Clean-energy enthusiasts have been abuzz lately with the implementation of Tesla's new supercharger network. The company, named after the great Nikola Tesla, announced the network in late September and officially opened stations in six California-based locations on October 19th. This release has the potential to be the most significant event in personal electric transportation.
The Supercharger Network
The supercharger is essentially a giant solar battery that can be tapped into by electric vehicles. Imagine a normal gas terminal that looks a little bit like a vertically-standing rocket ship; it's a modern take on the time-tested carport structures found in today's gas stations. These systems are like a typical gas terminal, but they are estimated to take roughly 30 minutes for a charge of 150 miles at 60 miles per hour. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated that the superchargers will also be putting power back into the grid, creating a surplus of energy while powering electric vehicles. It's important to note that Tesla cars already come with a cable that allows for in-home charging. These networks are merely an out-of-home complement to long travels with an electric vehicle.
As of now, the network is only available in six California locations. They are implemented in strategic locations to allow comfortable travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. These are major tourist destinations, and this strategy may help to increase demand for the vehicles, thus increasing the demand for more stations. Tesla officials have already stated that further expansion is coming, though there have been no definitive announcements of the full schedule and expected release dates.
Any owner of Tesla vehicles and other electric cars will be able to use the new system. Tesla S-class models and above will be able to use these terminals free of charge, while there will be a fee for all other electrical vehicles. It's important to note, though, that these fees will still be significantly lower than gasoline, though no exact pricing system has been announced thus far. For comparison, Model S vehicles start at around $50,000 USD. At $40 per week saved in gas, the vehicle will effectively cost $160 less per month to run, just shy of $2,000 in savings per year. This is also for what is effectively a luxury-model vehicle with premium features.
The Final Word
This is a landmark in the clean energy movement. It demonstrates that solar power is a very real alternative to the gasoline industry, and it's likely that major oil industries will be carefully watching how the supercharger network will impact Tesla's sales. If Tesla's sales numbers rise this quarter and into the next, it's very likely that they'll start building momentum. This in turn will provide Tesla with more incentive to produce more of their supercharger carport structures. As eithersales or supercharger installations increase, the other should increase as well. As peak oil comes closer into view, the need for alternatives to gasoline will become more apparent, further strengthening the desire for electric vehicles. Short of finding an absurd abundance of oil that's been hidden from modern society, the price of oil can only rise. Tesla may very well be on the winning side of innovation with their new design.
Once the new superchargers are more widely available, a Model S vehicle from Tesla can effectively be fueled free of charge. Until then, the prices and economic impact of the vehicles will still be lower than that of a traditional gasoline-driven engine with the same general features. The only barrier between it and the larger audience is the higher price tag as compared to a regular vehicle. Some families are simply not going to be able to afford a $50,000 price tag, but they may be very comfortable with a $20,000 vehicle. In the short run, this is still a smart move for Tesla, as their supercharger network should be passively generating revenue from other companies' electric models. This allows them to continue to produce luxury models while also generating revenue from entry-level electrics. Even if Tesla continues to produce only premium electric vehicles, the supercharger network is powerful enough on its own to revolutionize the international automobile industry.