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).
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.
@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.
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.
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.