Even as it busily opens car showrooms in shopping malls that are more like interactive design studios than traditional dealerships, Tesla Motors has been constructing a network of ultra-fast charging stations for its sporty Model S so that it can travel longer distances than typical electric vehicles.
So far, Tesla has built six Supercharger stations, which use a solar carport system installed by national solar leasing company, SolarCity. That's great, because one of the biggest criticisms regarding electric vehicles is that they are replenished with power that is largely generated by coal-powered plants today.
But from the driver's standpoint, the capacity of the charger is perhaps more intriguing. It can provide up to 100 kilowatts of power, which means that it can recharge a Model S with up to three hours of drive time in about a half-hour -- the typical time that many travelers spend at highway rest stops.
The company has installed six of these stations so far in public locations throughout California, and it is targeting high-traffic corridors across the United States for other installations -- from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York. Superchargers will migrate to Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.
"Tesla's Supercharger network is a game changer for electric vehicles, providing long distance travel that has a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes," said Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO. "However, 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."
The company also is encouraging Tesla owners to invest in the technology, since over time the solar charging can help defray the costs of charging the vehicles at home.
The Model S, which carries a base sticker price of around $50,000, can travel up to 265 miles on a single charge -- the longest of any of the production electric vehicles currently on the market. The cars can be configured with three different battery pack densities.