• Feb 1, 2013

Tesla's Supercharger network dispels "range anxiety" for Model S owners

Kyle Thibaut
When Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk announced the Supercharger network last fall, the EV world changed. Instantly, the notion of "range anxiety" in an electric car evaporated for Model S customers within most of California. Furthermore, Musk announced that the energy will be free to Tesla customers at all Supercharger locations. But, is that enough to convince consumers that EVs are here to stay?

When Tesla announced the Superchargers, they offered us a chance to try out the technology by taking a road trip in a Model S from Santa Barbara to Tesla's Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif. and back--about a 200 miles total. Before the journey, we spent a few days with the car in Santa Barbara, simply living with it.

In Santa Barbara, we know two charging stations: the 240 volt, 30 amp GE model at the author's residence, and the 240 volt, 70 amp Tesla-branded charger at the local bank. In our experience, the GE unit can recharge up to 16 miles of range per hour, while the Tesla unit can replenish 50 miles of range per hour. (Interestingly, the Tesla charger was installed as part of the company's original high-power charger network for the Tesla Roadster.) Tesla also offers a high-power charger for the home that can be connected to solar panels from Solar City.

The idea of using solar power to charge an electric car is really what's most promising about the potential environmental impact of EVs. That idea also finds its way into the Supercharging network that Tesla is slowly rolling out. With six locations on the west coast, and two on the east coast, Tesla is building an infrastructure to run their electric cars with energy from the sun.

TESLA

The network will soon have stations to connect the east with the west, so that Model S drivers can make a full trip across the country. After only a few hours of driving, it will be possible to recharge a significant portion of the battery in as little as 30 minutes.

When pulling up to the Supercharger station, it's made clear that you must pull all the way forward, so that the front tires catch a raised platform. Pulling in correctly is very important because the charging cord is only 4ft long. Tesla says having a short cord means it can't get run ove.) With the press of a button, the charging cable pops out of what looks like a pneumatic cash-carrying tube; of course, a bit of theatrics lets you know you're working with some advanced technology. It's all about the details. The entire theme of the Supercharging station is utopian and clean.

Once plugged in, the system slowly starts purring to life. The car's cooling fans kick on and the 17-inch touchscreen begins to display all charging information. The charge rate continues to build to a top speed of 260 miles of range per hour. You can literally see the range increase every few seconds by monitoring the screen.

At full-speed the Supercharger sends 225 amps over 363 volts. After 30 minutes, the charger starts to slow down. Once fully tapered down, the charger reverts down to 80 amps, or around the same as Tesla's original high-power charger we used at the local bank.



We left the charger on for about another hour while taking a walk around the station. There wasn't much to do, as it was a Sunday night and the reception room wasn't open. Luckily, the rear seats fold flat and we were able to get some rest. The Model S is a surprisingly great sleeper.

If you were on a tighter schedule, the Supercharger might be slightly inconvenient. But if planned properly, a 30 minute stop wouldn't set you back too far. Think of it like visiting a rest stop, rather than a gas station.

Tesla plans to continue adding these stations to busy corridors across the country. When that happens, Tesla thinks they will have completely removed range anxiety from the equation.

Tesla Model S Supercharger Station Demo

Note: In order to use a Supercharger, you have to own a Tesla Model S. Tesla is not opening their network up to other EVs.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 58 Comments
      jsimons4109
      • 4 Days Ago
      50 miles of range per hour of chargeing. If this car had say a 500 mile range it might be useable.
        JakeY
        • 4 Days Ago
        @jsimons4109
        "50 miles of range per hour of chargeing" That's only for the slow level 2 charger (which can be home installed). Article itself says the superchargers provide 260 miles per hour as it starts charging. Once you factor in the tapering charge, you end up with about 210 miles per hour charging.
      IZZIP
      • 4 Days Ago
      ... TESTA-sterone...a Dick on wheels...Ooooh YEAH !... spread em' Baby... YEAH !
      • 4 Days Ago
      Kyle-----Was it you guys who stopped at The Rustic Canyon Grill on Kanan in the Santa Monica Mtns for lunch the other day with the Tesla?
      rjackson2a
      • 4 Days Ago
      Are these people serious? 1 hour charging time for 50 miles of driving? That means to make a 200 mile trip you have to spend 4 hours charging plus driving time. And of course that is assuming that all charging stations are available when you arrive and you don't have to wait for someone else to finish charging.
        Weapon
        • 4 Days Ago
        @rjackson2a
        The article is a little confusing. Tesla has a "high power twin charger" which costs 2k and you can install it in your garage. In this case it seems the local bank had that type of charger which take 4 hours to charge. Then there are the Super Chargers which there are right now 6 on west coast and 2 on east coast. These chargers charge at a rate of 150 miles per 30 minutes. Your car should be 0 to full in 40 min to 1 hour or so depending on the model. It is in the article but they wrote it in a very confusing way: "The charge rate continues to build until a top speed of 260 miles of range per hour. You can literally see the range increase every few seconds." Hope that clarifies it for you.
        Frank G
        • 4 Days Ago
        @rjackson2a
        What this article doesn't say, is that, the Tesla S series has 3 battery options with the lowest having a 160 mile range and the highest of a 300 mile range. All these electric cars are not for everyone, but there is a market for people who don't drive excess miles per day.
      • 4 Days Ago
      This is the future boys & girls so get over yourselves. The pro's outweigh the con's so embrace change for the betterment of mankind. Nascar here we come !!!
      JIM
      • 4 Days Ago
      The Chevy Volt carries the charger with it and even starts it up automatically when needed.
        abourge458
        • 4 Days Ago
        @JIM
        How does that work? It uses up the gas you saved on EV to re-charge the batteries off the gas motor? Oh, I get it..Part time running on gas, part time on EV? So, it's HALF an EV? Practical, but I can't see ever getting past 50 MPG EVER under that system.
          bluesideup777
          • 4 Days Ago
          @abourge458
          Most people charge at home and only drive 40 miles a day so they can do that all on electric. If they want to go farther between charges then they can use gas. I have over 650MPG with my Volt as I have driven 8000 miles on less than 12 gallons of gas. There are many Volt owners that do much better than that.
          j
          • 4 Days Ago
          @abourge458
          50 miles per gallon potential tops, in hybrid mode, may be correct at the current weight and size. Combined with 40 to 50 miles each day gas free, Volt drivers are getting well over 100 miles a gallon. 40 miles each day for a year is 14,600 miles per year, with no gas. I drive fewer miles on gas than average, and without counting the energy of the electricity I use daily, I am at about 272 MPG life time with my Volt. It costs me about $23 a month for electricity vs. over a hundred that I was paying for gas. I would like to see the Tesla generation 3 vehicle, as it sounds like it would work very well for my next car.
        paqza
        • 4 Days Ago
        @JIM
        It's also slower and more expensive to run. It's also cheaper. It's better for the consumer to have options.
      Louie
      • 4 Days Ago
      What a crock, it takes about a hour to charge the car to get 260 miles of range so a 6 hour trip will take a person between 7 to 8 hours. No matter how one spins it it will take one longer to go cross country. It takes one 10 minutes to refill a gasoline fueled car. Electric cars have been around for over 100 years. If they were so great they would have taken hold sooner then now. We are wastuing billions on a unproven technology. If one wants a electric car then by all means buy one but do not force the rest of us to buy them.. If electric cars were so great they would make it n their own, not requiring billions of government subsidies.
        Weapon
        • 4 Days Ago
        @Louie
        Well you might be able to make a 6 hour trip without recharging until you reach your destination. Plus if your whole trip is 6 hour trip and you run low on power at 5 hours you don't need to charge to full. Just charge 10 minutes which should be enough to reach the destination and charge there after you leave your car. But so you are aware, cross country trips make up what, 1% of travel? you will save more time charging at home every day so you never have to visit a gas station ever again. Then time you waste charging on a cross country trip. I mean look at it this way, if it takes you 10min to fuel and you refuel once every 2 weeks. Over a year it will be 4.3 hours of refueling, which is around the amount of time you will spend charging in total if you travel cross country. And this is conservative numbers since you have to waste time getting to a gas station, then waste time waiting if the gas station is full. EVs have been around for 100 years yes, but they weren't the same. The first commercial Lithium battery was released in 1991. So a modern day EV would not have been possible till now. And nobody is forcing you to buy an EV, but just like people swapped to smartphones from feature phones. The thing that made EVs of today possible now and not before is the drop in Lithium battery prices and density. So if gas cars were viable, they wouldn't need billions of dollars in bail out money either right? Or lets go a few years back when the government invested in the "unproven" technology of the internet. Though I have no clue why you think EVs are unproven, they are a proven technology because EVs work on mathematical principals that can be calculated. Gas cars work by making random explosions. There is nothing unproven about EVs, they are very very simple, in comparison gas cars are a lot more complex then EVs.
      • 4 Days Ago
      Tesla is effectively shooting themselves in the foot by not opening up stations to other EV. Sure they have the cool tech but if only a few select few can play with you, you're just a dick. Anyone remember the MCA vs EISA? Look how well that turned out for IBM. Sure MCA was cooler, and technologically better, but when you isolate yourself from the rest of the industry, you made it pretty clear to the rest of the consumers that you're not really thinking about them but yourself. That's what killed MCA and if Tesla don't change their act, we're going to see the return of the Beta vs VHS all over again.
        Rodney
        • 4 Days Ago
        Not True! Other EVs can change to the Tesla format and get free fuel. Tesla is a rapidly growing vision with world wide implications. If I had the money, I would by the S for me and the SUV for my wife. Tesla is expanding, so I'm not sure where you are coming from other than Big Oil. Don't worry, your days are numbered. Once we start making diesel at home, what will you whine about then?......
        skierpage
        • 4 Days Ago
        You're wrong and confused. Teslas can charge from the 240V AC chargers all over the country with an adapter. But the SAE standard for that can only deliver 19 kW (and most public stations only go up to about 7 kW). No other car can charge at the 90kW DC these stations can deliver, so why should Tesla waste their own money and their drivers' time by adapting their stations to take hours to recharge lesser plug-in vehicles at a slower rate? SAE had a bake-off for a fast DC charging standard, and GM made sure that the CHAdeMO standard (up to 50kW) that the Nissan Leaf supports didn't win. You can't buy any car in the world yet using the new SAE Frankenplug "standard." Standards making is a messy business and the best technology rarely wins, so Tesla making the best charger they knew how for their own cars may turn out to be a smart move.
        • 4 Days Ago
        Let's see now... I paid $50,000 for a Tesla only to find a Toyota Prius and a Nissan Leaf using all the spots of the Free Tesla Supercharger station I drove into to, stations mind you that part of my $50,000 paid for. When Toyota (a 1000x bigger company than Tesla) starts putting up their own FREE supercharger stations, I would be more than happy to accommodate you. Till then, get your self a Tesla.
          VL00
          • 4 Days Ago
          Thats impossible, only a Tesla can make use of a Supercharger station
      fa1thful1
      • 4 Days Ago
      Tesla and other EV's should all use universal chargers .Tesla limiting it to tesla only might make sense to tesla but not every customer of EV's can afford one.IF Tesla helps build the entire market segment with universal chargers and then gets other EV's manufacturers to build stations too with them all open to everyone it will help Tesla as well as the other EV' builders.. The Charger builders can give free power to their cars and charge for the power to other EV's. This way the infrastructure will develop faster.
        Weapon
        • 4 Days Ago
        @fa1thful1
        These is a universal standard called SAE which works on all cars. There is also CHAdeMO standard for Japanese cars. The reason why Tesla is focused on their own cars is simple: 1) super chargers are faster charging then the current SAE standard, if used on a none Tesla it will fry the battery. This is why the Tesla Roadster and the 42kwh battery Tesla Model S can't use the supercharger either. 2) Tesla is a small company compared to the big boys and can't build out infrastructure like the other guys so their first priority is their own customers which they let charge for free. SAE chargers do work on pretty much all cars including the Tesla Model S.(with an adapter). CHAdeMO works on all Japanese cars and also works on Japanese variant of the Tesla Model S. In terms of charging speed as it stands Tesla Super Charger > CHAdeMO > SAE. Though the new SAE updated specifications should put it slightly above CHAdeMO but it will still be behind the Tesla Super Charger. Standards are important yes, but we are at an early stage of EVs and while most manufacturers ar focusing on short range 60-100 mile EVs. Tesla is focusing on replacing gas cars completely with long range EVs. Until the manufacturers catch up to Tesla in terms of range the standards they support will generally be slower charging standards(lower cost to implement). Once SAE catches up to Tesla's standards, Tesla can easily upgrade their stations.
      • 4 Days Ago
      225 amps x 363 volts = almost 82,000 watts (82kW) Holy cow. No wonder the cooling fans are running at max. Hope there are plenty of temp. & impedance sensors ensuring safety. Would be smart if they locate these at or near food establishments.
        JakeY
        • 4 Days Ago
        That's not even the full power yet. A recent update pushed it to 255 amps peak or about 90kW (which is what was originally promised). The chargers can go up to 120kW but the current battery pack can't handle it yet.
      SpeedyRacer
      • 4 Days Ago
      I think it's great how their map shows a Model S can drive way out into the Pacific Ocean using the Superchargers. Since they have plans "to connect the east with the west" does that mean they are going to have a line of them heading to Hawaii?
      • 4 Days Ago
      Sustainable transportation at last
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