Tesla’s First Electric-Car 'Supercharger' Stations Now Live

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Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system for electric cars

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Last October, at the official launch of the 2012 Tesla Model S, we told you about Tesla’s plans to build a network of “Superchargers”: fast-charging stations that could add up to 150 miles of range to a Model S in 30 minutes. 

Yesterday, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] launched its Supercharger network at an exclusive event at the company’s Hawthorne, California design studio.

Designed to provide up to 100 kilowatts of power, with a future capability of up to 120 kW, Tesla’s Superchargers are about twice as powerful as the Chademo rapid charging standard found on cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Mitsubishi i.

Twice the power means roughly twice the range for the same amount of time spent recharging.

But while Tesla's Supercharger system has the potential to change the public perception of electric car-travel, it is proprietary to Tesla

Today, only drivers of a 2012 Tesla Model S with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack can make use of the super-fast charging stations.

By the end of the year, Tesla says it will start building Model S versions with a 60-kWh pack; buyers of those cars can specify the Supercharger capability as an option.

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

2012 Tesla Model S Charging Connector

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Future Tesla models, including the Model X crossover SUV, will be built with Supercharger compatibility in mind. But it seems unlikely that Supercharger technology will be incorporated into any non-Tesla cars. 

The six charging stations launched yesterday -- carefully positioned to make it possible for Model S owners to drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles; LA and Las Vegas; and San Francisco and Lake Tahoe -- will be the first Superchargers to go online, when approved for public use sometime next week.

But they won’t be the last. By next year, Tesla has promised it will have Superchargers along other ‘high-traffic’ routes in the U.S., including one from Los Angeles to New York; a route from Vancouver to San Diego; and even Montreal all the way to Miami. 

Where possible, many of the Superchargers will be powered by a solar carport built by SolarCity--which also happens to share its CEO, Elon Musk, with the startup electric-car maker.

The solar carports, Tesla says, will generate more power than will be used by the Superchargers, feeding excess energy back into the grid.

A few weeks ago, Motor Trend borrowed Musk’s personal 2012 Model S, and drove it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a single charge to see if it was possible. 

Initial locations for Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system

Initial locations for Tesla Supercharger fast-charging system

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By limited both speed and the use of air conditioning, the car arrived with range to spare, but we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the Motor Trend team. 

With a Tesla Supercharger now online in Barstow, California, the trip to Las Vegas in a 2012 Model S is now easily possible--without sacrifices in speed or personal comfort. 

The entire Supercharger event was webcast live, in the same air of showmanship the company used for the unveiling of the 2013 Model X crossover SUV and first deliveries of its 2012 Model S.

What will Tesla’s Supercharger network mean for Tesla owners? What will it mean for electric cars?

And, should Tesla consider licensing the Supercharger quick-charging technology to other automakers (if any were interested)? 

Let us know in the Comments below.


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Comments (37)
  1. .....and the battle of the standards is on. Will other EV makers be interested in adopting the standard of some small start up? Unlikely.

    Tesla could have really simplified the whole charging conundrum by following the Renault model of on board fastchargers rather than trying to set up its own network of proprietary fastchargers. All that would have been needed was a network of simple high output power sockets, no need for a standard. It's the sort of non-standard the industry might be willing to follow. Seems like a simpler approach than to set up a network that's only suitable for Tesla vehicles and will be obsolete anyway once better batteries require more than 120KW chargers.

  2. These are DC chargers and not AC. They feed a DC current directly into the battery and bypass Tesla's on-board 10/20kWh chargers. This is how they can push 100kWh into the pack. The issue with such a huge battery they had no choice but to go there own way as all the other standards can't handle the current needed to charge a 85kWh pack that fast.

  3. Did you know that the Renault Zoe's *on board* charger handles up to 43 KW? All it needs is a high power socket. Seems to me Tesla could have offered a similar feature except at double the capacity to fit its larger battery packs.

  4. Renault seem to be following close behind Tesla in developing high power charging - for example, they are looking to double from 43kW to 86kW in the next generation (http://myrenaultzoe.com/index.php/2012/10/renault-ultrafast-charging/). That's not as high as Tesla's 100kW, but getting close.

  5. "some small start up"

    If further ramp up goes to plan, it looks like that from December or January they sell more pure EV's than the other manufacturers combined. They are treading unclaimed territory and you bet they're not settling for the Calimero role.

    I assume the charging circuitry can be retrofitted at reasonable cost to provide more than 120 kW. But why would better batteries require more than 120 kW? The basic routine (2-3 hours driving, 30 minute stop) is dictated energy consumption, not battery size.

  6. I think it is a good thing for Tesla to make their own charger, because it supplies much better capabilities then the other standards at the moment. In combination with solar panels, I think this is a really good idea. They even provide the charging for free!! As I believe greatly in the possibilities for Tesla Motors, I think it would be best to keep the charging technology for their own, as it can be an unique selling point. Just like Apple's App Store is an unique selling point.

  7. As a household with a 2011 Volt and Leaf, the potential to actually be fully "emission free" over longer road trips is MOST attractive. We are looking to take delivery of a Model S around next July (deposit #9883), and by then we should be able to use it easily to go from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon and for other road trips to Tahoe and Reno with "no worries" at all. Tesla is, IMHO, pushing ALL the other larger companies to do a better job with their total "EV experience."

  8. You are the new EV man George!

  9. Well, I will tell you this much... the longest trip I take from Miami is to Orlando which is 215 miles. So I could now go for the 60KW unit with a supercharger instead of the 85 kw and save some cash on the purchase!

  10. Tesla does not fail to impress. I'd like to see them make an adaptor for other electric cars. I know they want to keep this exclusive to their brand, but they could make a good amount of money selling adaptors for electric cars from other brands. Tesla's ownership of a fast charging network would extend their buisness and bring in more income, helping them become profitable sooner.

  11. There is a bit of a boast in Elon's sunlight statement. I'm a EV driver with 60,000 miles in a Mini-E, ActiveE and a Honda Fit EV, all solar powered miles, so I know the math. What is important to know is the KW size of the canopy. There is no magic to this. Judging just from what I can see in the picture It looks to be around a 30 KW system. That would produce a daily average of 132kwh. So if Elon meant it would charge 1-2 cars by sunlight per day on the average he is absolutely right. If the multi car bays charge 10-20 cars per day the system would only provide a portion.

    But.....This man, Elon Musk is a genius. I love Tesla and applaud them for all their great work. Add a 3kw solar system at home and you drive on sunshine full time.

  12. According to Tesla:

    "Supercharger system will always generate more power from sunlight than Model S customers use for driving."

  13. and thats the part I challenge. For one car yes, but for 10-20 per day charging in multiple bays, no way.

  14. Peder, you are missing three factors in your calculations of how truly sun powered these Tesla superchargers will be.
    First, every one of these new Tesla supercharger stations is in a very sunny, bright area getting great sun for solar power.
    Second, not this year not next year will there be any more then a few Teslas total using the stations during the mid workweek...the high use time will be Friday's through Mondays. So the excess electricity will go to the grid when it is most neeeded during the workweek days.
    Third, there will be additional EV charging stations along these routes in the next couple years so that some Tesla drivers may choose to use them instead of the Tesla stations.

  15. And the electricity will be FREE to Tesla owners.

  16. Tesla may become a premium brand like Bang and Olafsen is in Stereo,
    or Apple is in Computers, but, it's tricky to maintain a premium, proprietary

    B&O and Apple did it, lets see what happens with Tesla.

    I would agree that they need a backwards compatibility to ChaDeMo and J1772 because those are crutches to the Model S, but,
    i'd take a miserable 5 hour charging experience compared to being stuck in the desert.

  17. Tesla is pulling a page right out of the Apple business model manual. Be first to market. make the most efficient and effective products to support your product. License technology to competitors to help the new technology spread, giving up market share to help rapidly grow the market, and making a profit on everything the competition does to keep up. They need to hold off on licensing their technology out long enough to gain superior market share, but not so long that the competition team up to combat them head-to-head.

  18. This solution is only for the richs that want to invest money toward a luxury toy. It's not that that will make them sell their big oil related stocks. Normal car consumers are left behind still waiting for something better and less costly and more practical transportation offerings. Maybe this article is done to entertain big oil folks.

  19. Patience, gorr, patience. One day, you will be interested to buy.

  20. I would love to see a fast charging standard, preferrably one that uses a single plug for AC and fast DC. I believe we will have that in the next couple of years.

    In the mean time, Tesla has once again paved the way and increased consumer expectations. Now, if they only made an affordable car for commuters and other working stiffs.

  21. I think this is great. One way to remove range anxiety.

    Now the question is this (try to play devil's advocate), on a busy holiday weekend, I imagine the charging station in Folsom and Barstow will be filled up with Teslas going between Tahoe/SF and LV/LA. What do Tesla drivers do in those situation? Wait 1 hour for those spots? It won't be a problem most of the time except for those busy holiday weekends... Also, as more lower power version (60KWh) rolls out, the demand for those stations will be higher and they would need more stations than what they have today.

  22. I think that is definitely a concern at some point. It is bad enough to wait 30 minute, but if there are two people in line ahead of you, that will be a real disappointment.

  23. It would be easy to solve with an in-car app that allows you to make a charging reservation at the filling station. Or at least to check the status of the charger to see if there are any free.

  24. relatively cheap to scale and add more chargers.

  25. That's definitely a luxury problem! Imagine how many cars Tesla need to sell for your scenario to become reality...

  26. Imagine how many "rich" people go to Vegas and Tahoe on holiday weekend.

    Well, come to CA to check it out. The hwys are "parking lots" during those weekends and I would imagine a lot of the Tesla S sales would be concentrated in the SF Bayarea and LA area..

  27. The Folsom Supercharger is right next to one of the best (IMHO) Mexican restaurants in the greater Sacramento area. Not a bad way to kill 30 minutes to an hour. The Chips & Salsa are superb!

  28. Nothing in life is free. What does a 30 minute charge cost? How much is really delivered in 30 min.? Can 45 kWh really be delivered? At home that is about $5 worth of energy. What will Tesla charge? $50 or $100?
    What's Tesla's answer?

  29. Um, they are trying zero for any car with Supercharger capability. That's any 85kW Model S and any 60kW model where you pay for Supercharger capability (a one-time charge).

  30. Ugh, no way to edit... "charging zero"

  31. Tesla has already answered this question: The Superchargers will be ....FREE to Tesla drivers....simple as that! This was clearly specified in Musk's press conference and in the press release that accompanied that Monday evening presentation.

  32. and the most important thing you did not tell is that charging is FREE .... how can you have forgotten it?

  33. I was very skeptical of the Tesla standard - I mean, why not use what's out there already?!?!

    That was until I tried it - it's really slick, small, easy to insert, hard to misalign and, it makes a satisfying 'click'.

    It forced me to re-think how often I've wanted my Tesla Roadster to work with J1772 compared to the number of times I've plugged in my Tesla each night. In the end, I choose better over standard. I'd prefer to have a better experience each night than a better experience for the occasional time I need to plug in away from home.

    I doubt Tesla will license the tech - why deploy fast charging for your competitors?

  34. You license it so your competitors deploy for you. If Tesla goes this route, they will need to be in competition with the new J1772 and ChaDEMO. If they chose one of those standards, their competitors will help Tesla build out the infrastructure. Now Tesla will have to shoulder the cost of every single charging station that they want.

  35. From the start Tesla's premise has been to design the best solution and force others to either run and catch up or fall behind. Their solutions are elegant and far better than the competition, and as a result they'll quickly become the leader if they can break through their growing pains. They've done a lot to shatter the stupor the market's been in for ages, and I think it's fine if the smartest minds lead rather than follow.

  36. This "charge as you travel" crap is NEVER going to fly because NOBODY is going to wait for 30 minutes at a recharger just to get 150 miles further on their trip. NO-FRIGGIN_BODY. They'll stick with gasoline instead. The only way it's going to work is if the car manufacturers make the process of changing a battery a simple 5 minute operation. Notice I said chaNging not chaRging. We need stations all along the highways where you just pull onto a ramp (like at the quick oil change places) and the kid below the ramp pulls your spent battery and replaces it with a charged one. With a properly engineered system and proper tools in the change stations to hoist and move the heavy batteries the idea would work very well.

  37. @Kim: A small number of electric-car drivers already do just that in Washington and Oregon along the electric highway.

    While the bulk of battery-electric car drivers use them for local driving and commuting, rather than long-distance trips, your statement has already been disproven.

    As for battery switching, you may or may not know that what you propose has already been set up in Israel. It's called the Better Place system, and this site has covered it extensively--including several very favorable reports from our author "Brian of London," an early customer.

    Read up and see what you think. The challenge would be scaling that approach to the U.S. for different batteries in each car.

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