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

Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Two of the biggest obstacles holding back the growth of electric-vehicle sales are 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 allowed for charging at only very slow speeds.

That changed when I tested a Tesla Model 3 in 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 with 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.

Mark Matousek / Business Insider2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

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

Mark Matousek / Business Insider

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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.

Mark Matousek / Business Insider

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderA U-Go charging station.

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

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderA ChargePoint charging station.

But the charger at the station I found could add only around 25 miles of range per hour.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business Insider2018 Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf’s navigation system had a feature that displayed and provided directions to nearby charging stations, but it was ineffective.

Mark Matousek/Business Insider2018 Nissan Leaf.

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 me any indication of where the charger was.

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

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.

ChargeHubThe ChargeHub app.

The app also tells you the number of plugs at each station, where the plugs are, 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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderA Tesla Supercharger station.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

I used the touch screen to open the charge port.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

Tesla automatically charges the owner’s credit card for charging sessions — no need to pay at the station.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderA Tesla Supercharger stall.

All I had to do was grab the cable …

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderA Tesla Supercharger cable.

… and plug in. The car started charging immediately.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

The charging session cost a little under $US18, much less than I’d have paid for gas.

Still, the time it took to charge was a little slower than I would 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 had to charge only once during the weekend.

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