Tesla's charging stations are a massive 'competitive moat,' Morgan Stanley says

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Tesla has built up a global network of charging stations, which Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas pointed to as a possible “competitive moat” for the company compared to other electric vehicle makers.

“We estimate Tesla’s chargers may account for 30 percent to 40 percent of total US charging outlets counted by the US Dept. of Energy,” Jonas said in a note to investors on Tuesday. Jonas is widely followed on Wall Street for his thoughts on Tesla and electric vehicles.

Tesla upped its network of global “supercharger” stations to nearly 13,000 by the end of last year, while also increasing its total “destination chargers” to more than 21,000. Superchargers refuel most Tesla batteries in about an hour, whereas destination charging stations provide longer charging times more suited for long stays at malls or overnights at hotels.

“Part of the strategic attraction to Tesla is its physical infrastructure footprint, which we believe, over time, can improve the customer experience, reduce friction points, and support the fleet management of many millions of Tesla vehicles on the road and in both captive and 3rd party commercial fleets,” Jonas said.

Morgan Stanley estimates Tesla will expand the supercharger network to 15,000 stations “by 2030 to support a Tesla on-the-road fleet size approaching 13 million units,” Jonas said.

Growth in Tesla’s charging network “is far slower than the growth in Tesla’s car population,” Jonas said he estimates. The network grew by about 40 percent year-over-year, he said, whereas the number of Tesla’s on the road increased by 83 percent. Additionally, the Tesla fleet “has grown far faster than its physical store and service location network, raising investor concerns about strain on the system,” Jonas said.

“While Tesla has made efforts to address issues with service quality (such as increasing its Mobile Service fleet to 411 vehicles), the customer service experience appears to have significant room to improve,” Jonas added.

Tesla shares rose 1.3 percent in premarket trading from Monday’s close of $312.84 a share. Morgan Stanley has an equal-weight rating on Tesla and a price target of $283 a share.

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