By on September 25, 2012

Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?

What’s the big deal with charging? Let’s go over the Model S’s charging time chart and you’ll understand. From a regular 120V wall outlet the Model S will gain 4-5 miles per hour of charging and consumes about the same amount of power as a space heater. Charging at 41 amps, the car gains 31 miles per hour and consumes as much power as TWO average electric clothes dryers. Charging at 81 amps (a service that many homes with older wiring or smaller services cannot support) the Model S gains 62 miles an hour and consumes more power than an average home’s A/C, dryer, washer, stove, oven, lights and small appliances put together. With a range of 300 miles and a 10 hour charge time at the 41A rate, it’s easy to see why fast charging stations are appealing. Tesla’s Supercharger’s specs are yet to be revealed, but by the numbers it is apparent the system is delivering a massive 90kWh charge which is likely 440V DC at around 200A. An hour of charging at that rate is 70% of the power that my home uses in an entire month.

Is this a Tesla issue? No, it’s an EV issue. If you expect your EV to drive like a regular car, modern EVs are a delight. If you expect your EV to refuel like a regular car, we’ve hit a snag. But it’s more complex than that, you see, only three of the four Model S trims support DC fast charging and the only other EVs on the market with a DC charge port are the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Except they don’t use the same connector or the same standard. Oops. Adding more complications to the mix are the EVs with no DC charge connector like the RAV4 EV, Volt, Prius Plug-In, Accord Plug-In, Focus, Active E and Coda while the new Chevy Spark is rumored to début a third standard: the SAE combo plug.

Of course, if you think of your car like you think of your cell phone, this makes sense as the phone you bought last year wont use the same charger as the phone you buy today. If you think of this in car terms however it’s like buying a new car and finding out that most of the gas stations have a nozzle that won’t fit your car.

Back to those Tesla charging stations. Tesla opened the first four in Southern California and announced two more stations will go online in October with stations in Las Vegas, Northern California and Oregon by summer 2013 with the 100 station network being complete by 2015. If that network sounds familiar then it should, because the recent settlement in the California vs NRG lawsuit means there will be 200 new CHAdeMO stations in California over the same time frame in addition to the 8 already installed and the 75 commercial stations planned or under construction. It isn’t just California on the CHAdeMO bandwagon however, the Department of Energy claims there are over 113 CHAdeMO stations in the USA and a 1,200+ unit installed base in Japan.

What does this mean to Tesla owners? Until Tesla creates a CHAdeMO to Tesla charging adapter cable (much like they have a J1772 to Tesla cable for use at public AC charging stations), Tesla owners will be restricted to regular AC charging or the smaller Tesla only charging network. On the flip side, Tesla is promising the Tesla charging stations will be free to Tesla owners, positioned next to trendy restaurants and you won’t have to mix with the Leaf owning rabble. You can also feel superior because Tesla’s newer standard charges 80% faster than the 50kWh CHAdeMO connector.

What does this mean to LEAF and i-MiEV owners? It means this is just the beginning of a standards battle. If you bought an EV before this raft of new J1772-connector-toting models, you know what I’m talking about. While CHAdeMO has the lead now, depending on what standard the rest of the industry supports this could change rapidly.

What about the rest of us? If we continue to build more battery electric vehicles and continue to develop batteries that are more and more power dense, you can expect even the snazzy Tesla charging connector to be outdated on a few years. If you expect an EV SUV to deliver 300 miles of electric range, AWD, decent performance, mild off-road ability and Range Rover quality luxury trappings, then expect it to have a battery that is 50-100% larger than the Model S’ massive 85kWh pack. This means you have to either take all the charging rates and nearly double them, or you have to develop a charging method that charges 50-100% faster to keep the same performance.

Of course, just like LEAF owners experience battery degradation caused by repeated use of DC quick charge stations, Tesla owners should be mindful that batteries don’t last forever and the faster you charge them the shorter their life will be.

 

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48 Comments on “The Truth About Tesla’s Charging Stations...”


  • avatar

    Normally I hate on Electric Cars, but, the Tesla Model S has made a believer out of me.

    The interior leaves a lot to be desired – feeling like a cross between a Chrysler and Chevy product, but the technology and usability of the car is awesome. I’ll be adding a part 2 to my Tesla S video review soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Your review could use a little editing, but I enjoyed the walkthrough of the touch screen system. I visited a Tesla dealer about a month ago, saw their prototype Model S and was blown away by how great the touch screen system seemed to be.

      The other interesting thing about your review was the vibe within the store – it felt like an Apple Store, where you can just sense the high energy level and enthusiasm about the product.

      I wonder how many Model Ss they would be selling if one was actually available for direct purchase instead of a lengthly ordering process initiated by a stiff deposit.

      *

      Just curious about this, the article writes about different charging systems. Aren’t these just different power plugs and wouldn’t it be straightforward enough generally to have an adapter between the recent ones and the older ones? You might have to have a transformer for some of them, but surely that is possible for a few hundred bucks or so (far less than the price of replacing the car).

      After all, my new iPhone 5 can connect to older equipment with a $30 adapter, and for that matter you can buy additional USB to Lightning cables for $19, which are fully compatible with any USB car charger or accessory port.

      D

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    On the coasts, at least, I think the Model S is going to be a hit. My mom happened to see one on display at an outlet mall and LOVED it. She loves the styling, the “frunk”, and the idea of carpool lane access. She immediately started talking about putting a deposit down and what options she’d want.

    If Tesla can get Lexus-driving suburbanites like her (who know nothing about cars) excited about their products, they’ll sell every car they can make.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Actually, thanks to those wacky European bureaucrats in Brussels, the cell phone you buy today probably does use the same charger as the one you bought last year, unless it is an iPhone. They mandated that all phones use micro-USB, or include an adapter to allow the use of micro-USB. I fully expect they will do the same with EVs.

    Doesn’t solve the TIME issue though, even with the high voltage, high wattage chargers it still takes far too long.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I wonder what they’re paying for line charges for each station, 200A service at 480V 3-phase is pretty spendy both for installation and monthly, assume they transform it to DC on site in the charger..

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      I can’t understand how they can afford to offer this, unless they expect 99% of Tesla owners to decide it’s too plebeian to charge their car in public.

      • 0 avatar
        roverv8i

        The charging stations are solar powered and are expected to produce a small net surplus of power. So the cost is for setup and maintenance. They will get a small return in power they put on the grid. Of course that will be more at first because there will not be as many users.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        What area of solar panels will be required to maintain this charging rate? Presumably they will be using a large storage battery at the moment (to store up slowly-generated solar power until such time that a Tesla shows up and drains a whole bunch in one shot), but that model of operation falls apart if significant numbers of EV’s start using the station (and I will grant that this is not the worst problem to have, but it’s still a problem).

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        Funny how this article left out the fact that Tesla’s charging stations are solar powered, and put their surplus electricity back into the grid… When was the last time your dryer and A/C unit did that?

        @ Brian: These stations are not stand-alone; they’re on the grid, and can pull as much power as necessary from electricity suppliers. So unlike a gas station, they don’t have tanks (or batteries in this case) to go empty during heavy usage.

  • avatar
    iainthornton

    I can only feel that the golden time for this technology has not yet come, and I cannot see that it ever will. At least not within the lifetime of anyone commenting here today.

  • avatar
    Silvy_nonsense

    “Charging at 81 amps (a service that many homes with older wiring or smaller services cannot support)…”

    If you can afford an $80 to $100K car, you can afford to have your electrical service upgraded to a higher amperage, if that’s what you need to do to get the faster charging you want. Also, old branch wiring does not prevent one from upgrading the service panel to a higher amperage, so old wiring isn’t not show stopper.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Good luck with a service upgrade. Some counties up here will not allow a move from 200A to 400A without an act of God. I know, I tried and failed. Since I live in the country and have to pump water up 700 feet and then pressure boost into the house and I have a small scale farm, it is quite possible that charging at 81 amps would mean tripping my main.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Electrical codes and practices vary from state to state, county to county and city to city. It seems to be hard for you, but that doesn’t mean its hard for everybody. My jurisdiction makes it fairly easy to upgrade. 400A in a residential area isn’t typical, so I can imagine that request could get goofed up pretty easily. I was thinking more in terms of “typical” old house fuse box to 100A or 200A circuit breaker panel upgrades.

        (The old farmer’s response is “Why’d ya build your house up on that hill? Shoulda put it at the bottom and ya wouldn’t have a problem.)

      • 0 avatar

        It’s even worse when electricity rates are steeply progressive, as in some areas. Government decides how much electricity a household ought to consume and anything above that is paid 3x, then 5x.

      • 0 avatar

        Pete, I think many of the places with progressive electric rates also want to support electric cars, so they have either time-sensitive rates (so prices at 3am are cheaper than noon), or special EV rates. In the latter case, they hook your charger to its own meter.

        D

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    The last paragraph should at the very least be modified if not deleted. At this point there is no evidence that fast charging is responsible for the Leaf battery degradation.

    Whether or not batteries can accept a high rate of charge without causing damage is dependent upon a number of factors, with the primary two being the existing state of charge and the internal battery temperature.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Not true. Nissan even tells owners not to use the DC fast charge too often and the use of DC quick charge stations us recorded in the LEAF’s ECU and is part of the battery “score” that owners receive. Nissan has publicly said owners should quick charge no more than once a month for optimum life.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Nissan’s warning does not contradict my original statement. I agree with you that fast charging may well lead to degradation, but you can not then conclude that the degradation was due to fast charging.

      • 0 avatar
        mattcoop

        I am late in the game here(read this article in December of 2013..).. but Alex, you are only half right in your response to Redmondjp. The reason whey Nissan tell owners not to fast charge is because all batteries’ temperature increase during charging is direcly proportional (if not exponential) to the speed of the charge. Nissan’s batteries are not air or liquid cooled during charging and high temperatures is one of the causes for increased degredation of battery life. That is why many higher end AA battery chargers have cooling fans on them. That is also why Tesla uses liquid cooling on their battery packs. Nissan needs to correct this fundamental flaw with a typically EXPENSIVE battery pack… they are performing a diservice to their customers.

        Time (ten years) will prove to all auto companies that Tesla’s standard for water cooling lithium batteries combats fast charging better than their present standards.

        Thank you for going into depth with the electrical requirements for home installations. 41 Ah charging rate should be sufficient for most home charging.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I still feel that the only really workable EV model given current and near-term battery tech is the swappable battery pack a la Better Place. And that is only workable in urban areas.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    If you can afford an electric car, odds are 99% you already have a 300A service panel. Many homes might still have 80A service, but I’d wager dollars to donuts that most of those homes are worth less than any car Tesla sells.

    And spare me the whining about the plug comatibility. Cell phones have a number of pins to accomodate for both data and power. EV’s only have to accomodate power, which is the same two wires (plus a ground) that have been standard the world over since that guy came up with A/C power distribution networks. What was his name again? I just can’t seem to remember. Famous guy. Has a statue of him up at Niagra Falls and everything….

    getting tired of the short sightedness I see around here sometimes. Reminds me of 20 years ago when whiny contractors scoffed at the cost and usefullness of cordless drills. there is a demand at a certain price point and power density, and what the market demands, the producers will deliver.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      J1772 has signaling to communicate presence of power as well as voltage capability..

      (My new house has 200A service, and I’m looking to get a 32A charger on the well pump’s line with a switch between the two, as the well is for watering the lawn currently)

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      “Two wires to accommodate power”, and a connector to bridge said wires, becomes less trivial when you start playing with two hundred amps of HVDC, particularly when you’re handing this plug off to untrained car owners and you don’t want anyone to kill themselves with it.

      The competing standards for level 3 charging plugs are a real problem that the industry is going to have to deal with at some point.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      “EV’s only have to accommodate power, which is the same two wires (plus a ground) that have been standard the world over.” So you think residential 220V plugs in the USA are load, neutral, and ground? I dare you to pick any two wires of the three and touch your tongue across them! Anyway, batteries need DC power to charge and houses have AC current. Cars like the Volt and Leaf carry an AC to DC converter onboard so you can just plug into the wall. The Teslas are fundamentally different, as they have no onboard converter and so require DC directly.

      “If you can afford an electric car, odds are 99% you already have a 300A service panel.” Maybe you should check out the Bay Area! There are tons of expensive houses with 200A service or less. With a half dozen dealers within a 20 minute drive, I’d even say this is a prime Tesla customer area, too. Also note that the tier three charging needs 440V x 200A. My house has 2 x 110V x 100A main circuits leading into the service panel, which is 1/4 the amount of power.

      That said, I suspect that few households will have a Tesla as their only vehicle. In this case, overnight charging will work just fine. I already have 220V x 40A in the garage for an electric clothes dryer hookup. I look at it this way: Charging only takes 30 seconds–15 seconds to plug it in and 15 seconds to unplug!

  • avatar
    nikita

    Many of the trendy urban dwellers who would buy a Tesla do not own a single family residence where they can change the electric service. How would you like to do this in a condo association? A personal, real world example, I have a tenant asking me about charging his car in the garage if he buys a Tesla. The service to his apartment and garage is 60A.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Tell him to buy a Brammo instead; it might actually finish charging overnight.

      In all seriousness, a 32A charger might fit into his power envelope if he’s careful to only run it when the rest of his power draw is low. Fast chargers like the ones in the article aren’t really intended to be installed in a residential garage any more than a gasoline pump is.

  • avatar
    Mikemannn

    Does anyone else see the ironing in something named Tesla relying on DC power?

  • avatar
    dejal1

    This isn’t about the Tesla, but EVs and home rechargers.

    Say, you get into EVs, be it Tesla, Leaf, Mistubishi, Ford, etc..

    You have the charger for your rig installed.

    For some reason down the road you decide that EVs are not for you, or you want another brand that has a different plug.

    What do you do with the old charger? Is there a 2ndary market for these things? Can you change the business end of the charger and use it on a new car?

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Hold the phone— are you telling me that using this charging station would result in a hundred or two hundred dollar electricity bill? Please specify how much your electric bill is. Cause that’s about 15 bucks in gas in a moderately fuel efficient car to go 150 miles.

    If I’m reading this post right, the options are impractical charge times or tremendous expense.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    All this electric power in California for these cars, wasn’t this the state with rolling blackouts not too long ago?
    Tesla is charging their cars for free? For how long? For subsequent owners or just Leo DiCaprio ?

    I think I’ll stick with gasoline for my transportation for as long as our benevolent government will allow it.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      It is a long time ago (i.e. 8-10 years) and the smart meter, smart AC, collapse of Enron, etc really helps. They now cut out AC during peak hours (smart day event) once in a while and having smart meter to cut off / turn on each house at a time make it much easier to avoid blackout. The only blackout I’ve seen recently are all due to fallen trees, blown up transformers, etc instead of peak consumptions.

  • avatar
    sunridge place

    Smooth move by Tesla to announce this right around the time this comes out:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444358804578017982804520180.html

    Hey…look over here…we have cool chargers!

    Wonder how much $ they are setting aside to warranty the Tesla’s they are actually able to build.

  • avatar
    geee

    Waiting for a car a few months? Not an issue, and if anything, to some folks, a talking point positive. If you’re buying a Tesla, it’s not your only car most likely. When new Audi models come out, you wait a few months, like in 2008 on the S5. If you’re a waiter for something new and special, you’re part of a club. So, this is irrelevant.

    If you can afford a $50k plus car, and definitely if you can afford a $100k+ car (there’s a huge price range on the tesla models) you can afford to upgrade your power at your house. And yes, if you own a condo, you’re out of luck, but seriously, why would you own a condo and pay HOA? Condo is the worst homebuying decision out there…but I digress.

    Plug standardization will happen, just not right away. Bringing up the phone analogy is instructive, in a way, but it’s not a good analogy, because the charger costs are trivial and you can own many phones and many chargers. It’s unlikely they’ll ever standardize phone plugs.

    If cost of charging isnt an issue (and it wont be to people who drive cars that compete with this, just as gas cost isnt an issue – every $1 a gallon rise tacks on about $750 a year to gas costs, which doesnt mean a lot to people making 6+ figures, esp two income families both making that, which is most dual inc professionals these days) and charging can be done quickly, (which it can if you upgrade your power and do it at home) this model will sell like briskly in the same places that Audi sells well. Which is not to say anywhere, but it hasnt stopped Audi from selling a boatload of $50k plus cars.

    What will deter this car’s sales at first is the unknowns of reliability, battery life, warranty, etc, so at first, until there has been an ample test run of vehicles in the market, it’s going to look iffy. If Tesla can work through that period and not burn up all its cash, it should be fine down the road (assuming no major issues with cars on fire, etc, etc.)

  • avatar

    Time of charging is also an issue. Here in NY, small business with like electrical demands have something called “demand pricing”, which tries to put your usage in the wee hours when the grid is not stressed.

    I know a glassblower who uses his ovens at night, as it is markedly more expensive to use them during the day. Bogus for him-if you get this big upgrade, expect to need a timer to charge the car at night.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    So nobody argues that:

    - you almost certainly need expensive upgrades to your home electric supply to be able to charge these things in a reasonable time

    - rising electricity rates mean you’re going to be further pushed to accomplish your charging at inconvenient hours

    - or you can charge it during the day, if you can find a charging station at all, let alone one that fits your car

    - and you might have to very dangerously play with plugging adapters into extremely highly charged outlets.

    - this is all after paying through the nose upfront, for a car that…

    - …is physically incapable of anything more than a short commute or grocery run.

    I can’t wait! Seriously, I’ll spot you the lack of charging stations, because the ICE-powered market has 100 year head start there. But there is no solution on the horizon to the range or charging time problems, and all this new demand for electricity is coming simultaneous to major undercapacity in the electric grid and total political refusal to add any real new power plants. Seriously, I love the people who want to shut down powerplants while they make our society more and more dependent on electricity.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      Dirk Stigler,

      Yes, if you need very fast charging you’ll need electrical upgrade to handle the current these car can charge at, or a direct wiring into a much higher voltage line (i.e. 440V or higher).

      Also yes, if your area has different hourly rate then the utility will likely charge you more when charging during peak hours (2-7pm) in the summer because they pay more as well.

      The plug and adapter issue is easy. With future development and volume it is easy to develop controller that will output different voltage / current profile based on what adapter is used and share the same electronics and wiring. It would not be too expensive to have backward compatible accessories and additional computer software to work with that. Also safety can be done by turning on the current only after the car is plugged in and verified. Not any more dangerous than plugging in your electric dryer or electric range.

      The biggest problem is when everyone suddenly start driving electric car, it will overload our ancient electric grid. The US grid is very old and unreliable compare to Europe and Japan, and even Europe and Japan will need massive upgrade to handle a lot of EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      geee

      You clearly haven’t even bothered to look at the range of the Tesla model S. The base model gets better range than the way you express it to be in your imaginative reality. The upper end models have much more powerful and long lasting batteries. Please, have a simple look at the build your Tesla page of their website. Ugh…

  • avatar
    Kenny2

    Has anyone made a pigtail from one adapter to another? Relatively easy provided you Know the amperage involved. Kind of like my cell charger for my pickup (diesel) (2) batteries 1400A charges in about 1/2 hour. (fully)
    So if solar panels are DC and batteries are DC no inverter is necessary to put power to the Grid, but if it were to go to the grid, the inverse is possible. Imagine (100) of these stations separated about 100 miles apart, you charge the grid all across the U.S. plus charge cars, and when no cars 100% goes to the grid. What a money maker all the way. (smart man making a monopoly like Bill Gates).

  • avatar
    anderlan

    Please pull over. This is the Unit Police. You are guilty of multiple violations and confusing the crap out of your readers.

    Violation #1:
    “Tesla’s Supercharger’s specs are yet to be revealed, but by the numbers it is apparent the system is delivering a massive ****90kWh**** charge which is likely 440V DC at around 200A.”

    You meant to say 90kW, that is 90,000 Watts of POWER. A Wh is a redundantly bastardized unit of ENERGY designed by the power companies.

    (A more sophisticated unit is Joule (J). 1kWh = 3.6MJ. Joules are easier to understand, if you actually care about learning this stuff, because the definition of a Watt is a Joule per second. You see why Watt-hour is redundant–because it is equal to a Jour per second times 3600 seconds. Crazy shite. But everyone uses Wh anyway. If we’re going to use redundant units, we should at least use them correctly and not rub the salt of confusion into the wound of discombobulation.)

    The 300-mile Model S has an 85kWh battery, and the supercharger only bumps it up half-way in 30 minutes, so if you had really meant to use energy units instead of power, you would have said something like 45kWh. So it’s not even possible you were correct, no matter how I try to understand you.

    Violation #2:
    “You can also feel superior because Tesla’s newer standard charges 80% faster than the 50kWh CHAdeMO connector.”

    You mean 50kW. You did it again. This crap is hard enough to understand even if you actually write it correctly.

  • avatar
    anderlan

    Hey, I like that this seems like an electronics standards war. If this proceeds like such a war, then it will be settled in a few years when CHAdeMO bumps itself up to 90 or 100kW. Then Tesla will decide to introduce their new 200kW proprietary port. Not the worst course of events I could imagine.

  • avatar
    Friends in high places

    I saw this and had to pass it on: I “plan” to date model Kate Upon… which pretty much means it is not going to happen. This is ultimate spin from Tesla because they screwed the pooch and nobody wants a Tesla, nobody wants Solar City panels and Space X rockets keep failing so Musk is freaking out and traded some BS warrants with DOE to make this cover-up announcement which means totally nothing. Nobody wants to be seen driving a Tesla, it is the most tainted car on earth and the poster car of corruption. What means something is that any real car company sells 100,000 cars of each model and usually 400,000, or more cars. Tesla has only sold a few hundred to its own investors as fake shill customers after a decade of trying and nearly a billion dollars of free tax money…

    Taxpayers should call their Senator today and demand to their elected representative that BILLIONAIRE Musk pay the money back NOW and get off the taxpayers teat.

    FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!

    • 0 avatar
      mattcoop

      Hey, Friends in High Places… did you know that all US auto companies are on the dole from the US government? Even Ford got a $5.9 billion dollar loan right before everyone else asked for a bail out… That is why Ford didn’t need bail out money at the same time. Ford even asked for $11 billion but the government said it would only give them $5.9 billion. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2011/09/19/ford-looks-hypocritcal-in-new-anti-bailout-commercial/ if you wonder if I am telling the truth… I am a Republican…. and I don’t like any far right or far left ignorance or hypocrites…. I am not perfect and will admit if I error.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    They’ve sold and delivered 13,000 Tesla Model S’s already. Many “real car companies” have never built 100,000 of any model; the Tesla S is well on its way to that.


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