Inside Tesla’s Supercharger Partner Program: The Costs And Commitments Of Electrifying Road Transport

Tesla is building a nationwide network of Supercharger stations in the U.S. to help give its growing fleet of consumer vehicles the juice they need to conquer the nation’s highways, and now we at TechCrunch have an inside look at how they’re approaching partners to help them expand. Tesla’s footing the bill for the Supercharger spots, asking only for time and access from partners with parking lots, and promising the keys to the future in return.

For “prospective hosts” of Tesla Superchargers, the ask isn’t too steep: Tesla covers all costs, upfront and ongoing associated with installing supercharger stations, according to the documents obtained by TechCrunch. That covers maintenance, as well as power costs, with Tesla optionally offering to install a dedicated meter just for the charging station alone, from which the bill will go directly to Tesla itself.

The cost for Tesla is between $100,000 and $175,000 depending on the station, and a lot of those come from the permanent modifications needed at the site to support the Supercharger itself. It’s more expensive than putting in a charger for a standard electric car, like a Nissan Leaf for instance, but the Supercharger can deliver around five times the power of those stations in the same amount of time, and is more demanding in terms of infrastructure changes as a result.

A property owner doesn’t have to stake any monetary commitment, but it does have to offer up between four or five spaces on average, plus around 200 to 600 square feet for Superchargers and equipment. Most agreements involve four “dedicated” stations, designed such that only Tesla owners can use them (prevents a driver arriving and not being able to find a spot), as well as between four and six additional stations that can accommodate both normal cars and provide supercharging for Teslas. This doesn’t need to be prime real estate either, though Tesla does stipulate it be well-lit, and close to existing power infrastructure if possible.

Partners are asked to commit to the program for a minimum of five years, with an option to expand, and most agreements range from five to ten years. The length of the commitment required reflects the large cost of the initial install. In exchange, Tesla is selling essentially the image benefits associated with its brand; partners get the mystique and influence of being a Tesla location, attracting its drivers to their on-site businesses, yes, but also offering up press and social media profile bumps. Plus, for companies with environmental sustainability programs and priorities, the brand association benefits are obviously attractive, too.

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.51.45 PMThe Tesla docs also show a high rate of usage at its stations, with some installations seeing as many as 17 sessions per day during their peak usage periods, a fact which it can use to convince partners that the space provided will result in more traffic to their stores and businesses. Installation of the Supercharger requires between 12 and 20 weeks to complete, but only between two and four of those actually take place on-site, with the rest consisting of paperwork, business arrangements and obtaining local permits and approvals.

If Tesla’s footing the entire bill, it might seem like a no-brainer to get a Supercharger installed at your roadside business, but there is a significant cost involved in terms of construction time and space committed, so it’s understandable that the electric car company has to make its case through these pitch documents. For us, they provide an interesting look at what’s required from all parties involved to help pave the way for the future of electric transport.