During a keynote address at last year's DESIGN West, J.B. Straubel, chief technology and co-founder of Tesla Motors Inc., lamented that despite some pretty serious advanced in electric vehicle technology by his firm and others, EVs continued to be dogged by the "road trip question."
While more and more car owners are warming to the idea that EVs offer an attractive alternative to gasoline-powered cars for their 50-, 100- or even 200-mile daily commute, how can they satisfy our urge to occasionally take off on a much longer trip?
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Tesla is trying to answer that question. At a glitzy event held earlier this week at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., Tesla launched its Supercharger network. Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, revealed the locations of the first six Supercharger station locations, all of which are in California.
Starting next year, the company plans to install Superchargers "in high traffic corridors across the continental United States, enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York." In the second half of 2013, Tesla plans to begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia.
The initial locations of Tesla's Supercharger stations--all in California--are laid out to enable long trips throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.
The Supercharger stations are designed to work only with Tesla's Model S sedans, which just became available in June. The 480-volt charging stations—which cost about $250,000 apiece—are said to replenish enough power to drive a Model S for three hours at 60 miles an hour in just 30 minutes. Some of the stations are solar-powered, enabling Tesla to provide Model S owners "free long distance travel indefinitely."
Doing the math, one could drive a Model S 360 miles in six and a half hours—including charging time. That's almost—but not quite—the driving distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Assuming the charging stations are placed at appropriate intervals, one could drive a Model S 540 miles in 10 hours. (The initial station locations, including Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch and Los Angeles, are arranged to enable to Bay Area to L.A. trek).
I want to like electric vehicles for road trips, but this still comes up a bit short for me. A gas fill up is no more than 10 minutes even with a bathroom break and snack binge. When I'm on the road, I tend to be very impatient to get where I'm going, especially on long trips. I can't see myself fidgeting impatiently for 20 extra minutes every time I need a charge. It would be mental torture. Also, no option of wandering off the beaten path for for an occasional scenic view along the way would also make a long trip less enjoyable. Such spontaneity is useful for breaking up the monotony of long trips. Nevertheless, it's still a step in the right direction, and for trips that only require a single recharge, it would at least be tolerable.
I wonder what it does to battery life, to attempt these high-current charging sessions.
Anyway, sorry, this idea still relies on batteries, still requires way more "fueling" stops than the competition, and each stop is still way longer than anyone would accept in a gasoline powered car. Which means, among other things, that *if* BEVs ever did become somewhat popular, you'd have really long qeues behind each one of these stations.
Still puts a heavy burden on the electric grid (assuming popularity of BEVs), and still limits people who want to get off the heavily beaten path.
The answer has to be with fuel cells and on-board H2 separators.
@Bert- fair points, especially about the long lines that would form for 30-minute charges if EVs were really popular. But about the grid, Tesla says the solar-powered Superchargers actually give more back to the grid than it will take to charge the cars.
This doesn't really scale. Imagine 1000s of electric cars driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They would all have to stop at the one station at Harris Ranch. If it is like the picture shown, there might be just four charging stations. So the wait is going to be a heck of a lot longer than 30 minutes.
These Tesla cars and stations seem more of a solution for a handful of wealthy electric-car hobbyists.
I don't really mind, because if they ever do come out with cheap battery or super capacitor technology that allows for -affordable- 300 mile plus cars, then it is useful to have our wealthy friends spend their money helping develop the required infrastructure.
Heh. They might claim that, but does that claim cover the case case where the stations are operating around the clock?
Think of it this way. If each car had solar panels on their roof, would that provide enough energy for driving the car? I mean, assuming more than just a tiny little experimental vehicle?
Now exacerbate that problem by a 30-minute "refueling," where the energy required for each car driving 3 hours or so is crammed into 30 minutes. And by the fact that you're doing this for potentially many cars simultaneously.
I'm sure one can do the numbers, to determine just how much solar panel area would be required. All I can say is, roof panels on EVs don't come close to generating enough power. So multply that car-roof area by at least 6 * the number of cars fueling at a time * a factor to account for the fact that this calculation only works for 12:00 noon on a sunny day * a factor to accoun t for the fact that the roof area isn't enough for practical cars, and that should give an idea whether you can net give the grid any power.
According to a Tesla chief engineer after the unveiling, the damage to the battery is no different than any other form of charging. It's designed to bypass the charging hardware and do some other stuff that a biologist like me doesn't really understand. Keep in mind that the 85kwh batteries have an 8 year warranty.
As for Hydrogen and other fuel cell technologies... you have an even greater infrastructure problem and/or at least with hydrogen it's even worse, because you are literally using MORE electricity to make hydrogen than it would take just to run the car with electricity to begin with.
Your thought experiment is pretty meaningless... the charging station is not limited to the area of the roof on the car.
However, your conclusion is probably right. If the station was being run 24/7 it wouldn't work. Good thing Tesla knows how many cars they are selling in each area and can plan accordingly.
You are thinking an electric car is like building a new gas car. 95% of my charging will be done at home in my garage. A large number of people commute less than 300 miles a day. Superchargers aren't the gas stations of electric cars, they are just for taking long trips.
As electric cars become more popular, obviously more stations will be built. You could make the same argument against gasoline cars when the first stations were going up.