• Jun 12, 2012
Supplying energy for cars on the move is an important piece of the electric vehicle puzzle and in this regard Tesla Motors is taking a unique approach. At some time in the future – the company is not saying when, exactly – it plans to reveal what it calls its Supercharger network.

Although the company isn't giving any details about the design of the individual stations, we expect something more than just a post with a plug. Much more. During the recent shareholders meeting where CEO Elon Musk briefly touched on the system, he declared that when people see how awesome it is and what Tesla has planned, it will blow their minds. We await this moment.

Of course, Musk can be given to a bit of hyperbole now and again. When discussing the five-star safety rating of the Model S, he said if there was a sixth star, the vehicle would have been awarded it as well. Still, hints as to what is involved with the Superchargers arose during the Q&A session after the main presentation and makes us think that this will indeed be pretty cool.

For example, we expect it to feature battery swapping. Long a controversial concept in the electric vehicle community, it is clear that Tesla is going to employ it in some fashion. Whether it will be available for every pack size – the Model S comes with either a 40-, 60- or 85-kWh pack – is not yet known, but it shouldn't prevent you from retaining ownership of a specific pack. While fast charging your 85-kWh Model S might take around 45 minutes using the 90-kW station with its proprietary connector, the battery packs are engineered to enable a swap as quickly as one minute.

Another prominent feature will be solar panels. Musk is a big proponent of solar energy and it's been reported that Tesla and SolarCity (where he also serves as chairman) are working together to create rooftop solar storage systems. What better place, we rhetorically ask with no pun intended, to implement such a scheme than atop stations stuffed with batteries. Musk says the panels will help illustrate the connection between sustainable power production and electric transport and go some way to combat the long tailpipe argument.

If you'd like to watch video of the shareholders meeting, it's available at Tesla's website for a while longer. Besides discussion of the Supercharger, there are a lot of little tidbits for those interested in the company and its product. More to come.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Has anybody been able to confirm whether or not the Tesla Model S will be given extra CARB ZEV credits for its Battery Swapping?
        JakeY
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        That's what I was wondering too. If hydrogen cars can get extra credits (almost double) for fast refill with just a handful of public stations, I don't see why a handful of public battery swap stations shouldn't count.
        Baldur Norddahl
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        What will Tesla use those credits for? Sell them? They have no use for credits themselves since they do not produce gasoline cars.
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Elon Musk @ 23:20 regarding the Supercharger network. "we have to have all the pieces in place for the crystal to glow" Superman reference?
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes. Tesla makes a good income selling their ZEV credits. "Tesla received more than $13 million for credits transferred to Honda and other manufacturers, the company’s filings show. “We have credits to sell to companies that may need them, and we’re not going to identify them” beyond Honda, said Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development for Tesla." http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-30/nissan-poised-to-sell-green-vehicle-credits-tesla-started.html
      Abe
      • 2 Years Ago
      I seem to remember Elon saying something about customers having the option of swapping to a higher kwh pack for longer trips.
      Rob Mahrt
      • 2 Years Ago
      It seems to me that Tesla has more up its sleeve then a classic battery swap solution that most of us seem to be down on. Listed to his comments around 24 minutes about the supercharge network. If it were simply, drive up and swap your batteries out, or drive up and wait 30 minutes to charge your car with some power that is paid back with solar panels... why would he be so excited?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Tesla and better Place are both backed by the same VC Vantage point. Tesla and BP are half a mile apart in palo Alto. BP first generation switcher was designed for a flat battery under the car. So they don't have to invent anything new, in the same manner that the space X still uses hydrocarbons and oxygen to fly off to space.
      Anne
      • 2 Years Ago
      Selling credits is smart, although it partly defies the goal of Tesla to put more electric cars on the road. This way, the Model S only replaces other ZEV cars. But nevertheless, it is a very effective strategy to put your competitors at a further disadvantage. Make them sit on their hands and not develop a competing product.
      • 2 Years Ago
      There has never been even a hint (except years ago) that the Model S would provide for battery swapping. Nor is there any need for same, especially considering the complications and inflexibility of maintaining battery pack ownership, which is essential. The pack was not designed to be easily replaceable, at least not in any economic fashion. As for solar power, Musk is thinking very illogically and shortsightedly here. Solar power is available only when the sun is shining,therefore grid power will be needed extensively for his charging stations. And solar power will only a relatively few cars to recharge : a rooftop full of panels is needed for a mere 6 kilowatts, and each of his superchargers needs 85 to 90 KW capacity. That amounts to an enormous amount of land next to an interstate, where prices aren't cheap. If he wants carbon free power and not put a strain on the grid (which his charging stations will do) the obvious solution would be for utilities to establish SMRs (small modular reactors) tied to a grid exclusively used by charging stations along each stretch of interstate, and have those chargers installed at existing gas stations. Other solutions make very little economic sense and will put a strain on the grids that are supplying power to the interstate areas. I don't expect such an obvious and simple and economical solution to dawn on those (apparently including Musk) who are gaga over (uncontrollable) solar power. They think with their guts, not their brains. And I'm in favor of solar power, when used properly and sensibly, in light of its severe limitation to provide power upon demand. This country seems to have divided itself into two groups, neither of which are very impressive in their logic It's embarrassing that
        • 21 Hours Ago
        Being a Better Place client i can relate first hand that the procedure is routine. Second, what difficulty does switching one battery for another present? At this time all batteries have been charged-discharged very few times so their value is approximately the same. Solar is not for direct charging. Its a useful exchange with the power grid where the roof-top contributes to the grid at peak, and the station charges from the grid at nadir, that is night-time. Since the batteries in stations will use slow charge most of the time, they will place no discernible strain on the grid. The vast majority of the miles driven by E cars is likely to be off the home or office supply, generally at slow, not supercharge clip. Calling Musk a gut thinker is kind of ridiculous. no gut thinker can put a vehicle into space, or convince the VC's his car concepts make sense. Some respect might be in order.
      Grendal
      • 2 Years Ago
      During the shareholders meeting there was also a graphic that said the RHD Model S would be produced in 2013. Just thought I'd let our European friends and Marco know these things. My only problem with battery swapping is liability issues. Great idea but will it be practical in the real world? I can see someone dropping off their battery pack and when it's put back on the person thinks there is a small difference. Then there is lots of blaming and accusations.
        Ashton
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Grendal
        I have never liked the battery swapping option. I think its the lazy way to fix the problem...the problem of course being long charge times. What if somebody else was really hard on their battery, and got it swapped out, and their battery which doesn't hold its charge as long as my last one did, ended up in my car...that would make me very angry. Bottom line is they need to speed up the charge time. Level 2 (240V) charging takes a while but no one cares because it can charge while they sleep. But level 3 charging needs to be much quicker, people do not want a car that takes 30-45 minutes to "fill up". To convince the masses, you need to shrink that number to 5-10 minutes. *I watched the whole video, and I'm anxious to see what Elon has planned for the supercharger network. It was a good video, and I hope Tesla sells these cars like crazy....basically because I want them to make money off of it, so they can afford to make their cheap(er) car in 2015. Which I hope to be able to buy.
          Grendal
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Ashton
          I want one too. I don't expect it to be too cheap because I still expect it to be a luxury sedan, just not a big one like the Model S. Different concepts of the swapping pack idea have been discussed. I believe the conclusion is that your personal battery pack is still yours even if you swap to another for a while. So you can't "trade" for a lower quality pack in a swap. However, someone can still come to the same conclusion, even if it's false, with their own pack. People are weird and we can get the strangest ideas stuck in our heads. "Before I gave my pack to Tesla it would charge to full in seven and a half hours, now it takes seven hours and forty-five minutes. I think Tesla owes me a brand new pack because I feel they ruined my old one!" I somewhat disagree with your opinion that people will be unwilling to wait 30-45 minutes for a recharge. Certainly there will be some, but those will probably stick with their gas engined cars and not make the switch to pure EV. Hopefully they will still go for an EREV or a hybrid instead. Everyone else will adjust to EV driving differences and life will go on and they will somehow still get to where they are going...
          Joeviocoe
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Ashton
          Tesla's business model is different. They are likely going to simply have a couple of 300 mile Model S packs in every Tesla store and service center... come in and swap, take an extended trip, swap back with your original. They don't need to be profitable, since the facilities are there and paid for, and the packs are shared.
      Timo
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm not big fan of battery swapping, to me that is just bad business that wont last because costs are too high. I believe battery swapping is mainly just "publicity stunt" to deal with petrolheads range anxiety. At this point there just isn't enough cars swapping batteries to make those swapping stations profitable, because wast majority of charging is done slowly at home where you have no hurry to get it done "just this moment". Around 90% of all driving is under 40 miles which means only 10% of cars on route at any given moment even need a charging station, and for those vast majority don't need full charge to finish the trip which means faster charging times.
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Timo
        Swapping stations don't make a profit any more than your neighborhood reducing transformer makes a profit. You pay the electric company for the Killowat--hours you consume and you pay the service provider for the miles you run. That is the way it works very well here.
        Joeviocoe
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Timo
        Tesla's business model is different. They are likely going to simply have a couple of 300 mile Model S packs in every Tesla store and service center... come in and swap, take an extended trip, swap back with your original. They don't need to be profitable, since the facilities are there and paid for, and the packs are shared.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't see go bankrupt on that list. what? too soon? : )
        super390
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Apparently not soon enough for you.
        Grendal
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Money has begun rolling in. They'd have to sell through all their pre-orders which is about $1 billion in revenue before you start seeing any financial issues. They sold all those cars without even one on the road. With cars out there, and they are as good as Tesla says they are, you don't think they'll start selling more? Maybe not, but I'm betting they will.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          Grendal, I take your point and I do leave room for the possibility that they will survive but I'm being provocative in an attempt to wake up the dead. Tesla motors has wasted fantastic opportunities and there is a rather high risk that the last opportunity will be gone if model S doesn't sell very well and with solid profit margin. I'm not excited about the slim possibility that they might barely survive, that's a huge failure in my book. there should be certainty and I believe that there would be if they had understood the significance of weight and aerodynamic optimization. as well as cost optimization. the chance improvement of aerodynamics that the model S ended up with is nowhere near enough. if you look at this graph it shows that everyone except Elon Musk has been cashing out in the last 2 years. including CTO and CFO. and Elon Musk's brother. only Elon has doggedly bought. http://www.insider-monitor.com/trading/cik1318605.html what's your source on the recent purchases you claim? what makes me bitter is the billion dollars fisker has thrown away on an obese turd, the billion dollars tesla might well be throwing away now and say the half billion coda have thrown away and not one of them ever considered doing a car even remotely as intelligently designed as the EV1. not one of these clowns figured out that EVs should be about energy efficiency. and that is a failure of gargantuan proportions. I cannot believe how stupid that is. and now everyone with maybe an exception of tesla will go bankrupt and we are left with a huge anticlimax on the EV scene. the overpriced and uninteligently engineered Volt, Leaf and i-miev. and nothing on the horizon. by Elon's own admission according to you, if they don't sell more than 8000 cars each year for several years they wont even break even let alone be profitable enough to cover development of further cars. I would not at all be surprised if Q3 reports a 40million$ loss. then even the naive and clueless stock market investors has to wonder if the business model is all that great. I wonder how many life savings of well meaning people will be lost because they ran with the Ironman hype and didn't actually look at the numbers. I'm a huge fan of EVs but not of stupid EVs that will let us down. if we suddenly get batteries with much greater capacity that are dirt cheap then sure conventionally stupid cars can be viable as EVs. since we don't have that there is only one way and that is lean and intelligent. and noone is doing it right.
          Grendal
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          Elon's and the others purchases were filed with the SEC. I got my info secondhand from someone on the Tesla Forum. I didn't check the SEC website. Thanks for your insider trading website posting. Other than Antonio Gracias, I don't see anyone cashing out. Plenty of smaller sales that look like someone getting some profits but overall nothing to be too concerned about. I'm still confident in Tesla. And I can still see the points you are making and I'm glad you're making them. So thanks. I still have plenty of hopes for lightweight and aerodynamic as well. Tesla's not doing bad with the aero but there is still lots of improvement needed on the lightwweight side. My hopes are on Edison2 and an outside possibility that Aptera makes a comeback. We'll see.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          Grendal, it's everyone: http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/tsla/insider-trades Straubel has strongly reduced his holding and particularly noteworthy is CFO Deepak who sells everything he gets. that's not necessarily a good sign : ) also noteworthy is that Elon has close to a billion dollars worth of stock, that's crazy money : ) and of course if he decided to sell any significant amount the stock would drop like a stone. it's a curious issue, having 900 million dollar value that you can't get out and might well turn near worthless. btw if Tesla goes bankrupt I'm wondering if somebody like GM or Ford might buy the brand
          Grendal
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          Dan I certainly see the point you are trying to make but you're being very pessimistic in your outlook. Tesla always has been about the future and a lot of the cost you're attributing to the Roadster was in development of the company as a whole. If you watch the video of the stockholders meeting and watch Elon's reaction to the question of whether they will make any profit. He doesn't just answer quickly and off the cuff, he pauses and considers the question and answers (in my opinion) truthfully and says that the break even point is 8000 cars. He said that the gross profit, per car, is 25% but with expenses it comes out to 12 to 15%. That struck me as a person who has a good handle on his business. And today, Elon, Kimball, and Jurvetson all bought a bunch more shares of Tesla. And as to lightweight and aerodynamics, on lightweight you're right the Model S is very heavy. But for aerodynamics, the Model S came in at a Cd of .24 which beats every mass produced car on the road.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          the potential problem is that tesla has a track record of poor accounting and cost optimization. selling 10000 cars wont help them if they lose money on each one. when tesla went public they had sold less than 1000 cars and spent 300 million making them. you can do the math on that and it isn't pretty. so even if they sell quite a few model S cars it all comes down to whether they improved their bean counting skills. it's possible but I don't get a strong sense from them that they have. we will know from Q3 or Q4 results. I'm not optimistic but I hope they survive, if only for a new chance to do better, vis a vis low weight and aerodynamics which they haven't respected so far. and wont with model X
          Joeviocoe
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          @ Rotation, true. But... The Nissan Leaf MSRP was about $30k and those pre-orders were held with only $99 dollars. That is 0.33% of the purchase price. The Tesla Model 2 is about $57k and those pre-orders were held with $5,000 dollars. That is 8.7% of the purchase price. The Tesla pre-order have 5 times more money put away for the Model S than Leaf owners did, (with less than twice the purchase cost). Of the 20,000 pre-orders in the U.S., the Leaf sold almost 10,000 in the first year. And the Model S already has 10,000 pre-orders. So, if this is a linear relationship... *wild guess*... 50% retention rate with a 0.33% reservation I would guess 80% retention with an 8.7% reservation
          Rotation
          • 21 Hours Ago
          @Grendal
          Not all those pre-orders will accept delivery.
        • 21 Hours Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Dan, Not sure why you troll Tesla other than to get noticed. If you ever made a sensible point . . . oh sorry. Must have been dozing off. Thom
      Joeviocoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Elon Musk @ 46:30 When asked about profitability and the potential for missing the sales goal for 2013... Although Elon is very confident he can sell 20,000 Model S vehicles in 2013... he estimates Tesla Motors will reach profitability or break-even around 8,000 sold. "We have over 10,000 orders, so we're pretty safe in that regard" WOW!!!
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