Like a Cross Between the Washington Monument and Wall-E's GirlfriendElon Musk has all the best toys. Not only does he get to play with (and build) space rockets at SpaceX, he's also chairman of the biggest solar installer in the U.S. (SolarCity) and CEO of the coolest electric car company. But his latest toy is particularly cool because it shows that Musk's goal is not to only make a few expensive EVs, but to actually demonstrate that electric cars can work in the real world and pull off a feat that hasn't been done in decades: build a viable new car company in the US.
Last night Tesla unveiled its Supercharger network of EV charging stations. The goal is to go from this:
What's Special About Tesla's Supercharger?But what is it exactly? Well, Tesla's Superchargers are different primarily because of the amount of current they can dump into a Model S battery pack. Right now they can reach close to 100 kilowatts, and Musk said that they should be able to get up to 120KW in the future. That's over 4.5x time more power than even a Twin Charger. This means that in about half an hour, they could add 150 miles of range to the 85kWh Model S. This means you could leave for a trip in the morning (with a fully charged battery, of course, since EVs are almost always plugged overnight), drive until you feel like taking a bathroom break or get a coffee or whatever, and recharge enough to drive a few more hours.
"Superchargers are located at places you’ll actually want to stop, like roadside diners, cafes, and shopping centers. So pull in, plug in, and grab a bite to eat. Model S will be ready when you get back."
Solar-Powered!SolarCity gave Tesla a hand with the Supercharger. They will also include solar panels that are sized to, overall, produce more electricity than the cars charging at the station will consume. So over a year they would actually be net contributors to the power grid, and this means that Tesla owners who charge there will actually be driving on sunlight. Oh, and the Supercharger stations are free, and will remain free "forever", Musk promised. How's that for a good deal?
This map shows the location of the 6 Supercharger stations that Tesla built in secret. These are good to go, and have actually been tested by real users. The red circles show the all-electric driving range around the stations, and thus how much area is covered by them.
Actual operations seems very simple.
On Tesla's video stream yesterday we could see a car being recharged, and the driving range went up before our eyes, adding a mile of charge every few seconds.
As you can see, Tesla's not kidding. It was good enough that this wasn't yet another vaporware announcement and that they actually had built 6 stations in secret, and that they are working, but they also have big expansion plans. The slide above shows their target for 2013, which would cover all of California and a bit of the surrounding states.
But the real goal looks more like this...
...and this! And we can probably safely assume that Europe and Asia would be next. Now that's a large-scale vision! And the beauty is that by the time all these are built, Tesla will probably have a model that is a lot less expensive to sell. All these stations will give Tesla a big competitive advantage over other EV makers (and it'll push others to build similar fast-charging stations, so everybody wins).
Not too surprisingly considering Elon Musk's involvement with SpaceX, the launch of the Supercharger looked a bit like a space rocket takeoff.
Via Tesla Motors