There were a lot of details left out of the late-night unveiling of the Tesla Supercharger network earlier this week. Sure, Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained the big picture, saying the Supercharger network is "the answer to the three major problems holding back electric vehicles." Those problems? Long-distance EV driving, the "long tailpipe" argument and how much it costs to produce electricity. But how big of an impact can your fancy charging station have if it only works with a small fraction of the EVs on the market?
Right now, the Superchargers can only charge up a Model S, despite the fact that these stations will be built at the perfect locations to offer Level 2 or DC fast charge options for other plug-in vehicles as well. Tesla spokesperson Christina Ra tells AutoblogGreen that non-Tesla options do not exist today, but they are "being considered, as always." That said, Ra confirmed that every future Tesla vehicle will be Supercharger compatible. So, Model X and next-gen Roadster drivers, don't worry.
"The reason Supercharging is available only for Model S and not others (including Roadster) is that Model S was developed with Supercharging in mind."
We asked if there has been any discussion of licensing the Supercharger technology to other OEMs (Daimler and Toyota would be the most obvious potential partners, since Tesla is already providing battery packs for some of their EVs). Ra said, "The reason Supercharging is available only for Model S and not others (including Roadster) is that Model S was developed with Supercharging in mind, so the capabilities are built into the battery and hardware. Time could definitely resolve compatibility."
Each Supercharger station costs around $250,000 to install and can charge – for free, remember – either four or six cars at a time. Since Tesla plans to build 100 in the next three to four years, the total cost will be around $20-$30 million. The six chargers that have already been built in secret in California (in Barstow, Hawthorne, Lebec, Coalinga, Gilroy and Folsom) are all operational now, but not yet open to the public. Ra said Tesla needs to get government approval to open them, and that will come "soon."
Currently, there are only two Supercharger stations that have batteries (to store solar energy, we assume), the ones in Lebec and Barstow. The plan is to install batteries at all Superchargers, though, as well as make them all solar-powered. "The vision is absolutely solar-powered," Ra tells AutoblogGreen. "Not all will be in the immediate future, but that is the plan."