In a classic chicken vs. egg scenario, the promise of electric vehicles (EV) has largely gone unfilled. Auto manufacturers are reluctant to produce electric cars in the absence of sufficient charging infrastructure, and refueling stations remain unwilling to scale up until demand for electric vehicles reaches critical mass.
Palo Alto-based Tesla hopes that its newest gamble will help resolve this tension, ushering in a new era of electric vehicles that can quickly and affordably recharge at stations across the country. Central to this push is the Tesla Supercharger – a new technology that can provide up to 150 miles of driving time after a 30-minute charging session.
Tesla Superchargers are a long way from mainstream at this point. Currently, there are only 6 pilot projects throughout the country, but executives believe that within the next 2 to 3 years, they can expand to 100 stations. If the current 85 kWh battery that comes standard with Model S Tesla vehicles undergoes radical improvements, the company may even be able to scale up their recharging infrastructure more quickly.
Tesla designed the Supercharger to address one of the main disadvantages of traditional electric refueling solutions. Namely, how does one enable longer road trips with fewer stops? The company’s solution – provide greater power and a more direct path to the actual battery itself. Prior to the Supercharger, electricity was redirected to the vehicle’s onboard charging equipment using twin chargers. But at 90 kW, the newer technology bypasses the traditional route, delivering 4.5 times as much electricity in a fraction of the time.
But for many motorists, even a 30-minute refueling stop is hardly convenient – especially when compared with more traditional gas stations that require as little as 5 minutes. To address this hurdle, Tesla has launched its initial projects along roadside cafes, diners, and shopping centers – areas for which refueling is rarely the sole motivation for prolonged stops. By outfitting some of its recharging stations with solar energy, the company is helping to reinforce photovoltaics’ budding relationship with the growing EV market.