I used one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations for the first time, and it solved the biggest problem I had when driving the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf (TSLA)

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One of the biggest obstacles holding back the growth of electric-vehicle sales is the speed and availability of charging stations.

While in most instances EV owners can charge their vehicles at home, longer trips can require a stop at a charging station. Finding a charging station was the biggest problem I experienced when driving the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Nissan Leaf last year. On multiple occasions, I was unable to find a station I had navigated to, and in one case, the one I found only allowed for charging at very slow speeds.

That changed when I tested a Tesla Model 3 in late September. Tesla's Supercharger network made charging faster and easier than I'd experienced before.

Here's what it was like, and how it compared to my experiences with the Bolt and Leaf.

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My first experience with electric-vehicle chargers came when I drove the Chevrolet Bolt EV last year.

chevy bolt

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

During my second day with the Bolt, I drove around New Jersey to avoid the traffic in Manhattan

chevy bolt

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

Read more: I drove the Tesla Model 3 for 2 days and used its most controversial feature — here's why it made me nervous

I used Apple CarPlay to find nearby charging stations, and it appeared I had a decent number of options. But things went downhill from there.

chevy bolt

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

Four of the five charging stations I navigated to weren't visible from the street.

chevy bolt

A U-Go charging station.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

I wasn't able to find the first two. The third, pictured above, was down for maintenance, and the fourth was occupied.

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22

It took about two hours to find a charging station that worked and had an opening.

chevy bolt

A ChargePoint charging station.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

But the station I found had a "Level 1" charger, which mean it could add around 25 miles of range per hour.

chevy bolt

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

I would have had to wait at least three hours to add a significant amount of range and nine hours for a full charge.

I also had difficulty finding a charging station when I drove the Nissan Leaf a few months later.

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The Leaf's navigation system had a feature that displays and provides directions to nearby charging stations, but it was ineffective.

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

My first attempt at using it directed me to a Nissan dealership that appeared to no longer exist, and my second attempt led me to a large, multistory indoor parking garage without giving my any indication of where the charger was located. 

I eventually gave up and turned to Google Maps, which led me to an easily accessible charging station without any difficulty.

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The next day, I began using the ChargeHub app, which allows you to search for nearby charging stations and locate them on a map.

ChargeHub

The ChargeHub app.
ChargeHub

The app also tells you the number of plugs at each station, where the plugs are located, the shape of each plug, how quickly it can charge your car, and how much it costs to charge. The app was far more effective than any other method I'd previously used to find charging stations. 

But finding and using a charging station was much easier with the Model 3.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Tesla's Supercharger stations were easy to find using the Model 3's navigation system.

I could immediately determine how many spots were open at a station before driving to it.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The station I chose was tucked into the corner of a strip mall parking lot, but the distinctive appearance of Tesla's charging stalls made them easy to spot.

Tesla Model 3

A Tesla Supercharger station.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

One small disadvantage this time was the fact that I had to back into my spot because the Model 3's charge port is near the trunk, and the charging station's cables weren't very long.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I used the touchscreen to open the charge port.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Tesla automatically charges the owner's credit card for charging sessions. No need to pay at the station.

Tesla Model 3

A Tesla Supercharger stall.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

All I had to do was grab the cable …

Tesla Model 3

A Tesla Supercharger cable.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

… and plug in. The car started charging immediately.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Once it started charging, I could monitor its progress on the touchscreen.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

I arrived at the Supercharger station with 32 miles of range left. A little over 40 minutes later, I had 273 miles.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3.
Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The charging session cost a little under $18, much less than I'd have paid for gas.

Still, the time it took to charge was a little slower than I'd have liked if I was on a road trip. If I didn't want to stop for a meal, it would have added an extra 30 minutes to my trip.

Thankfully, the vehicle's 310-mile range (the owner of the vehicle I tested limited charging to 90% of its range to protect the battery) meant I only had to charge once during the weekend.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

SEE ALSO:

I drove the Tesla Model 3 and one of its biggest rivals, the Chevy Bolt — and the winner was clear

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