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Here's how non-Tesla electric cars will use Superchargers, according to Elon Musk

Photograph of a white Tesla model 3 charging through the supercharger.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Last week Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla would eventually open its Supercharger network to other cars. The question on everyone’s mind was, how was that actually going to work?

The Tesla CEO confirmed the initial plan during Tesla’s Q2 earnings call (via Elektrek): let non-Tesla owners use the Tesla app and make adapters available where needed.

The way Musk describes the process should be familiar to every EV owner that’s ever had to use a public charger. You create an account with the Tesla app, add some credit card information and use it to start charging your car.

“We are thinking about a real simple thing where you just download the Tesla app,” Musk said during the call, “you go to the Supercharger, you just indicate which stall you are in, you plug in your car, even if it’s not a Tesla, and you just access the app to tell it to 'turn on the stall that I’m in for how much electricity,' and this should work for almost any manufacturer’s electric car.”

It’s a simple solution, and it’s one that’s proven to work all over the world. It doesn’t matter which charging network you use, or what country you happen to be in; public chargers almost exclusively require you to activate your charge within an app. 

Some, like ChargePoint, are a little different in that you can also opt to use a specific NFC payment card instead. But the charge-by-app feature is still an option, with an NFC method also available to Android users.

Musk also confirmed that this simple approach to the Supercharger network will be available in all markets where Tesla uses the CCS charging standard — most notably in Europe where the CCS standard is required by law. 

As for North America, where Tesla continues to use its own proprietary charging port, Musk confirmed that adapters will be made available. According to Musk, that will be available for non-Tesla owners to purchase, and will also be made available at Supercharger stations. 

This is a heck of a lot easier, and more cost effective, than retrofitting existing stations with an additional CCS cable. It’s not clear how much it might cost, however, but the CCS to Tesla adapter costs €299 in Europe and £280 in the U.K. 

That adapter is not available in the U.S. for some reason, which makes little sense given how it would allow Tesla owners to plug into something other than a Supercharger when out on the road. However, the European pricing suggests that neither adapter would be particularly cheap.

Musk also admitted that letting so many extra cars plug into the Supercharger network might have an impact on the network load. However, the Tesla CEO confirmed that the company will introduce a more dynamic pricing system, which pretty much sounds like Uber’s ‘surge’ charging system.

Pricing will change based on charging speed and the amount of demand at any given Supercharger station, which Musk says will be designed to "encourage’" people to charge for shorter periods of time. How effective it will be in practice, and how much the price might change on a given day, is yet to be seen.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.