The Supercharger network isn’t the only way to recharge a Tesla

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Matthew DeBord/BI

  • Tesla Supercharger network offers high-speed charging for road trips.
  • But owners have other options.
  • It also isn’t necessary to fully charge every time – a Tesla vehicle can calculate how much juice it needs to get from point to point.

A while back, I drove my kids to camp in the Catskills. Our chariot for the journey was a Tesla – the Model S sedan.

More recently, I took the entire family on a road trip in a Model X, Tesla’s SUV.

With the Model S, I wound up putting the car through its charging paces. With the Model X, I made good use of the SUV’s ability to figure out just how much charging it really needs, taking advantage of Tesla’s ever-growing Supercharger network.

Good tests, eh? It’s worth a Tesla owner’s time to know about, as Tesla has begun assessing fees for Supercharging (it used to be free to owners) as the company brings new customers into the fold.

Read on to learn about all the different ways you can rejuice a Tesla.


A few years back, this pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ.

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It was a Model S, in P90D trim. The “P” for “performance,” the “90” for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the “D” for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup.

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The trip would cover 117 miles, one-way.

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When fully charged, the Model S has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn’t top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening.

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And away we go!

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We arrive! But there’s just one issue …

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I’ve screwed up my range calculations. We don’t have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er … ELECTRICITY!

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There’s a cable in the trunk of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level re-juicing.

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You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S.

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Not exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use.

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This one was down by a maintenance shed.

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We are charging away …

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… but we’ll be getting only a few miles per hour of charging! That’s mega-slow.

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A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night.

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The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby.

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We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room.

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And once again plugged into a basic outlet.

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By the next morning, we have enough juice to make the closest charging location — a partner charging site.

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Off we go!

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The charger was located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph.

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Bingo!

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We’re plugged in …

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… and drawing power again.

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But this time, we’re charging much faster. In a few hours, we’ll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location.

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Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car!

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With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger.

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It’s about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, NY.

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Finally! Superchargers!

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This is gonna be much faster charging.

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One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range.

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Bzzzzz … electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go!

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When we’ve finished eating, we have almost a full charge for what’s left of the drive.

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Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up … in the car! We explored three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. And sure you can guess which is best.

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This past summer, I borrowed a black Model X SUV.

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For this trip, we planned our charging out in advance more meticulously and trusted the Tesla (for the most part) to do the calculations right as we leapfrogged from Supercharger to Supercharger.

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Fast charging isn’t charging-in-minutes. It can still take a while. But as we learned on our previous trip, Superchargers are often located close to shopping areas.

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So I tried out Sheetz!

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Tesla has definitely perfected the road trip, for the routes that most people will take. Yes, you have to plan for stops that are longer than gasoline fill-ups. But most of the time, you’ll be Supercharging for under an hour.

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