Tesla announced on its site its intention to improve access to third-party fast charging for its customers. The American manufacturer’s cars are associated with a network of fast chargers, superchargers, and the vehicle software has been optimized for this network. When the planner calculates a route, it takes into account the charging needs and the position of the superchargers to get you to your destination.
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This remains one of Tesla’s important arguments, as the competition still often struggles to offer reliable planners that avoid isolated and unreliable terminals. Nevertheless, the third-party fast charging network is growing rapidly in Europe, with many players entering this market. The cars sold by Tesla in Europe are all equipped with the standard CCS connector, which allows them to use any terminal. However, the software ignored them entirely for a long time, until the addition of Ionity stations a little over a year ago.
Tesla cars can add steps to Ionity terminals
Today’s announcement enriches the database of third-party charging stations. A quick search in my Model 3 tells me that other well-known names are displayed in the list, in addition to Ionity: Lidl, TotalEnergie or Electra around my house. I don’t have a Fastned or Allego nearby, but I imagine they will be referenced as well.
For all these stations, the operating system of Tesla indicates the maximum theoretical power as well as the number of connectors. There is no price, nor the theoretical or real availability of the terminals, the integration remains in this respect much more limited than with superchargers, where you can see graphs of average use, hour by hour . Nevertheless, the manufacturer tries to use its knowledge to filter third-party charging stations and keep only the reliable ones.
How to determine their reliability? Tesla exploits its strong point by exploiting information transmitted by its cars. Concretely, the charging stations displayed in the car must meet three criteria: have at least one compatible charging connector, be used frequently by Tesla drivers (at least once every four days) and above all display an average rate of minimum pass of 90%. All stations that are referenced may disappear if no load is performed and/or if the success rate drops below 70% for the last 14 days.
This methodology, combined with the many constant data feedbacks from Tesla’s huge fleet, should make it possible to avoid unreliable stations. This is a classic method for the American manufacturer, because it is both automated and therefore does not require having a database to maintain by hand, and it offers a good experience to its customers. If they want to avoid superchargers, the stations referenced on the main screen of their car should be reliable enough to replace home terminals. On the other hand, the price does not go up through the car, which explains its absence on the central screen.
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Good news, even if Tesla still refuses to take the last step: the planner still relies only on superchargers. When you request a route, only the manufacturer’s terminals are selected for charging. That this is the default case is quite logical, the experience is much better, with identification and payment managed by the car or taking into account saturation in real time. But when modifying a trip to add a step to a third-party charging station, the car should take this into account to also plan the recharge, taking into account the time needed to reach the correct battery level.
This is not the case at the moment and the car will be lost if you want to use third-party stations. You will then have to use a third-party application, such as the excellent ABRP, to get an idea of the load to be made at each stop. Nothing insurmountable and that’s what the majority of electric vehicle drivers have to do for their long journeys, but when you’ve known the simplicity of the Tesla experience, it’s unfortunate not to find it to the fullest with the other charging networks.
On the other hand, selecting a fast charger from the list provided by Tesla should ensure that the car arrives with a properly packed battery. For a charge to be really fast, the battery must be sufficiently warm and, especially in winter, this often means that it must be warmed up before arriving. Tesla does this automatically with its compressors, but also for the Ionity terminals since last year and there is no reason that it will be different for these other third-party stations. Be careful, you have to remember to go through the list of charging stations for the preconditioning to be activated.