Tesla Motors doubling Supercharger network, delivering on solar-powered-charging vision

The Tesla Model 3 is due for its production launch in a few months. While some of us are pondering our personal budget, Tesla Motors has a bigger issue on its mind. The key advantage they have over other automakers is the extensive reach of the Supercharger fast charging network. GM may have first mover status with an affordable 200+ mile range electric car, but any long-range electric car is nothing without a matching fast charging network. GM is failing to support development of fast charging infrastructure, while Tesla Motors is doubling down on their fast charging commitment.  And, they’re going much further, by delivering on a promise made of solar power and electricity storage at Supercharger facilities.

The reason is clear once one understands the autonomy benefits of fast charging.  Fast charging gives a higher effective trip speed and therefore makes proper road trips possible.

In a short period, the Tesla Model 3 launch means more electric car drivers demanding access to the Supercharger network.  In some areas that network is already overcrowded.  In order to keep the customers happy, Tesla has to expand the network, with the practical result of increasing the number of charging stalls.

But, Tesla Motors is teasing us with much more.  What’s shown here is the vision Elon Musk unveiled years ago, that the Supercharger network would be powered with solar electricity and energy storage units.  That they would provision enough of both so the network could operate even if the electricity grid goes down.

Evade blocked charging stations with one of these handy J1772 extension cords.

Sponsored

What we see here is a larger Supercharger facility than Tesla currently builds.   That has solar panels, and includes a modest sized building whose purpose we can guess at.  Namely – a 30-60 minute dwell time means drivers need something to do, and so far Tesla has targeted Superchargers co-located with other attractions like restaurants.  Perhaps Tesla will offer their own coffee shop service in the building shown here?

Secondly, there’s the need for on-site energy storage to buffer electricity demand.  I’ve written before about the ideal recharging facility of the future, and this is very close to that idea.

The bottom line is a facility such as this would easily require 2 megaWatts (or more) when all stalls are operating at full capacity.  By anybody’s measure that’s a lotta electricity.  In Tesla’s information release, the goal is described as:  “Tesla will build larger sites along our busiest travel routes that will accommodate several dozen Teslas Supercharging simultaneously.”   How many megaWatts is required to simultaneously offer that many 130+ kiloWatt charging sessions?

The solar panels will help to mitigate the electricity demand — during the day.  To mitigate the demand throughout the day requires an energy storage system.  And, this is not a coincidence, Tesla Motors is building a battery Gigafactory that makes exactly that kind of energy storage system.

Once Tesla Motors has deployed solar and energy storage across the country, those facilities could do more than just offer electric car charging services.  There’s all kinds of grid services they could perform.

Tesla Motors had talked about this model back in May 2013, when Elon Musk tweeted about how the Supercharger network would be designed to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.  He’s such a geek.  But, despite the geek reference, THIS is what he discussed at that time, Supercharger’s colocated with energy storage and solar panels.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

Leave a Reply