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More Teslas on the Road Meant Hours-Long Supercharger Lines over Thanksgiving (thedrive.com)
53 points by tomohawk 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments

this definitely feels like a quirk of the route. kettleman city is right in the middle of the la-sf drive along the 5. it's also basically like one of two stops that has more than just some fast food restaurants, and a good place for kids to run around.

breaking up the monotony of the ~400mi drive stopping at the halfway point because the range is likely just short of the destination (and i assume even shorter if there was traffic due to snow, plus range reduction in cold, plus the elevation through the tejon pass), plus all the other stops along the 5 being much smaller or more inconvenient...

i'd be much more curious about how to handle this kind of demand in usage. i drive a gas car and the gas station lines on this route can be atrocious too, but people are done in a matter of minutes so it makes no real dent on travel time.

I imagine a semi trailer rigged with a battery, grid connection, and a set of chargers for seasonal surges. Maybe even a deployable solar panel array, but I suspect the PV panel would be too constrained to be much more than a show piece.

Hey now I can claim to think like Elon Musk!

Too bad your idea that traveled back in time wasn't "A giant solar dish powered by a space x laser in space"

From what my friends told me, it was just about everywhere in california. Probably like thanksgiving airport crowding.

So some bigger charging stations are needed in some inter-city locations. Not that hard. That's the Madonna Inn, by the way, a famous sex hotel since the 1950s. Maybe they could offer a deal where you get valet charging with a short stay.

This is a serious charging station, in Shenzhen.[1] 637 chargers.

[1] https://thedriven.io/2019/05/24/worlds-largest-charging-stat...

> That's the Madonna Inn, by the way, a famous sex hotel since the 1950s

Not sure what you were trying to say here, but the implication is that this is a dingy, sleazebag motel, only trafficked by hookers and pimps.

For the record, that's absolutely untrue.

It's a pretty fun hotel with theme rooms and a really cool cave bathroom.

Yikes, I hope that Shenzhen is not the future. That's a LOT of real estate to dedicate to charging cars.

High speed rail between the major cities, with decent transport links out to the smaller areas makes so much more sense (if done correctly, which CA and the US in general has proven incapable of doing).

That's a LOT of real estate to dedicate to charging cars.

Not really. It's a 700-space parking lot. A Walmart Supercenter, of which the US has over 2000, has more than that.

Not that hard. Unless there is no physical space to add more capacity.

But it costs money. And Tesla has been greatly reducing their investment in supercharger infrastructure even as they sell more cars per year.

This major city, east coast HN driver had zero supercharger lines going to and from the Midwest. Maybe the author should have put “In California” in the title?

Similar story here: drove up I5 from Portland to Seattle to Leavenworth and back to Portland. Traveling Fri through Sun. No lines.

I was very pleasantly surprised to run into a Supercharger station in Leavenworth while walking about.

Maybe, since half of all PEV sales go to california:


Don't know tesla-specific numbers.

California appears to be the sample of what full electrification implies.

Given Tesla charges for use of Super Chargers now and the cost of electricity dominates build out cost, they should be able to build out enough infrastructure in a cost neutral way to stay ahead of the curve.

Huh. Strange then that they aren't accelerating the construction of chargers.

They only have so much capital and probably spending on new factorise instead.

Not at all. California is extremely overpopulated and condensed. Most of the country other than a few similar major cities will not have the same issues

This is largely due to the crazy free-supercharging giveaways Elon has been giving away like candy. I see so many Tesla drivers using superchargers as their primary charing spot. Hanging out in their car playing Cuphead or shopping at the target, and topping their battery to 100% taking 1+ hours to do so.

For people like me who charge at home, I just want to quickly jump into a spot and get 90 miles range to get me home. Should take 15-20 minutes max to get my battery there, but waiting line sucks.

Nobody is driving out to kettleman city because they get free charging.

That said, "free" anything brings out outlier behavior that even the most nominal charge would prevent. (the $10 copay for doctor visits is the same thing)

They aren't driving out to Kettleman for free charging. But, they are stopping there en route because free charging is available.

With gas stations, that doesn't happen - you just stop wherever you want. If there's a line, you go to the next station.

> 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.

Tesla has already invested $400 million in their network, and continues to expand it (Electrify America was part of a settlement VW had to agree to as part of Dieselgate, hence why they can't be VW branded). It's clear legacy automakers aren't interested in making the investment, nor state or national governments.

Lots of Superchargers under construction in California (where these queues were): https://supercharge.info/map

Does Tesla continue to expand it relative to the number of Teslas sold? I was under the impression that the stalls per vehicle count has been getting much worse ever since the Model 3 launch.

Although to do the calculations correctly, you'd want to normalize for charge times which have improved with M3 + V3.

Cutting free lifetime supercharger access has probably reduced the day to day load on the network, but isn't going to do anything at all to help with peak use around holidays.

They now have a mobile charge station with a bunch of chargers on it that will help with peak times.


Yeah, we need a few more years (or more!) before DC fast chargers are mainstream. We need other companies to build them too.

Other companies are building them but they're building CCS chargers. Tesla's still using its proprietary plug in North America. Tesla should switch their cars and chargers to CCS (and allow other EVs to use them) to broaden the charging infrastructure for all drivers.

Current CCS specs are lacking - a 200 Amp limit on DC charging means most EV's can only charge at ~60 kilowatts. The connector is unwieldy and large. The standard doesn't provide the ability for cars to put power into the grid (something that EV makers really want to do because then they can cash in on the lucrative reactive spinning reserve/frequency control market). The connector also doesn't have any way to measure voltage drop across the high current pins, so a bit of dirt could easily cause the whole thing to melt into a gooey mess.

I can completely see why Tesla is holding off switching specs until CCS improves or another standard comes to take its place.

> ”Current CCS specs are lacking - a 200 Amp limit”

There is no 200 Amp limit in the modern 150-350 kW CCS chargers being deployed by networks like Ionity and Electrify America.

Tesla, of course, already uses CCS in Europe. A Model 3 can charge at over 190 kW on European CCS chargers. A Porsche Taycan (800V), 270 kW.

And here's a demonstration of a Tesla Model 3 charging on an Ionity CCS charger:


Gets up to 499 amps.

> Current CCS specs are lacking - a 200 Amp limit on DC charging

I think your information is out of date. There are 500 amp CCS DC chargers. It's how they get to maximum outputs of 350 kW and 400 kW.

> The standard doesn't provide the ability for cars to put power into the grid

It's coming: https://www.electrive.com/2019/01/24/charin-bidirectional-ch...

> Tesla is holding off switching specs until CCS improves

Tesla is using CCS plugs in Europe: https://insideevs.com/news/343728/most-tesla-superchargers-n...

Hold up.

>reactive spinning reserve/frequency control market

What is this? Because if it has anything to do with utilizing software installed at the factory in order to control the fleet of cars as some sort of distributed self metering battery grid to the financial benefit of the EV manufacturer instead of the end customer, I'm calling B.S.

It'd be like Smart TV's, but worse.

Wiki says 80kw for combo 1 connector and 350kw for combo 2 [1].

Why do you bring up ability to put power into the grid? In case of supercharging along the route it would be never the case.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combined_Charging_System

No, both the Combo 1 (North America) and Combo 2 (Europe and rest of world) plugs support 350kW.

The 80A limitation you’re referring to was in the CCS 1.0 specification, now superseded by CCS 2.0.

I think Kettleman already has 10+ V3 Superchargers. I suppose that explains why there can be 50+ cars in line without getting the hours-long wait times of SLO.


To be fair, hours-long wait times can happen on normal weekdays too (SJC for instance) when there are a bunch of locals using them.

Surprisingly (not really), the same issues that apply to food, gas, and rest stops on holidays also apply to Superchargers.

Could someone rent a trailerable generator bring a large CNG or diesel tank, and set up a temporary charging station on busy days like Thanksgiving and Labor day?

Quick googling found e.g. a CAT generator[1] that has output sufficient for charging 20 cars (150kW per 2 cars in a Tesla supercharger station).

Sure it's not green, but if it's one stop once or twice a year, surely that's better than driving a gas car year round?

1: https://www.cat.com/en_US/products/new/power-systems/electri...

This is the first time I can remember stuff like this happening. I assume this is the kind of thing nobody is really thinking about until it happens.

I think this is how the popup charger at Burning Man worked.

In addition to more stations, they need better batteries with better range. A gas powered vehicle can go SF to LA without a fillup. Since the EVs need more frequent fillups, it puts more strain on the stations.

And it's a double whammy since not only do they need more frequent fill-ups, but the fill-ups take way longer compared to pumping a tank of gas (even with fast charging). It seems like a major hurdle to true mass market EV adoption.

How often do you folks make a 400 mile trip to LA?

I did a 250 mile trip from Bay Area to Central Valley. Stopped for 20 minutes on way back in Coalinga to add 80 miles of range at 400 miles of charging per hour.

I get down to 100 miles of range in my non-EV, and I fill'er up. Having a reserve is important. Spending 20 minutes for 80 miles seems ludicrous given that doesn't even meet my minimum reserve requirement and is very expensive in terms of time. Even with the advertised new chargers they're rolling out, they provide 80 miles of range for a 5 minute charge. Progress for sure, but the non-EV bar is much higher.

Gas powered cars get 500+ miles of range with a 5 minute fillup. And the range is not dependent on other variables such as battery age or ambient temperature. What's the EV range at 5F (-15C) - a pretty common temp in the winter? What if the batteries are 5 years old?

A gas powered car is going to need far fewer fillups per week than an EV, and be far more flexible - its one less thing you have to think about and plan for.

Those extra fillups required by EVs require more stations to be built - including at your home and place of work.

Hopefully future EVs will support rapid charging. If you could top your battery to 80% in 5 minutes that would be a game changer for EV stations. At that point, you could integrate them into a more traditional "gas station" style service.

Mophie needs to make a battery case for the Tesla's!

Maybe its a trick by TESLA to force the owners to buy solar roofs and powerwalls. This lets the economy grow. Just a little bit.

I think recharging is a transitory solution anyway. The real game changer will be automated battery swaps.

Imagine stopping at the charging station and having the entire battery pulled out and replaced with a charged one, pit-stop style. It completely neutralizes the #1 complaint about how long batteries take to charge, since there should always be a supply ready-to-go at the station.

This would be an automated, underground mechanism - you wouldn't even have to leave your car.

It will be faster than filling up a tank with gas.

Nio has implemented battery swapping in China:


I don't see it catching on. It's too much logistical hassle. Battery packs can't be delivered as easily as fuel or electrons.

They’re not really delivered though, they’d be swapped and charged onsite ?

And stored and moved around. You have to have a stack of batteries ready to swap. You need someone to manage it whereas most chargers are unattended.

And when do you swap the battery? If you have 50% left but that's not far enough to get where you're going do you swap it out then or do you charge? And if you're charging anyway what's the value of the expense of the swapping system?

Yes, exactly. The batteries from customer cars will be recharged and re-used. You'd also have a reserve of extras for peak demand.

You could even automate health check-ups on the batteries this way too, and decommission the rotten ones from the fleet.

And then you'd have people who would try to rort the system by swapping a bad set of batteries with a good set from the station, and then sell it for a profit.

There would be measures in place to prevent this, of course. They'd have to be more robust than Redbox scanning for fake DVD returns, but you could sign the battery firmware, do challenge/response, etc. before allowing the swap to happen. All automatic of course. And if your battery turns out to be an elaborate fake - well, we know whose car it came from, considering they drove it to the station with a license plate attached.

> you could sign the battery firmware, do challenge/response, etc. before allowing the swap to happen

so either you're only allowed to swap batteries at these authorized stations (akin to today having a car that can only use petrol purchased from a particular brand of station), or it's trivially easy to swap it yourself (or with some easy to obtain equipment, like today's car oil change).

If it's the first case, then these cars are DRM'ed to hell and back. Not a good world for the consumer.

If it's the latter, then battery swapping will happen. It's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham%27s_law applied to batteries.

You could very easily have standards in place to ensure compatibility between garages ?

Why? If the modus operandi is to swap batteries instead of charging then you are effectively leasing the batteries and just buying the charge on them.

it's not convinient to fully disable charging at home, a lot of folks will revolt. and if you have people charging their cars at night, you always have a chance of swapping a worn out battery for a good one.

Of course. But if you know you don't really own the battery, and the swapping capability is in the price it is a non-issue. We already have something similar here, in Australia, for swapping LPG/propane gas bottles. You can refill if you want ( it is often cheaper) or swap with a full one. They are all dated so they also have "use by date"

And propane tanks are much cheaper than a large pack of litium batteries. Not worth it to steal a couple of dollars worth of metals from a propane tank, but the batteries are a large percentage of the cost of an electric car.

There’s always going to be some necessary repositioning in this kind of a logistic system. The LA Metro Bikes have the same kind of problem.

I think the problem is not going to be the technology, but the business model.

Electric vehicles as a financial proposition make much less sense when the cost becomes "and a $XXX dollar per month battery swap plan for as long as you plan on owning this vehicle". It also becomes problematic since batteries are the most depreciating major component on the vehicle. If you have a model where I can opt in to have my battery swapped for a brand new one without paying for the entire cost of the new battery, that business will not be solvent for very long.

Then there's the disposal/recycling costs. It's still not profitable to recycle the type of batteries we are putting in vehicles, so unless the government is implementing a new EV vehicle tax to help offset the recycling effort, any business model would have to account for that huge cost.

I think recharging is a transitory solution anyway. The real game changer will be automated battery swaps.

Battery swaps seem to have been a transitory solution. Battery forklifts and battery container shuttles at ports used to use battery swaps. But once batteries got good enough to run them all day, it was easier to just plug them in for a recharge when not in use.[1] Many electric cars can now go further without stopping than the driver can.

[1] https://www.liftway.ca/swap-your-forklift-batteries-for-the-...

Handling all those extra batteries would be complex and expensive. For one thing, batteries are not, and probably never will be, standardised between different makes and models of vehicle.

Most drivers, in most circumstances, would prefer to wait the extra 10 or 15 minutes to charge their own battery. After hours of driving, you probably want to stop for a snack or go pee anyway.

The technical problems might be easyish to solve, but I think the business/operational challenges will prove insurmountable:

- Need to standardize on a small set of form factors across manufacturers - Limitations to vehicle designs - How to prevent owners from swapping a battery with 1000 cycles of wear for one with 10 cycles (and vice-versa) - Getting the cost down to be comparable with plain charging (it would never be cheaper—the batteries need to be charged either way)

I think developments to fast charging will quickly negate any perceived benefit to battery swapping. Increases in capacity will also help, as will changes to expectations and habits for refueling (combining recharging with meals seems like an easy solution).

It will be interesting to see what wins out. I'm personally not optimistic that battery technology will get much better from a charging perspective than it already is. But that would be fine in my book too, if we reduced that to ~5 minutes. Anything longer feels like a regression compared to fossil fuels.

W/r/t standardization - yeah, mechanically there might be some interesting considerations like mounting points and common interfaces on the bottom of a car; but if the will is there, I'm sure there is a way.

Bad battery swapping isn't hard to discourage - if you poison the well, your vehicle is banned from the subscription battery program and you get to charge at home. Many ways a car can be tracked by the battery swapping station - especially if you have to sign in with your Tesla account/use an app to initiate the swap).

> Anything longer feels like a regression compared to fossil fuels

Not being able to fill up at home, or in the Target parking lot while I shop kinda sucks too - and those are much more common occurences than a 400 mile road trip. In reality, it's more of to a tradeoff than a regression...

The Cybertruck has a top end range listed of 500 miles. The solution in the end is going to be cars that last longer than the humans driving them (or the human passengers when we finally have autonomous cars), combined with ordinary charging stations in every parking location.

Battery swapping is complicated and capital intensive. It would have to solve an urgent need to catch on. But there isn't one.

Tesla tried this and interest was poor. It is also convoluted given you need to swap your battery out and put your battery back in.

problem is, batteries tend to degrade with time, and it's obviously not fair if you will change your worn out battery for an almost new one and only pay for a single charge.

I doubt it, we don't even have battery swap for smartphone.

It was already demoed by Elon and buried.

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