Tesla Motors Supercharger network in Winter 2014 - map as of January 22, 2014

Tesla Motors Supercharger network in Winter 2014 - map as of January 22, 2014

After a disappointing 2013, a year in which Tesla fell short of ambitious goals for expanding its Supercharger network, the company has picked up the pace remarkably.

Just last week, seven new Superchargers came on line, the latest of a wave of 40 of the proprietary Supercharger DC fast-charging stations worldwide since mid-November--of which 32 are in the U.S.

A total of  81 Superchargers in the U.S. and Europe have so far provided more than 7 million miles of Model S travel.

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station in Woodburn, Oregon, Nov 2013 [photo: George Parrott]

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station in Woodburn, Oregon, Nov 2013 [photo: George Parrott]

Cross-country close

With the opening last week of three new stations in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a cross-country Supercharger corridor now appears to be only a couple of stations away from completion.

Superchargers under construction in Kingman, Arizona, and Hagerstown, Maryland, will fill the last two major gaps in a coast-to-coast route from Baltimore to Los Angeles. Both of those stations are near completion; they may go live any day now. 

Once they come on line, the biggest gap along the route will be a 206-mile stretch between Kingman, Arizona, and Barstow, California. That should be doable, even at Interstate speeds in winter, using an 85-kWh Tesla Model S--if perhaps not the 60-kWh version.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised to inaugurate the route with a celebratory cross-country road trip in a Model S with his five young children. We can only imagine the number of times the phrase "Are we there yet?" will be uttered.

In Europe, Norway is now virtually covered, and the Amsterdam-to-the-Alps Supercharger route is now open for Dutch skiers. Work will begin in Canada on a Windsor-Toronto-Montreal-Quebec City route this spring.

No dates on maps

In addition to stepping up the pace of Supercharger openings, Tesla has cannily eliminated the dated maps on its website that showed  future Supercharger sites.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

In the past, these maps stirred huge excitement and anticipation among Model S owners, but led to disappointment and grumbling when some of the promised Superchargers failed to appear on schedule. The Summer 2013 map, for example, promised 18 new Superchargers, but only 13 were live as autumn began on September 21.

Even more ambitiously, Tesla's Fall 2013 map promised  51 new U.S. Superchargers before winter, including seven in the Northeast.

In early December, with less than half that number deployed and a December 21 deadline fast approaching, Tesla deep-sixed the Fall 2013 map from the website and replaced it with a "Coming Soon" map, which offers the advantage of a vague deadline that constantly recedes.

Now each new Supercharger opening will be greeted with ecstatic and grateful huzzahs instead of carping that the company hadn't quite lived up to its documented promises. Somebody at Tesla clearly took Psychology 101.

Why I-90?

One thing we wonder: Why does the initial cross-country Supercharger route follow Interstate 90 though South Dakota? It seems the most remote of all the cross-country Interstates, far out of the way for the vast majority of Model S owners--especially those in Southern California.

The route leads to the odd quirk that South Dakota (pop: 845,000) and Wyoming (pop: 564,000) now have more Superchargers (3 and 2, respectively) than New York (one), New Jersey (none), Pennsylvania (one), and Massachusetts (none).

Those states' combined population is 48 million, and they surely have more Teslas on the road as well.

The route requires westbound drivers to detour far to the south--even backtracking to the east briefly in New Mexico--to reach Northern California. (At least they'll travel through some of the world's most spectacular scenery in the Four Corners area.)

The wandering Supercharger route adds nearly 700 miles to the usual 2800-mile route from New York to LA via I-80, I-70, and I-15. A Tesla spokesperson could shed no light on why the roundabout I-90 route was given top priority.

Perhaps CEO Elon Musk has some long-lost relatives in South Dakota to visit on his road trip?


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