Tesla Motors, still on a roll from its soaring stock price, its glowing review in Consumer Reports, and its on-track 20,000 Model S deliveries per annum, has something new to crow about: An expanded Supercharger network.
The 480-volt Superchargers are free to Model S owners with the larger 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack, and are in fact a major reason buyers are favoring that model. Right now, Tesla has only eight Superchargers, in California and in the Northeast corridor (including in Milford, Conn., not far from me). But check out Tesla’s new interactive map and the grid grows quickly, ultimately to about 200 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Coming by the end of June are new routes from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland, Austin to Dallas, Illinois and Colorado. Four more will be on the Eastern Seaboard. Within six months, Tesla expects to add Arizona, Florida, North and South Carolina, Georgia and locations in the Midwest. See a map of their 2015 locations below. If you're wondering what Superchargers look like, here's my photo of one in Milford.
CEO Elon Musk said in a conference call that Tesla is moving faster than its announced 100-stations-by-2015 timetable. “We’re looking at increased density on well-traveled routes, with a Supercharger every 80 to 100 miles,” he said. “By the end of this year, you’ll be able to travel from Los Angeles to New York using just the Tesla supercharger network.” Using that route, Musk intends to recreate a 20-year-old college road trip. But he didn’t have a Model S (or children) then.
The next locations will fill out California and the Northeast. Interestingly, Tesla is putting in Superchargers at the under-construction Darien, Conn., rest areas, a distance of only 26 miles on I-95 from Milford. This may seem counterintuitive to Tesla’s effort in spacing the chargers 80 to 100 miles apart, but it’s basically for four reasons: local officials are wild about the stations they already have, it fits into the state environmental plan, the plaza was under construction anyway, and Connecticut is just crawling with Model S cars — I’m seeing them everywhere.
“This expansion is in response to people’s desire to have really fast-charge capacity throughout the country,” said Musk. The Superchargers cost $150,000, plus another $150,000 when they add solar arrays. Musk also added something new during the call: battery backup.
Right now, two Superchargers in California are equipped with half-megawatt battery storage, which will allow cars to be charged directly from the backup system — and defy blackouts because they’ll be off the grid. Eventually, Musk said, all Superchargers will have both batteries and solar, though installation of those systems will lag behind the chargers themselves. The key now seems to be getting 'em in the ground.
Each charger can handle multiple cars simultaneously, and Tesla is also busily increasing the number of ports on its installed units. That will help to improve the crowding situation at some of the more popular Supercharger stations, including Harris Ranch and Gilroy in California, and Newark, Delaware. Here's Musk on video talking about the Supercharger expansion:
Telsa is also putting the already fast Superchargers on steroids, so they can put out a 120-kilowatt (up from 90 kilowatt) maximum charge. “You can charge up to two-thirds in just over 20 minutes,” Musk said. “That means driving for three hours, stopping the normal amount of time on a road trip, grabbing food, and getting back on the road.” Those units are still in the beta stage, but should be installed at some locations within three months, Musk said.
In response to a question, Musk also denied that chronic use of fast charging will harm Tesla battery packs. “The warranty is not affected by Supercharger use,” he said. “It doesn’t affect the life of the pack very much, it’s quite negligible.”
Europe doesn’t have its Superchargers yet, but delivery there begins in July. By the way, Tesla Roadsters aren’t Supercharger-ready, though maybe on Tesla’s to-do list should be re-engineered battery packs and electronics to allow those cars to plug in.
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