Supercharger: worth the upgrade?

According to Electrek, Elon Musk in the 2016 Tesla Annual Shareholders’ Meeting clarified some things about how the Model 3 will work with the supercharger network, specifically that it will only be available as an optional package.

Ultimately I like choice, however this could be quite a pricey one. If, as in the Electrek article linked above, supercharger access is a $2500 (£1730 at the time of writing) add-on, you’d really have to make regular use of them for it to be worth while. How regular? As if by mathematics, we can find out…

Let’s say the presently un-launched Model 3 launches with a 90kWh battery pack. Assuming you’ve planned your journey reasonably well, let’s also assume you arrive with 15% of your battery capacity left, and you’re going to charge to 85% due to time constraints, not wanting to over-stress the pack and so on, meaning you’re going to stuff around (90 x 0.7) = 63kWh into the pack.

Let’s assume the charging process is preposterously efficient at 90%: that means we’d actually pull (63 * (100/90)) = 70kWh from the grid. At my (current) Economy 7 rate of £0.069/kWh, that amount of electricity would cost (£0.069 * 70) = £4.83.

To be even more generous, let’s add the motorway service-station fuel premium to that (for those outside the UK, gas stations on major routes always charge ludicrously more for fuel than those in town) – say 20%, taking that to £5.80. What the hell – call it a round £6.

For £1730, I can charge the car using the figures above 288 times.

Let’s say you’ve got the car on a three-year lease, so you want to get as much out of it as possible, hence you need to make use of those those 288 supercharger visits within the three year term, meaning on average you’d want to visit a supercharger once every ((365*3)/288) = 3.8 days, or approximately twice a week.

This in itself is not so bad, and spread over the life of the car it is a veritable bargain, but over three years? I guess it depends if your daily commute puts you within range of a Supercharger.

I live just outside Burton and work in Derby. Here’s the Tesla Supercharger map:

Superchargers in the East Midlands

Superchargers in the East Midlands

For me – not so much. It’s actually a 60-mile, 1h40m round trip, so unless I’m heading off somewhere, it’s unlikely I’d ever use them. Would I buy the option? If I was purchasing the car outright, definitely. Higher residual value, plus I’d be able to get a return on the investment over a longer period as I doubt I’d ever want to sell in three years’ time. When leasing however? Meh – not sure. It wouldn’t add a massive amount to the cost of the lease, plus with Tesla’s guaranteed buy-back price including optional extras you could justify it as a holidays-plus-safety-net kind of deal.

Either way, it’s a cool option to have, just not quite as cool as having your car magically re-fuel itself overnight silently while you’re sleeping 😉

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