Charging an electric vehicle during a road trip offers a myriad of different possibilities. But sometimes a simple solution is best. Tesla, in turn, has created their own proprietary charging network. And, according to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Tesla’s charging stations [have] left other manufacturers in the dust.”
Above: Tesla charging at a Supercharger (Flickr: Jakob Harter)
“Despite investments that add up to many billions of dollars, none of the major incumbent automakers seems to pose much of a threat to market leader Tesla,” writes Hemant Bhargava, Jonas Boehm, and Geoffrey G. Parker in HBR.
Why? According to the authors, “The reason why consumers still choose Teslas over products like Audi’s eTron or attractive EVs from GM’s Buick, Cadillac, GMC, and Chevy brands is perhaps surprisingly simple. They can drive their Teslas for long distances in full confidence that they will find convenient locations at which to recharge their vehicle. While the incumbent automakers are still focused narrowly on perfecting their electric cars, Tesla has been thinking about the entire vehicle system, with the aim of solving consumers’ core driving needs.”
In contrast, looking at the options for legacy automakers, “the network of available [non-Tesla] charging stations is highly fractured across ownership and technology. The next largest network, compared to Tesla, is only 10% as large. Unless you buy a Tesla, you have few options for reliable route planning, guaranteed access, and rapid public charging.”
The solution? “[Legacy] automakers would be well advised to take a leaf out of Tesla’s playbook and focus on the network,” notes HBR.
Above: A look at the Tesla Supercharger network (YouTube: Tesla)
“Firms that dream of being the next Tesla should carefully examine why they are so far behind. It’s not for lack of knowledge about how to build cars; many of the incumbent firms have been doing that for over a hundred years. Instead, they should focus on the critical infrastructure, in this case the charging networks, that have made customers willing to take a chance on a newcomer,” reports HBR.
In another analysis from Forbes, Brookes Crothers acknowledges some significant traction from VW’s efforts with Electrify America and GM’s alliance with EVgo, “albeit still far behind Tesla in total numbers,” he says. “Tesla is still the gold standard for charging infrastructure and it shows no signs of slowing down.”
Crothers reminds us of Sun Microsystems’ slogan in the 80s which was, “the network is the computer.” Fast forward to the present and consider a slightly different spin on that slogan — an EV is only as good as its charging network.
There’s more research supporting these findings too. The University of California (Davis) and Dartmouth College came to a similar conclusion in a joint study which touted Tesla’s Supercharger network as the dominant “platform” play in the auto world — but it’s certainly not Tesla’s only advantage.