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Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners

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Electric car maker Tesla (s TSLA) announced on Monday night that it has installed its “Supercharger” rapid car charging network at an initial six locations throughout California and Tesla says charging at these stations will be free “indefinitely” for Model S owners. Tesla says the Superchargers will be powered by solar technology, developed by solar installer SolarCity (Tesla CEO Elon Musk also is an investor and the Chairman of SolarCity).

Musk has been discussing the idea of a Tesla-bankrolled Supercharger for almost a year and I first heard about the plan back in November 2011. The idea is that because the market for electric cars is so new, Tesla wants to help build out the charging infrastructure, which is one of the industry’s biggest barriers.

Musk called the Supercharger “the answer to the three major problems holding back electric vehicles” in his remarks during the event. These problems are being able to drive electric vehicles long distances conveniently, the issue of electricity being generated at a distant fossil fuel power plant, and the issue of cost of electricity.

One of the surprising parts of the announcement is that Tesla will be installing a lot more stations than I had originally thought. While Tesla announced the locations of its first six stations at the event tonight (“constructed in secret”), the company also says that in 2013 it wants to install many more Supercharger stations throughout the U.S. as well as Europe and Asia. Within two years the U.S. will be covered in Superchargers, said Musk during the event.

In that respect Tesla is making a considerable commitment to becoming an infrastructure installer and is developing more of a vertical business model for electric cars. I wonder how the companies who are building business models off of electric car charging — like Better Place, NRG Energy, Ecotality and Coulomb — feel about Tesla crossing over into their turf.

Because the technology is using solar power, as well as previously designed technology for Model S charging, Tesla says the chargers are cheap to build and install. There’s also the fact that there’s just not a whole lot of Model S drivers out there yet that will be using the power. For those reasons Tesla is offering long distance charging free for Model S owners.

The Superchargers can charge the Model S cars with 100 kilowatts of power and provide three hours of driving at 60 mph in about half an hour. Who wants to take me on a Model S road trip down to LA?

21 Responses to “Tesla unveils free solar-powered car charging stations for Model S owners”

  1. I believe what it is better for mankind to use up the call first and save the gas for things that we can’t do with anything else. We will kick ourselves for the way we used it up (the gas). I also think energy independence is retarded. Why do we want to use our gas reserves up. We should use the rest of the world’s first.

  2. California, Nevada, Arizona, first (3) states to get the charging stations. Next three states will probably be Texas, New Mexico, Florida probable because of the best days of getting sunshine. But lets not forget, until they all are being used, someone will be getting a large check for the power they are dumping into the grids, and I might add (at the maximum usage time when all the AC units are chilling residents homes. (Fantastic planning, Keep it going.) (The coal and natural gas will only have to operate at night and at 1/4 the capacity)

  3. People talk about solar as if it were a fad. If you take some time and research it, Tesla is building a United States power grid with the batteries of these cars located all over the U.S. and for now it is free. Until the price of gas reaches into 5-10 per gallon. Then the hammer drops and he charges for the electricity like everyone else, Smart man… Don’t fool yourself, nothing is done in this world unless money is involved.

    • Every existing gas station today for sure has many 110 outlets and probably at least one 220 outlet. Once electric car owners start wanting to charge up, the stations will figure out how to charge. This will be a social awareness acceptance change.

  4. The 110 infrastructure is already here (there are many many more electricle outlets than there are gas stations). Our minds are saying, “we have to have a filling station” a new infrastructure. Its already here in place. We need to get used too letting others use our outlet in exchange for dollars. With Square up apps (accept card payments with your phone) one can even accept a credit card payment.

  5. CEO Elon Musk is on Charlie Rose every so often. Good article. 

    I’m thinking of sinarios like this… But around Estes Park it’s not a big deal. 

    Hey I’m out of juice and I need to get back home. Could I pay you to plug in for an hour. Your being billed probably  x to  x+ per kilowatt hour. If I’m pluged in for an hour it will add no more than x kwh to your next bill. Ill pay you 1.5  x. Please?! 

    It’s a little bit like your phone.  You cut back on the usage (turn off wi fi or location or both) if your battery is getting low, so it will last through the day or until you get to a charge opportunity (charger and outlet- car sigarett lighter or 110 outlet). When you get home you fully charge up every night. 

    In a small town where distances are short I imagine not running out of fuel. 

  6. Jiminy Christmas

    I think the only way electric vehicles will really take off is if the government subsidizes these type of charging platforms all over the U.S. and/or subsidizes gas stations to include it in their infrastructure for a modest chargeable fee.

  7. This sounds like a pipe dream. Solar power is about 10 watts per square foot (, so 100 kilowatt-hours, enough to charge just ONE car every 30 minutes, will require 20 thousand square feet of solar panels. For one car at a time. That’s about half a football field. To store up enough to run when the sun isn’t shining would easily quadruple that. The only way this will work like a filling station is if it is tied to the electric grid. This sounds like another typical green project. Visible “green” power source, hidden electric connection to power everything but the computer. Get the tax deduction.

    • Bill is absolutely correct. This is not a new concept, in fact it’s common. The car charger uses UTILITY supplied energy, and the solar panels generate electrical energy that is fed back to the grid. Called “offset”.

      • I believe what it is better for mankind to use up the call first and save the gas for things that we can’t do with anything else. We will kick ourselves for the way we used it up (the gas). I also think energy independence is retarded. Why do we want to use our gas reserves up. We should use the rest of the world’s first.

        Ernie Petrocine 970-232-8290 970-586-3302 Fax Rocky Mountain Connection Outdoor World

        Sent via Apple iPhone

  8. Forward thinking! With this move, we have totally stepped away from fossil fuel (I concede that the material manufacture was done so with a fossil or nuclear fuel but that will soon be replaced). Dream on, big man! Tesla, the man, is said to have devised a method for the wireless transmission of electricity before his death. If only we could reconstruct his process – we could line each highway with transmitters and never have to stop our electric Tesla S’s!

  9. Awesome! Also love the name “supercharger”… I love how Tesla is making it all Sci-fy and cool to drive an electric. The model S, although gear heads will be mad, is a cool looking car. I wish I could test drive one… 60mph is not very exciting :(

    Anyways, thanks for the info :)