20 Comments

Summary:

Tesla’s charging network is growing fast.

Tesla charger launch, image courtesy of Tesla.
photo: Image courtesy of Tesla.

There are now enough Tesla Model S electric cars — as well as the company’s electric car chargers that keep them going — out there driving on the roads of the world that a substantial amount of electricity is being delivered by Tesla’s chargers. Tesla said in a blog post this week that its fast chargers delivered 1 gigawatt hour of electricity to Model S cars in the month of June.

For comparison’s sake 1 GW hour is about enough electricity to power between 1,000 to 2,000 American homes. The Hoover Dam has about 2 GW of capacity. (My bad that’s not a fair comparison, see update below) So pushing half a Hoover Dam of capacity through Tesla chargers into the batteries of Model S cars is no small potatoes.

Tesla chargers, image courtesy of Tesla.

Tesla chargers, image courtesy of Tesla.

Tesla plans to ship 35,000 Model S cars by the end of 2014, and it delivered 22,477 in 2013. So by the end of 2014 there will be well north of 50,000 Model S cars charging and discharging energy into millions of lithium ion batteries throughout the day and night.

Tesla is somewhat unique in the electric car charging market in that the chargers were launched specifically as a benefit — free electricity — for Model S drivers. Most other electric car infrastructure companies don’t also sell cars, so networks like Chargepoint are building businesses just off of installing electric car chargers and then selling subscriptions or doing other deals to recoup the investment. Nissan has taken a cue from Tesla in that it’s offering free charging for new LEAF drivers.

Navigant Research forecasts that global revenue from the sales of electric vehicle supply equipment will grow from $567 million in 2013 to $5.8 billion in 2022.

Updated to clarify its 1 GW hour per month and the number of homes powered is much smaller than originally reported.

  1. Is this articles math correct? The units are gigawatt hours, so while Hoover dam has about 2gw of instantaneous generation capacity, it produces many more gwh over the course of a month even though probably never runs at full capacity….

    Wikipedia suggests 4,200 gwh per year generation for Hoover dam, so maybe 400 per month… 400x tesla not 2x…

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    1. US Dept of Interior confirms 2.08gw (2,080 mw) is nameplate capacity of Hoover Dam; running 24/365 that would be about 17,520 gwh but I’m sure there are limits on seasonality/rainfall/melt etc.

      According to the DOE max annual production of the Hoover Dam was in 1984 at 10,248 gwh (58% of nameplate); it has averaged about 4,200 gwh annually over the past ten years or about 350 gwh/month.

      In a month, therefore, nameplate capacity of Hoover Dam is 2*24*30= 1,440 gwh and 58% of that (equivalent to 1984) would be about 842 gwh; 350 gwh/month is 24% of nameplate.

      So Tesla seems to be using somewhere between 1/800 and 1/350 of Hoover Dam’s actual production, not the 1/2 cited in this article. Which is good, because there are a bit more than 25,000 model S cars are on the road in the US, only some of which are using superchargers part of the time… hopefully not using as much electricity as the 700,000 homes cited as a 1 gw equivalent!!

      http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/faqs/powerfaq.html

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  2. Well, 1GWh is not that substantial. The United States consumed around 4000 terawatt-hours last year, so figure 333 TWh per month. Based on that figure, the Teslas used something like 3ppm of the electricity.

    It is a great milestone, but I worry that folks might use that big sounding number as a scare tactic to show how the grid can’t possibly withstand all these electric cars plugging in.

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  3. Think the whole article needs a rewrite; 1 gigawatt-hour is impressive only in the context of electric vehicles, and the fact that Tesla provides it as a complementary service to its owners. All the comparisons are silly, especially if the (major) corrections properly noted by earlier commenters are reflected.

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  4. Thomas J. Thias Friday, July 11, 2014

    The Honorable US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) says this, Enough waste electricity at night to refuel/charge 300,000,000 Electric Fueled Vehicles without building a single new nuclear power plant! This is this countries greatest unused resource. Waste electricity at night as EV Furl!

    Link Goes To Torque News Dot Com With Mr. Alexanders Comments On The US Senate Floor.
    2nd Link Is Motley Fool Article Of Same-

    http://www.torquenews.com/397/senator-alexander-unused-electricity-our-greatest-national-resource

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2011/05/20/lamar-alexander-uses-gas-prices-to-press-republicans-on-electric-cars/

    Best-

    Thomas J. Thias

    517-749-0532

    Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

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  5. Agree with the need for a re-write. This is an impressive milestone and an exciting achievement for Tesla, and (accurate) additional context could help convey that in a way that restating the press release / blog post doesn’t. Or even better, to challenge some of Tesla’s rosier statements. Use your knowledge of the industry and this bully pulpit to educate and inform the readers!

    Looking at Tesla’s original post, they do a reasonable job with context – 1gwh of electricity in a month drove their cars 3.7 million miles, saved 168,000 gallons of gas, offset 4.2m pounds of CO2, and saved $622,000 at the gas pump. We could sharpen it up a bit though.

    Double clicking on those numbers suggests each car was driven on Supercharger power about 150 miles in that month (a single 20-30 minute recharge worth of distance), 22 mpg is the average fuel economy of vehicles the Tesla replaced, and the average fuel cost savings was $3.71.

    If I rewrote this article I might push on usage patterns of Superchargers and relate it to the “range anxiety” debate. Looks like the average user is taking one road trip each month requiring the pit-stop, perhaps there are recharge data suggesting how far the average Tesla user is actually driving before recharging at home?

    Or, what does the distribution of Supercharger use tell us? If most people are getting one Supercharge each month, does that say more about the current lack of superchargers or instead that long range fears are overblown because people usually don’t go that far (or that the people with truly long range needs aren’t buying Teslas yet)? If usage shows instead most people are getting no supercharges and a handful are getting many, perhaps that’s a stronger signal of the viability of at least certain road trips using this model. I doubt Tesla will tell us, but are more recent serial numbers being used differently that earlier ones? How does usage vary by city/region?

    I also might point out that highway mileage rates for luxury sedans may be higher than the comparison rate (e.g. 535xi rated at 29 mpg highway), suggesting that fuel/cost savings may be overstated. At 28 mpg instead of 22, that’s 132,000 of gas saved (or $490k at $3.71/gal). Highway seems appropriate because these numbers are quick-charging Superchargers used to immediately extend travel, not garage chargers used overnight. But the data could tell us whether that’s true… maybe there are some die hard people gaming the system and using Superchargers to avoid running up their home electric bill.

    If we’re focused on operating cost comparisons between electricity and gas, a comparison of miles driven per dollar spent may be more interesting even though it will vary with electricity and gas prices. If we’re focused on pure efficiency, perhaps I’d show a breakdown on miles per kwh (if you’re American) or kwh per mile (if you’re European… fuel per distance is more intuitively comparable than distance per fuel) and compare to ambient temperature, driving style, etc especially among the different electric autos.

    I’d further point out that residential electricity costs about $.15 per kwh in CA and MA (national average is $.12), so 1gwh of residential electricity probably costs about $150,000. Is this free electricity as in beer or lunch? You could argue Tesla’s investors are paying this cost right now, but longer term free power will either end or be baked into the purchase price of the car somehow. Some economists argue that pushing consumers to purchase fuel up front with the vehicle would be an effective way to get them to internalize the cost of fuel efficiency differences and go greener, faster (NCEP 2004, etc).

    As an aside, a claim of 4.2 million pounds of CO2 avoided is interesting… that implies 25 pounds of CO2 from each gallon of gas. An internet check shows 19-20 pounds may be more accurate, caused mainly by carbon from exhaust reacting with atmosphere (because a gallon of gas only weighs about six pounds to begin with).

    Tesla’s CO2 savings figure is also not net of generation emissions… which is highly dependent on the source of electricity – apparently between 4 (hydro) and 1,000 (coal) grams of CO2/kwh. Picking 500g/kwh (or .5 kg/kwh) for argument’s sake, that’s half a million kg of CO2 in 1gwh of electricity generation. At 2.2 pounds/kg that’s 1.1 million pounds of CO2 generated to “fuel” these automobiles with electricity. Superchargers have solar panels on the roof, but I think the majority of their power comes from the grid.

    Where permits trade in the world it seems to cost $10-50/ton of abatement. If Tesla’s figures are accurate, that’s 210,000 tons of CO2 avoided from gasoline use (maybe 150,000 tons net abatement) which seems like it would more than pay the electricity bill even at the low end if Tesla can figure out how to sell them. Or, it could flood the market for carbon permits and make it easier to pollute elsewhere as they grow. Isn’t economics wonderful?

    Dunno why I latched onto this story, but it’s fun to dig into this stuff. If we’re going to have cars, electric cars are the way to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental footprint of fuel and distribution. It’s a long road and exciting to watch Elon Musk start to drive us down it!

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  6. Tesla is going to keep writing checks for these free recharges ad infinitum?

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  7. I can’t wait until Tesla comes out with its less expensive electric car. I want one now.

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  8. I think to supplement batteries, a propeller generating electricity should be designed to fit inside a cowling and mounted on the auto roof top. This would create electricity while the car is moving.

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  9. This is the Achilles Heel of the battery powered vehicle. While this instant surge of electric regeneration will get the vehicle up and running again very fast, the problem is that this surge of electricity degrades the battery much quicker than a slow trickle charge. Also, lithium has to be mined which is destructive to the earth’s environment and is not a renewable resource and must be disposed of when the battery is depleted. Sorry to rain on your parade, but this is not the answer to our nation’s energy problems.

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  10. The bigger problem in the future is how all this dangerous batteries will be properly dispose ,it can not be recycle since all batteries at some point will end their ability to stored energy to run cars. If one is mart enought car that zero emission and zero hazard waste is the best.

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