Massive Queues for Tesla Supercharging in Australia as the UK Sounds a Critical Warning

Tesla Superchargers in Australia face long lines during holidays 7 photos
Photo: JohnW/Twitter
Tesla Superchargers in Australia face long lines during holidaysTesla Superchargers in Australia face long lines during holidaysSupercharging queue in Westmorland, UK, with 40 EV waiting to chargeAnother giant Tesla line in the UK to superchargeAnother giant Tesla line in the UK to superchargeAnother giant Tesla line in the UK to supercharge
Tesla is frequently praised for having the world's most reliable and extensive fast-charging network. Not long ago, it was also cherished by its service level, comparable at the time to that offered by Lexus, BMW, and other premium brands. When sales volumes increased, service quality vanished. The same is happening with the Supercharging network, which sounds a critical alarm for all EV advocates.
Reports of jammed Supercharging stations first emerged in the U.S. after Thanksgiving in 2019. Either Tesla has solved that with more stations, or its customers just got used to the queues and gave up complaining. Another possibility is that they decided never to travel further on a single day than the full range of their cars would allow – at least during holidays. Stopping somewhere with a regular charger and waiting until the following day could be a way to try to prevent such issues. Eventually, that will also not be enough – at least if we are talking about hotels. Chargers in these places will eventually not suffice either.

As far as I know, Australia and the United Kingdom have never faced massive queues at Superchargers before, so they were not prepared to deal with that. The sad note is that it was predictable: when Teslas get more popular anywhere, Service Centers are the first evidence that the infrastructure to deal with them is insufficient. Superchargers are the second one, which becomes obvious on national holidays.

In these situations, there are just too many cars for the few fast chargers available. To make matters worse, each Supercharger may take (on average) around 40 minutes to deliver 80% of the charge (the recommended one). Anything above that limit will take a lot more time and may stress the battery pack beyond what the fast charging process already imposes.

According to The Telegraph, drivers were facing queues of around three hours (180 minutes) on Christmas in several spots in the UK. The British newspaper mentioned Cumbria, Hertfordshire, Telford, and Westmorland. Metro added Manchester to the list.

The Telegraph checked the “Tesla Owners Club UK” Facebook group and discovered plenty of people furious at the EV maker. One of the members wrote they were at the Tebay Southbound Supercharger in Cumbria for one hour. With 15 cars ahead, this person estimated waiting two more hours at the very least. Another one complained about having their family in the car for two hours. Comparing the situation to a bedlam, Jamie Waters said on Twitter he had to wait two hours and thirty minutes to fast charge his car. He said it was the worst journey he had ever had since buying the EV and took a picture to show the 40 cars waiting for juice.

In Australia, the local edition of the Daily Mail said there were long lines to use Superchargers in Wodonga, on the border of Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). Phil Williams shared the situation on Twitter. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) chief foreign correspondent said the stalls were “overwhelmed with wait times around 90 mins.” His post and video led another Twitter user to demonstrate how things were the same in Coffs Harbour, NSW. JohnW shared two pictures of the long line of cars waiting for a fast charge there.

ABC’s chief correspondent took that as an example that “basic EV infrastructure (is) failing to keep pace with demand.” He then wrote that it is “time for some serious investment for the future.” Whether he knows that Tesla owns the Supercharging network or not is not clear, but this specific request for an infrastructure improvement is directed more at the EV maker and other private businesses than at the Australian government.

All fast-charging networks I’m aware of were created by companies: Electrify America (EA), EVgo, ChargePoint, Ionity… You name it. Governments may create low-speed public charging networks, but they are not convenient for road trips. Besides, they will never be enough even for those accepting long charging times: taxpayers’ money has more urgent applications.

Tesla cars adopt CCS2 chargers in Australia and the UK – like most other EVs. Although these drivers could go anywhere to get fast charging, they preferred to use the Supercharging network. American Tesla customers can only go to different fast chargers with adapters. That makes the queues seen in both countries even more concerning than those in the U.S. for electric car owners in general. Summing up, all Tesla owners in Australia and the UK have the option to charge elsewhere. Only a few in the U.S. can do the same. And that will get worse.

Tesla is after government incentives, which is leading it to make Supercharging stations public. Any EV driver will manage to charge their cars at Tesla’s network. If the EV maker’s current customers are already enough to crowd Superchargers, you can imagine how that will be when these stalls can receive vehicles from other companies.

Now think about what will happen when more battery electric cars reach the market or become mainstream because governments want combustion engines to be banned. Those lines will be way worse if the number of fast chargers does not expand exponentially. Even if it does, remember how much time people will take to recharge the battery packs in their cars. It is far from being as quick as a fuel pump or a hydrogen dispenser.

Some will argue that all we need are high-speed chargers, such as the one NIO presented at NIO Day 2022: it can deliver 500 kW. Most EVs are not able to take that much charge, so they will occupy these stalls for longer than a car that can deal with that full charging speed. That will generate conflict between EV owners in a hurry. And I will not even mention the energy demand any station with a few of these chargers would require.

What happens when people return to their routines and do not need so many fast chargers? Who will pay to keep them operating if the demand is not steady? Let’s suppose the number of fast chargers is enough for summer trip demands. What will happen in the winter, when some BEVs may lose half of their regular ranges due to heating needs and other situations related to cold weather? We would need twice as many fast chargers as the necessary ones in the summer. Demand would also drop to half for these stations in hot weather. Would they remain financially viable?

Tesla here is just the first indicator of where the automotive industry is heading for adopting its business model, with vehicles running on massive battery packs and counting on fast charging to be comparable to ICE cars. The EV maker only became profitable after creating the Model 3. Ironically, it is also the vehicle that ruined the company’s reputation for excellent services. Build quality was always poor, but people were more forgiving due to the advantages Tesla offered. These benefits are getting diluted by Tesla’s high production goals: there are not enough Service Centers and enough Superchargers to deal with them.

What will happen when Volkswagen pumps millions of BEVs into the streets? What about Hyundai, Kia, BYD, and several other companies pursuing the same goal? Will there be enough fast chargers for them all to make road trips on holidays or even when EVs are mainstream? Will all new buyers know that rapid charging reduces the battery pack lifespan? Will they accept that?

Once again, we have a perfect example of why it is necessary to ask: “What if we are wrong about EVs?” Combining mass production with vehicles fed by large battery packs will lead to multiple other similar situations that may hurt EV adoption in the long run. Just check the comments related to these reports about jammed Supercharging stations. You will not have to search for long before finding someone asking why we don’t simply keep combustion-engined cars. That is precisely what EV advocates don’t want to happen. They know people have to crave electric vehicles if the idea is to sell them like hotcakes.

Several countries around the world tell a tale that fits this moment of the electric shift quite well. Guerrillas were established to take power and create dictatorships of the proletariat. That threat led to military coups and dictatorships with opposite ideas for decades. They lasted because most of the population supported the military rulers against communists. Surprisingly, the guerrilleros did not care about that.

Their sense of moral superiority kept them fighting because they thought populations did not know what they truly wanted. In other words, the guerrilla was there to enlighten the inhabitants of their countries. Familiar, right?

Carbon neutrality is necessary, and fossil fuels will eventually end. Combustion engines are fascinating, but highly inefficient machines that will generate pollutants even if they burn hydrogen. The deal is retiring them with a model that makes more sense than what they are replacing. Turning EVs into a moral virtue will not work with most car buyers: they just want to go places independently and conveniently. Making them get stuck one hour or more for something as trivial as “refueling” or convincing them it is not a big deal to wait will not help.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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