We charged a BMW at the Tesla Supercharger!
Tesla is finally rolling out access to its Supercharger network for non-Tesla vehicles. Any EV with a CCS charge port will be able to charge at a Supercharging station next to Model 3s, Ys, Xs, Ss, and eventually the Cybertruck (maybe). Before you jump into your Polestar 2, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq 5, or other EV and head on down to the nearest Supercharger, there are a few things you need to know. It’s only at very select stations (very select) and the layout of the stations is for Teslas. The short cable that wasn’t an issue for a Model 3 might make charging another EV a pain. Also, good luck finding a station near you. Even in the EV-heavy Bay Area we had to travel two hours to find a station that supported non-Teslas. That said, we hopped into the BMW ix M60 and took a road trip to see if Tesla’s ability to build a robust charging network for its own vehicle translates into something that it can do for the rest of the industry.
ROBERTO BALDWIN: Years ago, I wrote an article about Tesla. It was about the charging network. I said that Tesla should open up its entire network to all EVs. Tesla, non-Tesla, if you have an electric car, you should be able to go to a Tesla Supercharging station and charge it up. A lot of Tesla people got mad at me. Got a lot of emails, got a lot of angry tweets. Well, years later, Tesla is opening up its charging network to, well, all EVs. But mostly, mostly it's charging-- some-- a little-- a tiny sliver of its charging network. And we're going to test it out.
Tesla opening up its charging network to other EVs is a huge deal because its charging network is really its killer app. Now, there have been other charging networks. There's ChargePoint, and there's EVgo, and there's Electrify America. Now, Electrify America has done a great job putting a lot of EV charging stations in a lot of places in a relatively short amount of time.
The problem with that is, well, they don't always work as expected. Meanwhile, Tesla, its Supercharger network, that is the company's killer app. That is the best thing about owning a Tesla. If you buy a Tesla, you could confidently drive across the country and charge, should be no problem. If I have any other EV, it's going to require a lot of planning. And you have to wonder, when I get to that EV charging station, is it going to work correctly?
Today, I'm driving the BMW iX M60-- This is BMW's luxury electric SUV, the performance version. It is an M car-- to charge at a Tesla Supercharging station. And that should be pretty simple because there are Supercharging stations everywhere, right? Yes, not the ones that work with all the other EVs, though.
So we're going to start our excursion by first just topping off the battery, getting up to 80%. Right now, it's at 63% So I went to a Electrify America charging station near my house, and things are not going well. First, I had to unplug and plug the car in twice. And now that it is plugged in and charging, I'm charging it at grand total of 8 kilowatts, 8 kilowatts. I could charge faster at home. I have 189 miles of range. The Tesla charging station, according to the map, is 103 miles away. Yeah, I'm not going to wait for this.
So the issue is, I live in Northern California, which you can't swing a bat without hitting like five EVs. You Also can't swing that same bat without hitting at least one charging station. There are two Electrify America charging stations within a 3-mile radius of my house. There's an EVgo charging station. There's a ChargePoint charging station. There's just a free government charging station. There's a lot of charging in the Bay Area.
Tesla hasn't, well, opened up any of those charging stations to other EVs. Instead, I have to go to Placerville, 106 miles from my house, or Santa Cruz I'm going to Placerville because I have family live up there. So at least I can stop by and say hi.
So why are none of the Bay Area Supercharging stations compatible with other EVs? Well, I can't ask Tesla because they don't have a press department, and Elon Musk won't reply to my tweets. I am guessing that the fact that there are so many Teslas-- and, I mean, there's a Tesla right in front of me right now. There are so many Teslas in this area, and the Supercharging network is so important to selling those Teslas that Tesla decided, you know what? Let's do it on the outskirts.
It also means that it's in the middle of nowhere for people to try out so you don't get it overwhelmed by putting it here in the Bay Area proper. If you had one, let's say, a mile from my house, it'd be silly with Volvos, and Polestars, and BMWs, and Hyundais, and Kias, and Fords trying it out.
So why is Tesla doing this now? Money, that's why. Now, we have the Inflation Reduction Act. If you can have a charger along a road, a main thoroughfare, a main highway, a main artery, and that charger is up, most of the time, majority of the time, it's always working, and it's available to everyone, you can get cash from the government.
So how does Tesla make this work? Well, it's actually quite clever. Tesla uses a proprietary charging port. Its cable is proprietary. You can't just plug it into an EV. What you can do is plug it into a adapter. So Tesla has built in the adapter into the station. It comes with the adapter attached to it. The adapter automatically attaches when you tell the app to unlock the charger for you and your non-Tesla car. That's genius. What's also impressive is that Tesla now has to do something it's never had to do. And that is start putting software into its charging stations for other vehicles.
So we're here at the Tesla site. So here's the biggest issue. We should be in this parking spot. But because Tesla's Chargers have a short cable and the charging port on this vehicle is on the right-hand side instead of the left-hand side, we are now parked in the incorrect spot. So if this charging spot fills with Teslas, there are going to be a lot of angry people. Fortunately, there's only two other Teslas here, so we're good.
So we do this. We do this. All, right here we go. Now, I have to get rid of my charging. All right, here we go. One more time, on 1A, unlock adapter. All right, so typically when you take a Tesla charging point out, it comes out with just the Tesla part. This time, it should-- bada-boom. So this is the Tesla charger. This is the adapter they've added to it. Let's plug it into this giant BMW, boom.
We got it plugged in. We got orange. It's waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. Come on. Make this-- oh, blue. It's-- oh, there's a little dog! There's a little dog. It looks like it's going to work. It looks like it's charging. It tells me what the charge rate I'm doing, 18 kilowatts, 84.
This was really easy. Tesla sites don't have anything on their chargers. You just unplug it and plug it in, and the Tesla knows. Same thing is happening here. I didn't have to-- there's no screen on the charger like Electrify America, or ChargePoint, or anywhere else. I just plugged it in, and it's working. 133 kilowatts is being added to the vehicle right now.
It is-- it's painless. It's working. Yes, it's more expensive. It's about a dime to $0.15 more per kilowatt. But it works. I didn't pre-condition this battery. I just drove here. I didn't tell the car that I was going to a charging station because the car probably wouldn't have understood it because I'm going to a Tesla charging station.
After getting more than enough electricity to get home, we ended the session with the app and released the charging station from the vehicle by pressing the button on the adapter, not the usual button you'd press on the cable to release it from a Tesla. We put the cable back, and we were on our way.
So what have we learned today? Well, we learned that Tesla is really good at building out a charging network, even one for other EVs. That said, it's puzzling that while the automaker decided to create this really clever adapter system, it didn't expand the length of the cables at its stations. A lot of EVs are going to show up to the stations and just not be able to charge because the cable isn't long enough.
Also, there are only eight Supercharging stations in the United States that support this. The rest of them still only work with Teslas. But if Tesla can, well, expand that and also lengthen their cables, they're going to be a major player in expanding the charging infrastructure of the United States for all EVs. For more automotive coverage, from BMWs that can charge at Tesla Supercharging stations, be sure to subscribe to "Engadget."