After having drawn up an inventory of the charging stations in France, then having designated the 8 main plagues of the French network, it was difficult not to mention the Tesla case. The California-based electric car maker has become a staple since the 2012 launch of its first Model S. And the arrival of the more accessible Model 3 has sped things up. It is currently the third best-selling electric car in France, if we take the cumulative figures from January to September.
What if there was a Tesla exception? It seems that the lucky owners of an American car pass between the drops and do not encounter the same problems as the drivers of competitive electric cars. This is what most of the testimonies tell us. And this is what we were able to verify by testing several of their models on the roads of France.
A dense network in Europe
Tesla's strength is based not only on the great autonomy of its models, but also, and above all, on a network of dedicated charging stations and on-board software that manages all of this in real time. At Tesla France, we indicate that we have understood that we cannot expect a massive and fast charging network from the public authorities, and that we have bet on our own network. This is what keeps him where he is today.
Tesla, there are currently 78 stations – 80 by the end of the year – with more than 650 superchargers in France. The deployment is continuing with third generation stations in Angoulême (16) and Les Herbiers (85) in particular, with an increase in peak power. It was 150 kW. Tesla will offer 250 kW, we explain. And all this responds to a European logic. A Tesla driver from northern Europe should be able to travel to southern Europe without having to worry about where and how to charge it on the road. The driver plans the route and the system calculates the number of stops needed at the brand's charging stations. This is the strength of the embedded software. There are 250 km on average between each station. It is a little less in France, specifies Tesla. So as Christophe D., owner of a Tesla Model 3 declares, "when you own a Tesla, you are faced with the problem of recharging like the others, but less often thanks to the autonomy and the network".
The goal is not to fill the battery completely at each stop, but just what it takes to reach the next station. During our Aix-en-Provence – Paris trip in 2016 aboard the Model S P90D, the system recommended three stops, but we could have made only two.
Each stop gives the opportunity to eat while getting to know other Tesla owners, French or foreign. By taking the decision to set up its terminals outside the highways, close to high-end hotels and inns, Tesla has "created" an atmosphere where driving a Tesla is THE key to a select club . It may seem trivial, but waiting for the recharge to finish comfortably in an armchair while sipping a coffee is much more pleasant than pounding the pavement under an awning open to the wind. Not to mention that, generally, the charging stations located in service stations are relegated to the far end of the parking area.
Finally, there is the destination recharging network which completes the brand's superchargers, a network of much slower terminals (22 kW max.) Available to hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, which allow recharging. during a break of a few hours.
Finally, the last point that is important, the reliability of Tesla charging stations eliminates unpleasant surprises. What could be more annoying than discovering after a recharge / coffee break that the terminal disconnected after 5% charge without being able to be warned.
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A bet on the future
The manufacturer understood that to sell cars you had to reassure customers about recharging. And to admit that the network of superchargers is central to its ecosystem. It would have been difficult to sell 500,000 cars without it, we recognize internally.
No need for RFID cards or other payment method. The owner is identified by his car and billed directly. And if he has the first Tesla models (before 2017), the charge is free! Otherwise, the price is € 0.30 per kilowatt hour.
So when you ask if it is all profitable, the answer is no. But everything is done to make it happen. "Tesla makes location choices for its superchargers because it measures usage and responds to economic choices", for his part Christopher Brown, member of the steering committee of the users association ACOZE. There is also the possibility of opening the network to other vehicles. At Tesla, we say we are open to discussion, it can make sense. In any case, nothing for the moment seems to indicate such a possibility. On the contrary, not being considered a public charging point, Tesla does not feel obliged to install a tri-standard terminal accessible to all.
"Tesla doesn't care at all, concedes Gilles Bernard, the president of AFIREV. "My customers are my customers, such is its logic. The decree now obliges Tesla, when it develops a new station, to have one or two charging points accessible to the public. There is a divergence between the approach to the American and European. In the latter, it is an open market. The European Union is pushing for roaming; it is a European and French obligation. It must be the easiest and accessible possible. "
Tesla could be considered as a closed club of privileged people who, to benefit from it, paid a high price for the entry ticket (the first price of a Model 3 starts at 49,600 €, excluding the ecological bonus with the conversion bonus, ie a cumulative total varying from € 5500 to € 8000. Christophe D. refutes this idea. "Privileged, yes. But I don't feel like I'm at a club. Others may believe it. Tesla is a dream."
It is in any case a model that Ionity (80 fast charging stations of 350 kW planned in France) is trying to reproduce, for the members of the founding consortium (the groups Audi, BMW, Daimler-Mercedes, Ford Motor, Kia Motors … ), but also for electric vehicles of other brands. Ionity charges the cost of the load at 0.79 € / kWh. It is also a premium model which favors the members of the consortium, but which is open to everyone.
So does the Tesla driver definitely see life in pink? Here again, it limits the damage in the face of the competition, but it is not immune to a little sweating when it leaves the beaten track and ventures into certain unequipped corners of France. of Tesla superchargers. "I've never had a drop of water on my forehead except in the Morvan, says Christophe D. After encountering two out of service charging stations, and with 10 km of range, I had to come back to the starting point and charge at a friend's house. " Like what, with electric mobility, no one is safe from a hassle… not even Tesla drivers.