Tesla Will Have Free Coast to Coast Supercharger Stations by 2014
Proposed Tesla Supercharger stations, end of 2014
Tesla will be jumpstarting the construction of its Supercharger stations to the point that a trip from the West Coast to the East Coast can theoretically be taken by the end of this year; by 2014, there will be enough stations to make different journeys than the sole narrow Midwestern corridor that will exist this winter. By 2015, Tesla aims to have enough of the extremely quick charging stations to cover the entire United States.
In addition to the ambitious growth plan, Tesla also announced that the Supercharger stations will be able to bring a depleted car to half full in just over 20 minutes, compared to CEO Elon Musk’s prediction of 30 minutes, as previously planned. This is accomplished by using 120kWh chargers rather than the 90kWh units that were expected to go into the stations. The 20 minute window gives a Model S enough juice to travel roughly 200 miles (as usual, this sort of nice, round number for an EV surely has more than a few caveats).
The idea of the Supercharger is thus: the stations are positioned within walking distance of shopping centers and restaurants, so that drivers can entertain themselves while waiting for their cars to recharge. While Tesla initially threw around the idea of utilizing a battery-switching option at the Superchargers for extremely quick “refueling”, they have decided to keep large stocks of fuel cells out of the stations and focus instead on transferring energy to a car’s fuel cells as quickly as possible.
Tesla has only built 8 Superchargers so far, and most operate the area in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but that number will triple in just one month. The extra waypoints will cover the California coast from Sacramento to San Diego in California, the west coast of Washington state, most of Florida, and a string of stations from Rhode Island to Virginia. By fall, both coasts will be completely covered, and the end of the year should see the joining of the two via I-80.
The refueling is promised by Tesla to be free forever, even considering that each station costs between $150,000-$300,000 to construct (depending on whether an individual station is outfitted with solar panels that allow a Supercharger to remain entirely independent from the grid). The only catch is that the stations are only compatible with current and future Tesla automobiles; the company’s first effort, the Tesla Roadster, is not supported.
The Supercharger is nothing short of a game changer, provided that Tesla can stick to its timetable. The prospect of traveling from LA to New York without spending a dime on raw transportation costs is certainly appealing, and the revised charging time makes each stop that much less irritating. With the sheer number of stations planned, one of the largest turnoffs of electric vehicles, range anxiety, is greatly reduced.
While the Supercharging stations on their own cannot yet compete with the sheer number and convenience of gasoline stations, they are the best solution for those concerned that electric vehicles do not offer the same level of accessibility of their traditional counterparts. Here’s to hoping that Tesla can pull off what it promises. If the company had made this announcement a year ago, I probably would have written it off as vaporware. Tesla’s track record of late has been pretty on the mark, however, and I wouldn’t it put it past them or their enigmatic CEO.
An interactive map of the proposed Supercharger stations and their timeline can be found on the Tesla website.