When Tesla introduced its Supercharger network, it was not only the most powerful charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, but the company also made it free to use for its customers.
Porsche now says that Tesla’s approach is not sustainable and they will go a different way with their own charging infrastructure for the upcoming Mission E.
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Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman of Porsche’s executive board, recently talked to journalists about Porsche’s approach to the cost of charging and compared it to Tesla’s.
When it was brought up that Tesla was offering free access to its Supercharger network, Meschke said (via Gearbrain):
“Yes, but it was only free for a while. You can not run things like this, you have to earn money from these services.”
While it’s true that Tesla recently started charging for accessing its Supercharger network, the majority of owners, Model S and Model X owners, still have free access to the network through the referral program. Only Model 3 owners currently have to pay to access the network.
For those owners, the company recently increased the cost of Supercharging in several regions, but the overall cost still remains significantly less expensive than gasoline in most cases.
Tesla says that they still don’t aim to make the Supercharger network a “profit center”.
Porsche disagrees with the approach.
Meschke said that they plan to start charging from the beginning and will charge “a similar amount” to gasoline.
They plan to make a profit from it:
“Yes we try to do this [bill from day one] of course. We can invest in the beginning but after two or three years you have to be profitable with the new services, of course.”
But it’s not clear how much control they will have over that since their main charging infrastructure effort is currently through the Ionity charging network, which is a consortium that includes several other automakers.
Though the automaker also plans to add stations at its own facilities, like dealerships, and in the US, they will have access to Electrify America’s initiative, which is controlled by Volkswagen, Porsche’s parent company.
I think to make charging profitable should only be a long-term goal.
Tesla had the right idea to forget about making a profit from charging and instead focus on making the charging experience greater.
People still need convincing about the fact that charging is actually more convenient in many ways than refueling a gas-powered car.
The Supercharger network did a great job at that since Tesla could build stations with more stalls that were most often left unused, which is unprofitable, but it makes for a better experience since drivers don’t have to worry about needing a charge and all the stalls being used.
It still happened in some areas where there’s an insanely high concentration of Tesla vehicles, but it’s not the case for the most part of the network.
Third-party charging networks, which of course have to aim to make a profit from their charging stations, famously only put a few charge points per station to make sure some are not left unused too often and become unprofitable. That ultimately lead to a worse experience for the drivers.
Porsche’s Ionity might have the same issue since they say that they are planning about 6 charge points per station.
With a capacity of up to 350 kW, Porsche’s Mission E will be able to charge quicker at those stations, but they will also be used by other cars without that capacity and that could cause a problem for Porsche owners.
As for the cost, I think they could probably still aim to make a profit while charging less than gasoline, but that’s highly dependent on the local electricity rates.
Either way, it’s Porsche’s, and the other automakers part of Ionity, first venture in their own charging network and I’m sure they should be able to adapt if they see issues arise as they go.
Overall, EV charging infrastructure is still in its infancy and I think we are going to see it mature quickly in the next few years.