Tesla Supercharger Network Fills EVs with Juice in 30 Mins

Tesla solves problem of recharging on long distance trips

By Evan Ackerman
|  Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012  |  Updated 7:57 AM PDT
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Tesla Supercharger Network Supercharges

Tesla Motors

Tesla Supercharger event in Hawthorne, CA on Sept 24, 2012.

Why aren't you driving an electric car right now? Let's ignore the fact that they're expensive, temperamental, and inconvenient, and focus on the impossibility of long-distance travel, because that's a problem that Tesla Motors has just solved with a network of solar-powered battery "Superchargers" in California.

The reason that you can drive almost anywhere in your gas-powered car is that there are also gas stations almost everywhere. In other words, gasoline has an established refueling infrastructure. There's also an established refueling infrastructure for electricity (go on, flip on some lights and try it out), but it's not designed to deliver the type of juice that an electric car needs, as we found in our review of the Chevy Volt: yes, you can plug the car in just about anywhere, but at a charge rate of one mile of range per 15 minutes of charging from a standard outlet, you're not going to get very far.

To solve (or at least, drastically mitigate) the electric car charging problem, Tesla Motors (who makes the Model S) has installed the first six of an eventual nationwide series of rapid recharging stations that act just like a gas pump for electric cars. The secret isn't much of a secret: these stations (called Superchargers) can provide almost 100 kilowatts of power to a Model S, with the potential to go as high as 120 kilowatts in the future. That means that you can put enough energy into the car in 30 minutes to charge the batteries halfway, giving Model S owners an additional three hours of driving at 60 mph. 30 minutes is longer than the five or 10 it may take to pump gas, but it's just about the maximum amount of time that people don't generally care about. By the time you hit the restroom, get some snacks, check the nonexistent oil, and clean the windshield, you're ready to go again.

Tesla has six Supercharger stations up and running right now in California, enabling drivers to get from San Diego to Sacramento and beyond without having to stop for more than half an hour. The Superchargers themselves come equipped with solar arrays that will actually put more energy back into the grid than the cars pull out, making the recharging "free." And for Model S owners it really is free: they won't have to pay a jot for topping off their batteries at a Supercharger station.

By next year Tesla plans to have Superchargers installed nationwide, allowing for coast-to-coast electric vehicle travel with an expansion to Europe in 2013.

DVICE

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