Tesla Bucks Trend in UK With Urban-Based Supercharger Stations

On Tuesday this week, Tesla Motors officially opened two new Supercharging locations in the UK, bringing the total number of Supercharging sites in the Island nation to three.

Birmingham, England is now home to the UK's third Tesla Supercharger, the first outside of London.

Birmingham, England is now home to the UK’s third Tesla Supercharger, the first outside of London.

Capable of recharging a Tesla Model S car from empty to full in just over 75 minutes, or adding 170 miles of range in just half an hour, the Tesla Superchargers are the must-visit charging stop for any Model S owner, making it possible to easily travel from London to the Scottish Borders with just one quick recharging stop.

While the 120 kilowatt Supercharger output and free-to-use policy of UK charging stations are the same as any other Tesla Supercharger location anywhere else in the world however, there’s one very big, very important difference.

Instead of siting Superchargers at rest stops and beside major freeways, Tesla is focusing on city-centre locations for its UK Superchargers.

In fact, of the three Superchargers currently online in the UK, all are located in busy city centres. One is is located at The Crystal Sustainable Cities Initiative in London’s Docklands area, with the other twolocated at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in London’s West End and at the Hyatt Regency, Birmingham respectively.

The decision to install at city centre locations, said Tesla’s UK Country Director Georg Ell, was partly driven by the number of longer-distance Model S owners who travel for business in the UK.

Michael Grey from Hyatt Regency (right) and Georg Ell from Tesla plug in a Model S at the new Birmingham Supercharger

Michael Grey from Hyatt Regency (right) and Georg Ell from Tesla plug in a Model S at the new Birmingham Supercharger

With the UK being so small, a Tesla Model S fitted with an 85 kWh battery pack can easily travel between most major British cities on a single charge. Unlike other countries, where Superchargers are needed to make inter-city travel possible, there’s no need for those travelling between cities to stop mid-route.

Making Superchargers available at inner city locations meanwhile allows Model S owners to drive to a visit a client in another city, leaving their car charging outside while they conduct a business meeting.

What’s more, said Ell, the City-based Superchargers mean owners who live in busy city centres but lack any parking or charging facilities at home can come and top up at a Supercharger whenever they need a charge.

It’s a logical step for Tesla, but it does mean anyone travelling far beyond the range of their car — an unlikely but at least plausible possibility if the owner happens to live in Devon or Cornwall and needs to travel to London or beyond, for example — will be forced to detour from the UK’s motorway network into a busy city centre in order to make use of a Supercharger.

Michael Grey from Hyatt Regency took great pleasure in recounting the experience of driving a Model S for the first time

Michael Grey from Hyatt Regency took great pleasure in recounting the experience of driving a Model S for the first time

It’s a policy also being adopted in China, says Tesla, where city-centre Superchargers will be built at least initially in preference to out-of-town, rest-stop style locations.

Another difference worth noting between Supercharger installations in the UK and elsewhere is the world is the legal complications which come from limited land availability.

Unlike the U.S., where many Supercharger sites are leased to Tesla by the land owner, the two Supercharger sites which opened this week required specially-written contracts since the land on which the Hotels are built is rented — rather than owned — by the hotel chains.

Instead of granting Tesla a lease agreement which would constitute a form of sub-let, lawyers had to carefully word contracts to ensure that Tesla was granted permission to use and maintain the Supercharger site without falling foul of any sublet clauses in the original land lease agreements for the hotel.

Naturally, this will change from place to place — but even with legal complications Tesla is still managing to install supercharger sites at breakneck speed.

And for Model S owners, that is very good news indeed.

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