Tesla Confirms Rapid-Charging Corridor Between LA And SF

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2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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The 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric sedan isn’t due to roll off the production lines for another 8 months, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk wants the world to know that the Californian-based automaker is already putting plans in place to ensure that Model S owners won't be running out of charge. 

Earlier this year at the official launch of the 2012 Model S Sedan, Musk said that Tesla was planning on installing ultra-rapid charging stations along major arterial freeways such as the I-5 between Canada and Mexico, but declined to give specifics.

But in an official Tesla earnings call last week, Musk let slip where the first of these ultra-rapid charging stations would be: somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

During the earnings call, Musk joked that the the massively powerful “Supercharger” 90 kilowatt charging stations looked a little like an advanced alien artifact, reiterating that the stations could easily add as much as 150 miles of range to a 2012 Model S in under 30 minutes. 

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

Enlarge Photo

With the top-specification 2012 Model S Sedan capable of a massive 300 miles per charge, we think the first SuperCharger will most likely be stationed at a hotel or rest-stop mid-way along the I-5 between SanFrancisco and Los Angeles. 

However, even by the shortest route, the distance between the two cities is nearly 400 miles, meaning that an equidistant SuperCharger would be no use to owners of Model S sedans with smaller 160 or 230-mile battery packs.  

And while most of Tesla’s current orders are for Model S Sedans complete with 300-mile battery pack option, expect Tesla to install multiple SuperChargers along the I-5 route to cater for drivers of lower-range Model S sedans. 

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

Enlarge Photo

Unlike other automakers which have been relying on third-party companies to provide level 2 and direct current rapid charging infrastructure for their cars, Tesla seems to be proactively working to ensure that charging infrastructure for its luxury seven-seat sedan is  provided even before it launches. 

But because the 2012 Tesla Model S will use a proprietary charging connector rather than the standardized J1772 and Chademo connectors already found in other parts of the U.S., the SuperChargers will only be useful for Tesla owners. 

That’s not so great for owners of other cars with rapid-charging features, such as the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Mistuibishi i. Although both cars are capable of recharging to 80% full in under an hour to give between 50 and 80 miles of useful range using a 50 kilowatt charger, they will remain incompatible with Tesla’s proprietary equipment. 

That is, until someone figures out how to harness the quirky Tesla Super-Charging connector with a suitable Chademo adaptor, a little like a reverse version of the J1772 to Tesla-Roadster charge adaptor. 

Until then, if you want to regularly travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in an electric car, you’ll want to buy a Tesla Model S -- or be prepared for a long wait while you recharge. 


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Comments (18)
  1. This to me is Tesla's only flaw in the Model S, they had almost put together the best EV anyone has ever seen and then they decided to do something completely STUPID and ignore the standard J1772. But I can easily guess why they did this, by designing their own plug most Model S buyers will buy Tesla charging equipment, so you have little or no choice your most likely not going to go buy a GE home WattStation because your not going to want to fiddle with the adaptors when your at home. By not sticking with the current standard the Model S is now adapter dependent, this may make owning a Model S a bit of a hastle.

  2. Musk is just doing what he believes will make his cars unique; High priced auto makers have been doing that for years; Tesla is not interested in selling $30,000 cars. Their line starts at $50,000-$60,000 plus. If they have plans to build cars for the common man you can't tell it by their current actions. I suspect Toyota will build the mass production lower cost J1772 models.

    BTW, Nikki, We in the Leaf community appreciate your efforts with ZCW; perhaps,someone will start a ZCW here in the U.S.

  3. In my book, "proprietary" is just plain evil. Automakers have thrived for years making sure that only "official manufacturer parts" will fit your car. All this is nothing more than a means of establishing monopolies, and for chargers, exists in large part because our dimwitted Federal govt spends billions subsidizing electrics but fails to establish charging standards,
    the first thing they should have done. That's what we pay taxes for - to bring order out of chaos by establishing standards when required, prevent monopolies, and ensure a free market and equal opportunity for all competitors. If you don't have free competition, nothing works : not media outlets, not politics, not sports, not business, not science, nothing.

  4. In your book, do you ever say anything.........nice?

  5. If the wireless charger takes a little longer time to charge your car, I'd rather spend that extra time playing with my child at a side-park than have to visit him at the funeral home because he stuck his finger in a high voltage outlet.

    Don't any of you ever listen to Secretary of Energy Chu when he talks?

  6. It would be impossible for your kid to stick it's finger in any outlet, the holes are to small and most chargers aren't left on when not in use anyway.

  7. Tesla is not dumb. Since the government failed to set a standard, and since Tesla really was the first all electric long range vehicle in America (and the most beautiful (the roaster)); why not they set the standard for the plug-in. Tesla also probably knows that in a short time, ten years or less, we may not need a plug-in. Wireless charging is coming up in the world really fast. With wireless charging, you'll never have to worry about your child getting the piss knocked out of them for touching an outlet.

  8. Actually government rarely creates what you are terming "standards." Trade groups and associations are free to do this in ways that dovetail with their proprietary needs. What the government does a lot of is to set minimum safety requirements.

    Setting unilateral standards of compatibility by government is assuredly a great way to destroy the viability of products and markets - is that what you are advocating? Government literally telling entrepreneurs they can't create new products outside of a defined range since the government feels it has suitably defined the products needed for the market?

  9. The J1772 plug, as we know it, doesn't support DC fast charging at all. That requires a combo plug which will be officially released only later in 2012. Based on pre-release photos or renderings, various ;) journalists have described it as "monstrosity" and "butt ugly".

    Tesla's new connector is also an extension of J1772, but a different plug which is usually described as very small and elegant: for its looks, easy of use and convenient handling.

    Since it uses J1772 electrically, it needs only a very simple adapter to use Level 2 J1772 stations, although with its longer range, the Model S will rarely need public L2 chargers.

    When seeing Tesla's connector the first time, quite a few were surprised it allows 90 kW fast charging, so small.

  10. Great article, but it sounds like the author doesn't understand math. "However, even by the shortest route, the distance between the two cities is nearly 400 miles, meaning that an equidistant SuperCharger would be no use to owners of Model S sedans with smaller 160 or 230-mile battery packs. "

    If the charger is equidistant, then each leg is less than 200 miles, which is significantly less than 230. The 230-mile battery pack users would be able to make this trip using a single, equidistant, SuperCharger.

    An equidistant charger will also be of use to the 160 mile pack cars. They will need to use a "standard" charger on each leg to and from the fast charger, but using the fast charger in the middle will significantly cut their trip time.

  11. let Tesla have it. its still an hour and two chargers would be needed. remember its not a straight line between LA and SF and neither is the charge curve. charging stations set 130 miles apart means a 160 mile range "could" do it but very slowly. longer ranges only need enough to get another 130 miles which could be done in half an hour. now 160 mile range car would need a near 100% charge and i dont know what the trickle down is on 90kw but guessing its better than an hour

  12. No one is going to make the trip using a 160-mile range car except some crazy die-hards. That's crystal clear, David. The 230-mile-range vehicle is more interesting, albeit scary enough that I very much doubt -- again -- that many would bother. Range will never be a fixed 230, it will vary with climate-control, speed, etc. and going out 200 miles, recharging to 180 or so and then heading for LA is going to be, yeah, not fun. You'd need to budget two stops and Tesla so far hasn't been committing to multiple stations.

    There is a chance you'd make it on a 230-mile range car with just one stop and one recharge. But even if the recharge were to go to 90% -- and no one is promising that -- you're still playing a dangerous game.

  13. What's wrong with the idea of going out 200 and recharging to another 180? If that bothers you, recharge to another 200. Yes, range will vary with the way the car is driven, and I regularly EXCEED the published range on both my RAV4-EV and Tesla Roadster. Interestingly enough, with the availability of the fast charging it will make more sense to drive the car *faster* to the charger (and spend more time on the charger) than it will to drive it slower (getting better range, therefore spending less time on the charger). With this SuperCharger, the best-time-speed to LA will exceed anything safe or sane.

    David: Re the trickle down - don't forget that "100%" rating on the Tesla is not chemically 100%. Shouldn't need to trickle that much.

  14. This is a prototype anyway, so I'm sure more will be added. But one supercharger and a couple of regular HPCs at coffee stops might be enough for a 230 mile car to do it safely. After all, would you do the trip with only one rest stop? It's about the same distance as London - Edinburgh, which I have done with one stop but couldn't recommend again.

  15. There are already a number of those HPCs in-place. If you start looking at "center of the Bay Area" to "center of Los Angeles" the mileage starts dropping. Eg, SJC Airport to LAX is 350 miles. If you have a SuperCharger available in the middle, you really want to charge only minimally on HPCs and arrive totally empty to do the trip with the minimal waiting time. Either way, this trip isn't the design-mission for the Model S. We can always come up with longer-and-longer trips to explain how EVs won't make it, but they're getting real practical for day-to-day driving.

  16. Most people do the drive with one stop David. Some people do it with nothing but a fuel stop to be honest. I look forward to the stories of people with a 230-mile-range Tesla doing the single stop + charge to 80% and almost making it to their destination. Sorry, but that's going to be a borderline insane way to go.

    Yes, if you start in San Jose, it's much more realistic as you've just cut 50 miles -- literally -- off your journey. I'm glad you think that racing to the charger is going to be a great idea, but at least with the Leaf, the range difference doing 75+ vs. 60-65mph is gigantic, so good luck with that.

    Speeds on I-5 tend to be in the upper 70s. If that cuts the range of the 230mi car down to 180 miles, you won't make Magic Mtm.

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