Wednesday, September 26, 2012
For @TeslaMotors , One Supercharger to Bind Them
On Monday night at its design studios in Hawthorne, Calif., Tesla Motors introduced its Supercharger, a glittering monolith capable of bringing the battery of a Model S sedan from flat to full in about an hour.
Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, has always known how to manufacture excitement around the company’s products, and the introduction of the 480-volt Supercharger was attended by enough smoke and lasers to suit a reunion of Spinal Tap. Mr. Musk said the chargers would dispense free electricity generated without emissions through a partnership with SolarCity, a builder and installer of photovoltaic equipment led by Peter and Lyndon Rive, cousins of Mr. Musk. The Tesla executive is also SolarCity’s chairman.
The Supercharger will be installed at solar carports loosely resembling filling stations and are capable of charging several vehicles simultaneously, as well as returning surplus power to the grid. Khyati Shah, a spokeswoman for SolarCity, wrote in an e-mail that two of the six Superchargers already installed had solar capability, with the others running off of grid power. One solar unit is 24 kilowatts and the other is 26.
Mr. Musk said the Supercharger network would address some anxieties that might be inhibiting wide consumer adoption of electric vehicles, including concern about power-plant emissions related to charging; the cars’ inability to travel long distances; and operational costs. The Supercharger will charge at 100 kilowatts and eventually up to 120 kilowatts, he said. “What it means is that you can drive for three hours, stop for less than half an hour, recharge, and be ready to go again,” Mr. Musk said. A Model S would reach a state of half-charge in 30 minutes.
The system is not compatible with existing Level III fast chargers. It complements elements of the company’s charging system unveiled earlier, including the high-power wall unit and plug design the company demonstrated for Wheels last year.
Tesla has six Superchargers in operation, all in California, with more to come in the state by the end of the year. The first stations are expected to be opened to the public in coming weeks.
Mr. Musk said the company intended to have Superchargers installed across much of the United States in the next two years and to have the entire country, and the lower part of Canada, covered in four or five years.
The ability to connect to the Supercharger will be standard on Model S cars with the 85-kilowatt-hour battery, the highest-capacity battery marketed by Tesla, and would be optional for buyers of the sedan fitted with the 60-kilowatt-hour pack. That said, Model S sedans equipped with the 40-kilowatt-hour batteries, and the existing fleet of Tesla Roadsters, will be excluded from using the Supercharger.
Mr. Musk said Model S customers with the necessary equipment would “travel for free, forever, on pure sunlight. It’s pretty hard to beat that.” Not one to understate the company’s accomplishments, he said the Supercharger’s introduction was likely to “go down as being quite historic, at least on par with SpaceX docking with the Space Station earlier this year,” a reference to his space-freight venture. “I really think this is important.”