesla EVs?Location:Distance from ATC:Charging fee:Location:Distance from ATC: Charging fee: