Tesla Superchargers vs. Rivian Adventure Network: Full Comparison
Spearheading EV adoption in the USA wasn’t just a matter of making electric vehicles for Elon Musk’s maverick company Tesla. The enterprise built its first half-dozen Superchargers secretly in 2012, unveiling them on September 24 of that year. Located in the American Southwest – Arizona and Nevada – plus the country’s EV capitol, California, the chargers were the first among thousands since rolled out. The network is now international, though the biggest concentration is in the United States.
Vigorous newcomer Rivian, which went from just another product-free startup to the maker of the Rivian R1T EV pickup and the R1S EV SUV, also recently entered the fast charger station game with their Adventure Network. TechCrunch reported three Adventure Network stations, with four chargers a piece, went operational in June 2022. One is in Colorado and two are in California, close to Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Caves, and other popular destinations. The two companies will soon be competing head-to-head in North America to offer recharging stations to the public. Here’s how the Tesla Superchargers and Rivian Adventure Network measure up to each other.
Tesla Superchargers vs. Rivian Adventure Network: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Tesla Supercharger Network||Rivian Adventure Network|
|Number of Locations||3,971||5 (600 planned)|
|Number of Chargers||36,365||25 to 30 (600 planned)|
|Average Chargers per Location||9||5 to 6|
|Charger Output||72kW, 150kW, 250kW||200kW, 300kW|
|Charger Connection||Proprietary||Combined Charging System (CCS)|
|Charging Speed||200 miles in 15 minutes||140 miles in 20 minutes|
|Exclusive?||Yes (until late 2022)||Yes|
|Level 2 Network||Destination chargers||Waypoints chargers|
|Level 2 Accessibility||All EVs||All EVs|
Tesla Superchargers vs. Rivian Adventure Network: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Tesla already has nearly 4,000 Supercharger stations housing 36,000+ individual charging stalls worldwide.
- Rivian has five Adventure Network charging sites operational, but plans to roll out 600 sites with 3,500 individual chargers before December 31, 2023.
- Tesla’s Superchargers are currently proprietary to Tesla vehicles, but says it will open them to all EVs before 2022’s end.
- Rivian’s Adventure Network is exclusive to Rivian EVs; however, it uses CCS connectors and the block is easily-changed software, not hardware-based.
- Both companies also have a network of Level 2 chargers open to all EVs.
The Tesla Supercharger Network
The Tesla Supercharger network provides Tesla drivers (and soon, all EV owners) Level 3 DC fast charging. Each station includes multiple stalls, enabling several EVs to recharge simultaneously. Currently and for most of the Superchargers’ history, U.S. stalls use a proprietary connector to ensure only Tesla vehicles can charge. Exclusive charging is soon to change if Tesla holds to its announced plans.
Tesla operates Superchargers at three output levels, 72 kW, 150 kW, and 250 kW. All stations work at 480 volts. 72 kW chargers are very common in cities, while Tesla locates the more powerful output chargers along highways and similar areas. Superchargers provide approximately 200 miles’ worth of recharge in 15 minutes at maximum output.
To keep traffic flowing quickly through its stations, Tesla assesses an “idle fee” for EVs that don’t leave immediately once charging is complete. The idle fee is canceled if the EV leaves within 5 minutes of recharge completion. The owner receives a heads-up via the Tesla app that it’s time to move their vehicle.
Charger Numbers and Distribution
Tesla’s Q2 2022 quarterly update indicates it has around 3,971 Supercharger stations across the planet. Its entire number of fast charger stalls is north of 36,365. This means the company has equipped a typical station with an average of nine stalls. In practice, though, the number of stalls varies hugely, with some stations housing just four stalls, and others including 20 stalls.
The company continues building new Supercharger stations. Tesla North reports the typical number is seven to ten stations opened per week worldwide. Some countries are seeing delays in planned Supercharger rollouts amid current economic conditions.
Tesla locates its Supercharger stations in urban areas, near popular shopping and tourist destinations, and along major cross-country routes. In the U.S., every one of the 50 states currently hosts at least one Supercharger.
Tesla has limited access to its Supercharger network in the U.S. to its own vehicles since the charging stations’ 2012 launch. Absent European laws requiring fast chargers to accept all CCS connections, Tesla developed its own proprietary hardware connector. The exclusivity helped propel Tesla’s rise to become America’s number one EV company, with fast charging far less available for competing models.
But in 2022, Tesla decided to let other companies’ EVs begin charging at its Supercharger stations. Aiming to cash in on government subsidies, Tesla plans to open its Supercharger network for use by all EV owners sometime late in 2022. CarBuzz says Tesla will offer paid recharging to all EV users, with a choice of options.
Non-Tesla owners can “Pay Per Use,” shelling out fairly pricey sums for a one-time recharge. Alternatively, they can buy a monthly membership that automatically renews, entitling them to a cheaper rate per kilowatt hour (kWh). At this point, Tesla says the membership itself will cost $0.99 per month. Some commentators suspect this is a “placeholder” figure subject to future change. Tesla also says charging sessions may be limited to five daily for non-Tesla EV owners.
Rising energy prices may also drive increased prices per kWh for all drivers, both Tesla and non-Tesla. Australian website The Driven says Tesla boosted prices 32% on September 1, 2022 in that country, following earlier cost hikes.
Tesla Destination Charging
Tesla maintains another network, Destination, in parallel with the fast-charging Supercharger sites. Heavily clustered along the U.S. and lower Canadian coasts and down into Mexico, Destination Charging sites offer Level 2 recharging. The chargers are mostly placed at hotels, parking garages, and restaurants so drivers can add some charge while sleeping, eating, or visiting attractions. About 35,000 individual plug-ins are currently active across the network.
Destination chargers use the Tesla Wall Connector, which Electrek reports can add 58 miles of charge to a Tesla Model 3 per hour. The Destination chargers are located at businesses which apply to host them. Many chargers are free, but in August 2022, Tesla began allowing some host businesses to start asking for fees. This feature is only found at businesses with half a dozen or more chargers installed.
The Rivian Adventure Network
The Rivian Adventure Network consists of DC fast chargers designed to recharge the batteries of Rivian R1T and R1S EVs lightning swift. It will also serve the Rivian R1X SUV when that is released, alongside future Rivian electric vehicles. The Network uses CCS charging connectors, ordinarily compatible with almost all EVs except Teslas. Despite the universal connectors, Adventure Network chargers simply won’t activate for non-Rivian EVs. To keep use of the Adventure Network exclusive to Rivian owners, the charger software won’t recognize other EVs.
Adventure Network sites will feature five or six individual chargers each, based on Rivian’s released site and total charger numbers. The company’s engineers designed the chargers to provide high charging output, and Rivian says the first chargers will be mostly 200 kW. Later chargers will have 300 kW output. To maintain maximum eco-friendliness, the electricity provided comes from 100% renewable sources.
The navigation system in Rivian vehicles will guide drivers to a site for recharging. Rivian designed the sites to be highly visible so there’s no difficulty finding them on arrival. A user who plugs their R1T or R1S into the charger should see the battery gain 140 miles’ worth of charge in 20 minutes. The sites will be open 24 hours daily, 365 days a year.
Charger Numbers and Distribution
Rivian is still in the process of deploying its Adventure Network, with only a few sites operational in the Southwest and California. It opened its first three sites in June 2022, with two more opened in California by early September 2022. But the company’s plans are ambitious. It means to have 600 sites open in North America (USA and Canada) before the end of 2023, with 3,500 individual chargers located there.
Many of the chargers will be strung along highways across the country, supporting long-range travel in a Rivian R1. Many others will cluster at popular outdoors and off-roading locations. State forests and national parks are both candidates for one or more nearby Rivian Adventure Network sites. This choice of location highlights how Rivian’s focus is on the off-roading and camping lifestyle, also echoed in the name “Adventure Network.”
The company says Adventure Network recharging will only be available to Rivian EV owners, with other vehicle brands excluded. This mirrors the exclusivity Tesla maintained for years. However, with Tesla likely opening its chargers to all EVs in the very near future, Rivian’s choice appears somewhat odd. Its network exclusivity won’t reduce North American EV sales of competing brands. Instead, a non-exclusive network with fast charging for all EVs seems likely to generate both goodwill and revenue.
Notably, however, Rivian doesn’t keep other automakers’ EVs from charging at Adventure Network chargers through physical plug differences. Its stations use a standard CCS connector like those employed throughout Europe and elsewhere in the world. Exclusive access is software-based, not hardware-based. As a result, if Rivian decides to open its fast chargers to all EVs, it will only need to change some software coding.
On the other hand, the Adventure Network’s exclusivity will reduce competition for charger access and waiting lines. Rivian owners can simply plug in and charging begins automatically.
The Rivian Waypoints Network
Echoing Tesla’s Destination chargers, Rivian is rolling out a network of slower Level 2 chargers alongside its Adventure Network. The company calls this its Waypoints Network. All EVs regardless of maker can plug into a Rivian Waypoint with a standard J1772 plug to recharge at an 11.5-kW speed. Most if not all modern EVs come with a Level 2 charging cable. Rivian says the Waypoints add 25 miles of range per hour plugged in.
Rivian plans to have a minimum of 10,000 Waypoints chargers operational by 2023’s end. The EV automaker intends to locate them near “shops, restaurants, hotels, parks, and more.” Drivers can find a nearby Waypoint location using either the Rivian app or navigation in a Rivian vehicle. Just like the Adventure Network, the Waypoints are powered exclusively by renewable energy.
Tesla Superchargers vs Rivian Adventure Network: Which One is Better?
Drivers will likely decide which fast charger network is better based heavily on their vehicle of choice. Tesla’s Superchargers are arguably best for Tesla vehicles, while Rivian’s exclusive network offers Rivian EV owners quick charging free from long queues. Rivian’s chargers also offer higher output with 200 kW as their lowest capacity and 300 kW also available. But while Rivian’s bold network launch shows commitment to the EV revolution, Tesla’s Supercharger network will soon have a strong case to be better.
Once Tesla’s Superchargers are opened to all EVs, it will have far more utility to EV drivers overall than the Adventure Network. Tesla’s network is also well-established and extensive, while Rivian’s is mostly just a future plan. For the moment at least, Tesla still holds the crown for offering the most useful network.