Tesla Supercharger network to charge EVs for free

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Mr. Tesla

This Tesla Roadster belongs to the automaker's co-founder, Martin Eberhard. Image: jurvetson/Flickr/CC BY

Range limitation is the Achilles’ heel that has kept the electric vehicle from catching on in a bigger way. Electric car maker Tesla Motors is doing something about that. It plans to use the sun to charge the batteries of EVs from coast-to-coast for free with its Supercharger network.

Musk unveils Supercharger network

Tesla’s founder and CEO Elon Musk made a presentation Monday, Sept. 24, in which he unveiled the company’s planned Supercharger network. When the network is up and running, motorist will be able to drive into solar-paneled carports and get a high-speed charge. The stations will be located at rest stops, roadside restaurants and shopping outlets across the nation.

The Supercharger will fully charge a Tesla Model S in and hour, and provide three hours of driving in just 30 minutes. And perhaps best of all, the service will cost Tesla drivers not penny one.

Going coastal

The automaker plans to start dotting the west coast with Supercharger stations. After that, the east coast will get similarly equipped. Then, the network expands, coast to coast.

Incredibly, according to Musk, Tesla S drivers should be covered to drive from sea to shining sea, LA to New York, as early as next year. By 2015, it wants to have more than 100 stations dotting the entire nation.

Musk said that Tesla has already build six stations in secret in the Southern California area, where the automaker is headquartered.

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‘No meaningful difference’

When the network is complete, Musk said, there will be “no meaningful difference between driving an electric car and driving a gasoline car.” Plenty would certainly argue that, but it is an impressive plan that could push many who are on the fence into seeking out a bank auto loan for an EV.

Justin Berkowitz of Car and Driver offered some practical question about the system that were not addressed by Musk. Questions that could certainly raise some doubts about there being “no meaningful difference between driving an electric car and driving a gasoline car.”

How many chargers will be available at any given location, Berkowitz speculates? The Supercharge is fast, sure, but at thirty minutes a pop, it could be a significant wait if many cars are ahead of you. Like, several hours.

Also, could continued fast charges have a negative impact on the lifetime of the Tesla S battery pack?

The footsteps of Nikola?

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, who the EV maker is named for, had a dream of proving free energy to all. It does seem that Musk’s shop is treading in those footsteps. But then, Tesla Motors did build and sell the cars that it wants to power for free, so the motive may not be quite as altruistic as it seems at first glance.

Still, it is an important step toward the establishment of infrastructure to support a future that many believe will become increasingly reliant on electric vehicles.


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