Tesla now tells electric cars about charger status en route


Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

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Unlike most automakers, Tesla doesn't schedule redesigns, updates, and new features for its cars to coincide with traditional model years.

Aided by the fact that most of its new features are software-related, Tesla takes a more flexible approach.

Many new features are pushed to its electric cars whenever they're ready, in the form of over-the-air software updates.

DON'T MISS: Tesla releases Supercharger electric-car fast-charge prices

That means, when checking for the latest Tesla updates, the best place to look typically isn't a company press release, but rather an owner forum.

Sure enough, posts about a new Supercharger live-status feature recently began appearing on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

The new capability lets drivers know how crowded a given Tesla Supercharger DC fast-charging station is while en route.

Tesla Supercharger live status [Photo by Tesla Motors Club user andrewket]

Tesla Supercharger live status [Photo by Tesla Motors Club user andrewket]

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Tesla's electric cars previously displayed Supercharger locations on their dashboard touchscreens, but the status feature was apparently added as part of the firmware update known as 2.52.22.

That's the same update that added the "Ludicrous Plus" performance mode, which slashed the 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of the Tesla Model S P100D to less than 2.5 seconds.

The Tesla dashboard display overlays nearby Supercharger sites onto a navigation map, representing them with brightly-colored flags.

ALSO SEE: Tesla P100D 'Ludicrous Plus' mode makes electric car even faster

With the new live-status feature, touching one of these flags on the display map brings up an icon with horizontal bars.

Each bar represents a plug at that Supercharger site. When one of those plugs is in use, the bar is colored red.

Similar functionality is available from certain third-party charging stations and apps, too.

Tesla Supercharger stations at Harris Ranch, California, in April 2013 [photo: TeslaTap.com]

Tesla Supercharger stations at Harris Ranch, California, in April 2013 [photo: TeslaTap.com]

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The status of charging sites on the EVgo network is available through the PlugShare app, while ChargePoint lists the status of its charging sites on its own mobile app.

But Tesla owners in particular will probably find this feature useful.

Despite Tesla's consistent efforts to expand the network, overcrowding at a few Supercharger sites has become an issue, especially during heavy travel periods, such as the holiday season.

MORE: Tesla to charge for Supercharger parking if charging is over, sometimes (Dec 2016)

Tesla has tried to counter that problem by encouraging owners to use Supercharger stations only for long-distance travel, and instituting penalties for owners who leave their cars parked at Supercharger stations after the cars have finished charging.

It also ended unlimited free Supercharger use for new owners as of last month, although buyers do get a period of free charging after they take delivery of their cars.

With CEO Elon Musk's plans to produce 500,000 cars next year, however—and a very low rate of new Supercharge sites added over the last year or so—the Supercharger crowding problem may endure or conceivably worsen.

That will make the new feature one that owners will likely value quite a lot.

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