The zero tailpipe emissions crowd just got a boost in spirits with the latest announcement from Tesla Motors. CEO Elon Musk has unveiled a series of new Supercharger vehicle charging stations, which will essentially allow Tesla owners to recharge in about as long as it currently takes to gas up and grab a quick bite at the nearest burger joint. The stations are 100% solar powered and will be free to use. There are already six in place across California, secretly open only to employees until now, but opening to the general public in early October. The stations employ a technology which delivers up to 90 kW by using special cabling to bypass the onboard charging system, instead delivering power directly to the vehicle battery.
One of the biggest challenges in electric vehicle (EV) development has been with batteries which take four to six hours to recharge. These new solar charging stations will get the job done in about an hour for a full charge, and 30 minutes for a half charge of about 150 miles. This sets the stage for the possibility of cross country travel without lengthy stopovers. Tesla batteries already best the competition with a near 300 mile range, and they feel the new charging stations will give them an additional advantage against other makers. The fast charging stations are currently only compatible with Tesla vehicles, specifically the Tesla S sedan, and there has been no statement on whether it will be extended to cars from other manufacturers in the future. Plans are to have 100 stations in place across the United States by 2015.
Since its beginnings in 2003, Tesla has been the company which has taken the path least traveled among EV manufacturers. They decided to fight back at the common perception that electric cars have to look wonky and futuristic, and in 2008 they rolled out their first vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, a sporty little $110,000 number that does 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. It turned enough heads to allow them to continue with phase two of Musk’s long term business plan, specifically the June 2012 release of the Tesla Model S, a $50,000 mass-market sedan designed to compete on a luxury level for the attention of the BMW and Mercedes buyer. With over 10,000 pre-orders for the Model S, now all Tesla has to do is produce them. Tesla’s next vehicle, Model X is a crossover blend designed for those who settle for an SUV when they really want a minivan, yet can’t force themselves to buy one. It features a return of the gull wing, but this time it allows access to narrow parking spaces as well as the garage back at home. First deliveries for the Model X are scheduled for 2014.
There are currently 15 Tesla stores in the U.S., with nine more scheduled to open before the end of the year. And store visitors are flocking in for test rides, four times as many as what Tesla had expected. Combine that with another 16 stores already open around the world and Tesla has a nice little footprint. If they continue to innovate, who knows, Tesla may actually become the little car company that could.