Tesla's Supercharger: Drive With Electricity Harnessed From The Power Of The SUN!

By Blake Z. Rong | September 26, 2012
"DRIVE ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY ON PURE SUNLIGHT FOR FREE," reads the press release when it landed into our inbox, fueled by electrons and circuits and happy little wires. You know, electricity! Science! Tesla promises plenty of electricity and science as well, and with this bout of futuristic news it's as if it's just announced a space colony on the moon, possibly with lasers. This is better: Tesla's aptly-named Supercharger charging stations harness the power of the sun to run your car on pure electricity, charging it in just half an hour. Here's how far this still-nascent technology has come: we recently drove a Ford Focus Electric, an excellent, capable car by any means. When it ran low we parked it in the garage near our office, and plugged it into a simple, outdoor 110 volt outlet. Charging time, according to the onboard computer? 19 hours, and yes, it took all 19 hours overnight to fill up. It's no fault of the Focus Electric, but if we plugged it into one of Tesla's Superchargers, the Focus's computer might imagine some sort of sorcery, or that it's been hacked by a cyber-criminal from the future. Because Tesla's Supercharger generates a whopping 100 kilowatts of power to the Model S's from solar panels developed by SolarCity, a company joint-owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The panels are mounted on a carport, which produce more power, Tesla claims, than a Model S will ever use. "This results in a slight net positive transfer of sunlight generated power back to the electricity grid," says Tesla.
"By making electric long distance travel at no cost, an impossibility for gasoline cars, Tesla is demonstrating just how fundamentally better electric transport can be,” said Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the closest we have to a real-life Tony Stark. “We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight.” So if you drive a Model S, according to the company's statistics, for 180 miles—well short of the luxury model's 265-mile EPA-rated range—then you'll be able to charge at a Supercharger in just half an hour. It's about as much time as people spend at rest stops, says Tesla optimistically. Half an hour is longer than a fuel-up, but the charging time of electric cars is now enough to get someone to Vegas and back. This is good news for Tesla, something the company currently needs right now. Production of the Model S has been reduced by 40 percent amid difficulties for Tesla's suppliers to catch up. The company is now more than a month behind production schedules, it states bluntly, and its stock price has taken a hit: "we may fail to meet our publicly announced guidance or other expectations about our business," said a Tesla filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, "which would cause our stock price to decline." Tesla will have to reschedule its loan repayments to the US government as well. It will need to pay $14.6 million out of the $28.8 million it owes the Department of Energy by next February, instead of this October. It is also slashing its research and development budget by 20 percent during this quarter. Thus far, about 132 Model S drivers will be able to enjoy the Supercharger—and let's hope they all live in Southern California, where six Supercharger locations are scattered. Tesla has built 255 so far and wants to build 300 cars by the end of this third quarter, which will help the company match its 2,600 reservations racked up in that same amount of time. Ultimately, the company has lofty goals for an independent electric-car startup: 400 cars per week by the end of 2012, for 20,000 cars a year in 2013. There are 13,000 people who have placed deposits for a Model S, so if those goals are all met, those 13,000 people can get up and go charge their cars super-fast in the brave new future we all share. Source: Tesla