Tesla Superchargers vs. Rivian Adventure Network: In-Depth Comparison of the Major Nationwide Fast Charging Networks

As electric vehicles rapidly gain mainstream acceptance in North America, handy public charging infrastructure plays an integral role spurring adoption by alleviating range anxiety. For the past decade, Tesla has spearheaded the buildout of its expansive, proprietary Supercharger fast charging network to enable long-distance EV travel. But upstart luxury automaker Rivian has recently emerged to challenge Tesla‘s domination of the charging landscape with its own Adventure Network tailored to serve road-tripping outdoor enthusiasts.

This in-depth guide compares every key aspect of these two premium fast charging ecosystems – from charger availability and maximum power output to network access protocols and regional buildout plans. We‘ll analyze how Tesla and Rivian‘s rival charging infrastructure stacks up now and where each player plans to expand access in the near future as they race to lock in customer loyalty among early EV adopters.

Charger Availability: Tesla‘s Huge Head Start by the Numbers

The most glaring differentiation lies in the current geographic availability of Superchargers versus Rivian fast chargers. Tesla utterly dominates the playing field with over five times as many DC fast charging locations as the next leading network, Electrify America.

According to Tesla‘s Q2 2022 update, the Supercharger network consists of:

  • 3,971 charging stations globally
  • Over 36,365 individual Supercharger stalls
  • Average of 9-10 stalls per site
  • At least one station in each of the 50 U.S. states

Tesla does not break down granular location counts by country or state. However, examining the Tesla North Global Supercharger tracker shows substantial buildouts across top metropolitan areas like:

  • California – 234 stations, largest concentration globally
  • Texas – 158 stations and rapidly expanding
  • Florida – 143 charging sites hugging the coasts
  • New York – 103 total stations

That compares to Rivian‘s Adventure Network standing at just 5 total fast charging sites as of September 2022. However, Rivian‘s plans for growth aim to quickly start closing this gap over the next 16 months.

Rivian‘s published goals call for:

  • 600 Adventure Network fast charging sites operational in the U.S. and Canada by December 31, 2023
  • 3,500 total DC fast chargers installed by the end of next year
  • Charging sites located along major highways and popular outdoor adventure destinations

So while Tesla utterly dominates currently with an existing network, Rivian is investing heavily to proliferate charger availability targeting its customer base of outdoor enthusiasts and road trippers.

North America Public EV Charging Locations by Network

Tesla currently boasts over 5 times as many North American fast charging locations as the next largest network – Electrify America. (Source: Department of Energy)

Charging Speeds: Rivian Network Edges Out Tesla V3 Superchargers

Today‘s EV batteries can safely accommodate charging at rates exceeding 250 kW, enabling drivers to restore long driving range in the time it takes to stretch your legs and use the restroom. Both Rivian‘s Adventure Network and Tesla Superchargers leverage state-of-the-art extreme fast charging capabilities. But Rivian currently holds the edge in maximum charging rate.

The Rivian Adventure Network‘s 200 kW chargers can add 140 miles of range in just 20 minutes. Additionally, some sites will offer blistering 300 kW charging pulling up to 200 miles in under 15 minutes.

Comparatively, Tesla Supercharger V3 stations introduced in 2019 support up to 250 kW charging, which Tesla claims can supply up to 200 miles in 15 minutes. More common urban Superchargers max out between 75 kW and 150 kW.

So Rivian‘s futureproof charger design bests even Tesla‘s latest offerings, for now. Unconfirmed reports suggest Tesla may roll out enhanced Supercharger V4 hardware in 2023, which would likely match or outpace Rivian‘s 300 kW capabilities.

Both networks handily outstrip early generation Level 3 DC fast chargers capped at 50 kW. So drivers of modern long-range EVs equipped to handle ultra-fast charging will enjoy a satisfyingly swift recharge from either network. Rivian R1T and R1S models gain the edge charging just a few critical extra miles per minute plugged in.

Rivian Adventure Network Charging Speed

Rivian‘s Adventure Network promises up to 300 kW charging capability for speedy high-capacity battery replenishment.

Proprietary Charging Connectors: The Key Role of Adapters

DC fast chargers require both advanced electrical architecture and specialized physical connections to deliver high voltage current into EV battery packs safely.

Today two primary standards exist in North America – the internationally ubiquitous Combined Charging System (CCS) plug and Tesla‘s bespoke rectilinear proprietary connector.

Tesla crafted its unique charging port and Supercharger hardware years before CCS emerged as the dominant standard across Europe and North America excluding the U.S. For Superchargers to work with non-Tesla EVs, physical adapter cables are necessary to bridge between CCS and Tesla ports.

Rivian uses the increasingly common CCS standard for its Adventure Network hardware meaning charging works out of the box for CCS-equipped EVs. So while Rivian restricts charging to its vehicles only via custom software, adapting its network for multi-brand compatibility appears simpler since no physical hardware mismatch exists like with Tesla Superchargers.

Crucially, Tesla has pledged to open its network to non-Tesla EVs by the end of 2022 in the U.S. and Canada. This could significantly expand charging options once CCS-to-Tesla adapter cables become available from third parties. Until then, Tesla maintains an exclusivity advantage over Rivian stemming mainly from its vast existing station footprint rather than connectivity alone.

EV Connector Types by Market Share

Tesla‘s custom connector clashes with the dominant CCS standard used by all other automakers in North America.

Complementary L2 Networks: Tesla Leads While Rivian Prioritizes Interoperability

Augmenting their premium DC fast charging networks, both Tesla and Rivian are expanding public Level 2 EVSE to give drivers more charging flexibility.

Dubbed Destination Chargers, Tesla‘s network consists of over 35,000 L2 charging connections spread across hotels, restaurants, shopping centers that purchase and install Tesla Wall Connectors. More recently, Tesla has allowed certain high-volume venues to impose session fees to recover electricity costs.

Rivian Waypoints similarly situate L2 chargers at retail establishments, camp sites, adventure waypoints and other locations synced with its brand image. Crucially, Rivian Waypoints feature universal J1772 plugs compatible with any modern EV. Rivian aims to activate 10,000 Waypoints helping catalyze the broader EV transition rather than locking in customer loyalty.

Both networks play pivotal roles complementing DC fast charging:

  • Enable driving routes beyond dedicated fast charging site placement
  • Allow charging during extended stops for dining, shopping, etc.
  • Help discourage ICEing where gas vehicles occupy EV-only parking spots

Tesla once again claims far greater existing footprint through early mover advantage. But Rivian‘s early commitment to charging interoperability reflects values more aligned with accelerating widespread EV adoption.

The Outlook: Tesla‘s Lead Set to Expand with Open Access

Given its commanding lead in charging availability built over the past decade, Tesla is positioned to maintain dominance even as Rivian scales charging site locations tenfold by late 2023.

Crucially, opening Superchargers to all drivers regardless of EV model via CCS adapters promises to exponentially amplify Tesla‘s installed base value proposition. More affordable charging rates per kWh for non-Tesla EVs will further expand appeal.

Meanwhile, Rivian‘s Adventure Network rollout aims to specifically cater to the road trip and outdoor adventure crowd with strategic site placements near national parks, landmarks and highways. The network‘s leading-edge charging technology ensures Rivian owners enjoy some of the fastest charging speeds available globally for years to come.

Both networks play crucial roles building out charging infrastructure across North America tailored to their respective customer demographics. Tesla maintains a massive head start in absolute charger availability and reach while Rivian claims bragging rights for cutting-edge charging rates befitting its premium positioning.

Within a few years public policies, expanded incentives and maturing technology could feasibly enable full interoperability between disparate charging networks. Until then Tesla appears positioned to offer greater overall charging utility benefitting all EV drivers. But Rivian‘s commitment to delivering fast charging access for adventure seekers in the country‘s most remote locales will undoubtedly open up new long-distance travel routes beyond Tesla‘s primarily coastal or urban footprint.

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