Most EV owners charge at home most of the time. When doing so, their cost for charging is almost always lower than the cost of charging in public at a pay-for-use charger. Charging in public can range in cost from free to very expensive. One of the most expensive ways to charge a non-Tesla is to use the new Tesla Superchargers that have just been converted to be compatible with more affordable battery-electric vehicles. Tesla’s Superchargers offer DC current to provide a quicker charge than a Level 2 charger would, but reports from the internet by non-Tesla owners are that they don’t match the fastest 350 kW rate chargers from some other DCFC sources.
There are multiple reasons for charging in public. Top among those reasons is convenience and necessity. If you are traveling outside of your home charger’s range radius, you may need to charge. In that case, the cost is secondary to almost all other considerations. Another reason to charge might be that you are in a location that has a newly opened to the public Supercharger and want to test out how the app works to experience the charger so that when you later need it, you already have some experience using it.
Tesla vehicles are premium-priced. Cost may not be a big factor for Tesla owners driving a $60K sedan the size of an Elantra Hybrid. We doubt owners of $100K Model S and Model X vehicles really care much about the cost per kWh they pay. However, for many EV owners, cost of ownership is a very big priority. EVs offer the promise, if not yet the reality, of a lower cost of ownership for a given driving experience. An excellent example may be the Chevy Bolt. Bolts were selling in my area two years ago with no federal tax incentive for under $20K NEW. Value shoppers may be very interested to know whether charging up at the newly-opened Tesla Superchargers makes fiscal sense. The short answer is that it most definitely does not if you have any other alternative.
We have been scouring the interweb for posts related to users who have taken their non-Tesla automobile to the newly opened Tesla Supercharger nearest them. So far, the two states we have found posts from are California and New York. These are both EV-Friendly states with residents who never miss an opportunity to over-tax themselves for the sheer joy of the pain. However, not everyone in these states is out in a Tesla Model S Plaid shopping for bargains on consigned Hermès handbags. Some residents may well be folks who just want to commute in an EV and do so affordably. Our story here is primarily for the latter type of EV driver.
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Tesla’s Statement on Charging Costs
Tesla doesn’t publish any prices for its supercharger locations on its website that we could find. No big surprise there. Tesla has always walked the line of evasiveness and downright obfuscation regarding the prices of its products and services (in our opinion). Here is what Tesla does say about its newly-opened Supercharger locations’ prices: “Pricing for non-Tesla drivers reflects additional costs incurred to support charging a broad range of vehicles and adjustments to our sites to accommodate these vehicles. Rates vary by site, and you can view charging prices in the Tesla app. The per kWh price to charge can be lowered with a charging membership.” Here is our translation: “Listen, riff-raff. If you don’t like the prices, drive on past.”
Examples of Tesla Supercharger Prices
Prices from non-Tesla owners who are seeking out the handful of newly opened Superchargers are starting to appear. $0.49/kWh is the closest cost we have seen and $0.52/kWh is the highest so far. These prices are for those who have the app, but have opted not to pay the $12.99 user fee, which lowers the per kWh charge.
Tesla Supercharger Member Pricing
If you wish to pay Tesla whether you use the Supercharger or not, the price is $12.99 per month. If you opt-in, you then pay a per kWh charge that is about 20% lower than if you drive up and use the app without being a member. Member pricing we have seen posted by users ranges from $0.39 to $0.42 per kWh after having paid the up-front $12.99 per month fee. Want to learn more? Here is Tesla's web page.
Cost Comparisons - BEVs vs. Gas Vehicles vs. Hybrids
We looked at AAA’s average cost for gasoline in the state of New York on Sunday, March 5th, 2023, and found it listed as $3.437 per gallon for regular unleaded. Gas Buddy had the lowest cost fuel in the New York town in which one Supercharger example was offered at just $3.15 on March 4th. We created this cost-per-mile chart comparing the prices per mile to power a Bolt, a Corolla Hatchback, and a Toyota Prius. As you can see, in New York, it costs about twice as much per mile to power a Chevy Bolt charged at Tesla’s Supercharger than it does to power a Prius with gasoline. You can run the numbers for California if you like. You will find that in California, powering the Prius with gas is 50% less expensive (per mile) than powering the Bolt with electricity supplied by Tesla.
One of the promises of electric vehicles was that they would offer a substantially-lower cost of ownership by comparison to gasoline vehicles. EV advocates and Tesla itself often point to “gasoline cost savings.” While examples can be found in which EVs have a lower cost per mile than gas cars, affordable EVs charged using Tesla’s Superchargers are a lot more expensive per mile to power than similarly-sized and priced gasoline-only vehicles.
Have you used one of Tesla’s newly opened-up Superchargers to charge an affordable EV? If so, tell us what price you paid for electricity from Tesla in the comments below.
Image of cheekyToyota Prius parked next to a Supercharger by John Goreham
John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his ten years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin