Tesla Announced Plans to Expand Its Supercharger Network

By · May 30, 2013

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Tesla Supercharger Network rollout for Fall 2013

On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the company's Supercharger network will quickly expand to reach nationwide coverage across North America within one year. Within the next few months, the stations will have faster charging times, and support more cars per location.

The Supercharger network is Tesla's proprietary DC fast charge system. The current incarnation supports two charging ports per station. With a 90-kilowatt charge rate, a Model S equipped with a 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack can fully charge in about an hour. Chargers, installed along major highway corridors, are free for Tesla owners.

The system will see two upgrades over the next couple months: to increase the charging rate to 120 kilowatts, reducing the time for a full recharge to 20-30 minutes; and to support four charging ports per Supercharger station to increase the number of available charging bays.

By June 2013, Tesla expects to triple the number of Supercharger locations with additional stations in California; the Northeast corridor; the northwest region from Vancouver to Portland; Austin to Dallas in Texas; Illinois; and Colorado. Within six months the system will connect most of the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada including expansion into Arizona, additional stations in Texas, Florida, and the Midwest, stations connecting Ottawa to Montreal, and across North and South Carolina into Georgia. By that time, Tesla will support cross-country trips along specific corridors. By 2015, Tesla said it would about 200 locations.

Tesla did not discuss networks outside North America.

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Hawthorne Supercharger location, with solar panel carport

Each Supercharger location eventually will have a co-located solar panel array, according to Tesla. The solar panels will be designed to offset the electricity consumed from recharging Tesla electric cars. Each location is also expected to have a half-megawatt-hour grid energy storage system to used as the source of energy for recharging. The energy storage system is large enough to completely shield the grid from the brunt of 120-kilowatts of power per car. Tesla's goal, at least in part, is to avoid expensive demand charges that utilities require for industrial-level use of energy.

The Supercharger stations are relatively costly, at about $150,000 per station without the solar panels, and another $150,000 for the solar panels. Musk did not mention the cost of energy storage. At about $300,000 per station, capital expenses for Tesla to build its North American Supercharger network could approach or exceed $60 million.

Musk described this service as an essential strategy for earning mainstream car buyers. The company hopes the Superchargers will allow it to respond to customers considering an electric car, but who still want the capability of taking occasional road trips. With the stations, Tesla can argue that its cars grant the same level of freedom enjoyed by owners of gas-powered cars.

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