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Tesla launches Supercharger network for Model S electric car

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September 26, 2012

The Supercharger network aims to make long distance travel possible for electric car owner...

The Supercharger network aims to make long distance travel possible for electric car owners

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Tesla Motors has announced an extensive network of Supercharger stations that aim to make long distance travel a reality for owners of its Model S electric car. The chargers are some 4.5x faster than previous methods, making it possible for drivers to get half a full charge in as little as half an hour.

The Supercharger aims to address the three key issues surrounding electric cars – convenience, environmental impact and cost.

Convenience

Up until now, the limited range of electric vehicles has made them entirely impractical for long distance travel. Tesla's Supercharger network will address this issue by making it possible to charge your Model S at a multitude of locations across the United States and beyond.

The first six Supercharger stations were constructed in secret in California prior to the reveal, and plans have been set in motion to construct more stations along high traffic corridors in the US next year. If all goes to plan, there will be more than 100 stations in the United States by 2015. The company also plans to begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia towards the end of 2013.

The stations charge at 100 kWh, with the potential to increase to 120 kWh in the future. What this means in real terms is that using the new Supercharger technology, drivers can get half a full charge on their Model S in just half an hour, giving it a range of around 150 miles.

Tesla plans to provide Supercharger coverage for the entire United States by 2015

This may still seem a little on the lengthy side, but not only is it a significant improvement on what has previously been available (a high-powered wall connector provides just 31 miles of range from a half-hour charge) but Tesla has worked to offset the issue by placing the stations in locations where you're likely to stop anyway, such as restaurants and shopping centers.

Environmental impact

The project's large scale wasn't the most compelling aspect of the announcement (though this is likely to be a key factor in its success). The real star of the show is the efficiency at which the stations operate. Not only do they charge more than four times quicker than the current Twin Charger method, but through the use of solar technology, they actually produce an excess of energy that's channeled directly into the grid. This makes the entire concept of the electric car more palatable to the general public.

The stations use solar power to create an excess of energy

Cost

Now for the big one: cost. During yesterday's presentation Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO stated that “We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight." You didn't misread that. Owners of the Model S won't have to pay for the service. This means that the vehicle is effectively a one-off cost, making owning an electric car far more financially viable than it has been in the past.

This might all sound too good to be true, and if truth be told, there are one or two minor catches. The first of these is the cost of the vehicle itself, with compatible versions of the Model S starting at a not-quite-so-accessible US$59,900. In addition to this, Supercharger compatibility is only standard on versions of the Model S that are equipped with an 85 kWh battery (it's an optional extra on the 60 kWh variant). The 85 kWh version of the vehicle comes in at $69,900.

The network is compatible with certain models of the company's Model S vehicle

The other issue is that the Supercharger locations are still too far apart to be considered truly convenient. This will still be true when all of the planned stations are up and running. However, given the benefits of the network, this is only a comparatively minor issue, and one that can only improve in time. We also have some concerns that the more Model S vehicles hit the tarmac, the longer the queues will get to use the Supercharger stations.

The Supercharger announcement was followed by the news that Tesla is struggling to meet the demand for its Model S vehicle. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the company is facing manufacturing difficulties linked to supplier delays and strict quality control measures. Production of the Model S is running between four and five weeks behind schedule, with less than 300 of the vehicles having rolled off the production line so far. Despite this, the company believes it can still meet its goal of producing 20,000 vehicles by the end of 2013.

Sources: Tesla, WSJ

About the Author
Chris Wood Chris specializes in mobile technology for Gizmag, but also likes to dabble in the latest gaming gadgets. He has a degree in Politics and Ancient History from the University of Exeter, and lives in Gloucestershire, UK. In his spare time you might find him playing music, following a variety of sports or binge watching Game of Thrones.   All articles by Chris Wood
9 Comments

Start with a range of 250km, add a trailer with a further 1000lm of battery power, then reduce the cost to equallity of lead acid batteries.

There is no great secret to making electric cars viable just keep it cheap. Home charging over night on off peak power and a stgring of servos along the highway to change the battery trailer. Any more problems just ask a think tank of 12 year olds.

pointyup
26th September, 2012 @ 11:22 pm PDT

I still prefer Renault's battery swapping system which means you don't have to wait while your car charges. It's a much better system than this one.

Oztechi
27th September, 2012 @ 12:08 am PDT

Agree on the battery exchange system being the answer - but rather than mess about with a trailer (which would have a negative impact on congestion & manouverability (sorry about spelling?).... how many people can reverse with a trailer (at this point its tempting to say it'll never exceed 50%, but please - just a joke, ok!)

Anyway, could a better solution be a roof rack based system (of swappable batteries)? 3 to 6 long batteries running along the roof of the car - interchangeable such that you can just a couple on a shorter journey (save weight), or a full rack of them on a long journey. They could be streamlined to reduce the inevitable drag issues.

JPAR
27th September, 2012 @ 03:42 am PDT

I'll wait for organic batteries.

bio-power jeff
27th September, 2012 @ 07:55 am PDT

Half hour for half a charge? You might as well take a bus.

You know what they should do, is make a really cheap charger with billing that any gas station could mount out by the carwash or the tire inflater. Then, they should subsidize about 100 of them in and around California, where people are actually driving these cars. Setting up a dedicated charger is a failure, because who's got 30 minutes to kill filling up? Or even better, you pull in behind somebody else who is already filling up and you have to wait 30 minutes for them to finish before you get your 30 minute time. That's a waste of real estate.

It's no different than having one pump that can dispense propane for select customers. But you don't put that in the busy lane, because that blocks paying customers - you put it out by the bathroom or the carwash or somewhere else like that.

But you know what the fact that Tesla people don't understand how gas stations work does not surprise me in the least. They have been so focused on getting the car to actually work, they never figured out any of the other practical ramifications like how do you drive it on a road, and what do you do when the battery goes dead. For Tesla, it's always "get the AMA tow truck, take it back home, and drive the other car until next week".

Grunchy
27th September, 2012 @ 10:04 am PDT

@ Grunchy

You did not read the article did you? They clearly stated that they plan to place these charging stations at malls, and shopping centers and other places where people park their cars, shop, and when they come back, the car is charged, with charging access at several parking spots, not just one. The library by my house already has a system like this installed for electric and plug in hybrids. They have four parking spaces next to the handicap ones, and there is at least one or two electric cars charging there every time I visit. Next time you decide to get "grunchy" read the article first, and carefully.

AnOld BlackMarble
27th September, 2012 @ 03:07 pm PDT

A better option would be to use electrically assisted velomobiles (human powered vehicles - recumbent tricycles, fully fared for streamlining and protection against the weather - much faster than cycles on the flat, but slower on hills, which is where the electrical assistance comes in).

We have epidemics of depression and obesity - cycling cures both

Christopher Richard Keene
27th September, 2012 @ 03:25 pm PDT

@pointyup - Lead Acid Batteries are not 'Cheap' for electric Cars - but actually more expensive - from the first discharge cycle to the 2000th - at least that's what my figures suggest when you actually look at the usable energy under EV like loads - http://www.myelectricfly.com/whitepapers.php

They might still be cheaper for Solar Energy Storage - but who want's to carry the heavy beasts in and out of the basement, and provide Venting - loosing heating energy in the house!?

Robert Brian Weekley
30th September, 2012 @ 07:24 am PDT

I would suggest - that Tesla Motors knows where they sold how many Model S cars, and would most likely be putting suitable numbers of these in relevant locations , likely even informing Tesla Model S owners of the new locations. The Best plan for these is likely at the base of the Parking Lot Lighting posts - in a 4-head layout - for 4 cars to charge within easy reach: 2 on either side of the lamp post. If the SuperChargers are located not so far from regular Level 2, and DC Fast Chargers, then at least if you got caught in a line up situation - you could get a charge at one of the lesser power points while you wait.

Robert Brian Weekley
30th September, 2012 @ 07:30 am PDT
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