By on May 30, 2013

Tow truck delivers Model S to charging station


Tesla “will triple its network of superchargers for electrical vehicles by the end of next month,” Elon Musk told Reuters.

Musk, who has a fixation on the Big American Road Trip (which is not what I would do in an EV), said “vehicles will be able to travel from Los Angeles to New York using just the expanded supercharger network,” Reuters writes.

According to Tesla, currently there are 9 Superchargers, a number that would grow to 27. Six of the charging stations are in California. One is in Delaware, two (well, one northbound, one southbound at Milford Travel Plaza on I95…) are in Delaware. It would take at least 15 transcontinental superchargers, for a coast-to-coast trip with a high pucker factor.

I’d rather take the red-eye.

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39 Comments on “Musk Promises Triple The Superchargers, Transcontinental EV Trips...”

  • avatar

    With technology subject to its current limitations, I don’t understand why Mr. Musk (or anyone else, for that matter) is trying to spin the EV as a replacement for tradition ICE-powered vehicles.

    It’s not that EVs don’t have a place, or a customer, or value. It’s just that a cross-country road trip doesn’t work, and trying to force it just underscores the inherent limitations at play.

    • 0 avatar

      A cross country road trip could work with the Model S, so long as you are willing to stop for food/rest every 275 miles (or less) and so long as your GPS Nav system routes you to each supercharger as your trip commences.

      Doing Highway mileage in a Model S I borrowed from my coworker Vincent (while he was on vacation in D.R. ) showed me that the regenerative brakes are USELESS unless you are doing city stop&go. In fact, because they kick in as soon as you stop accelerating, they probably HURT Highway efficiency more than help it.

      Still, I’d rather do highway miles cross-country in a regular I.C.E vehicle. There are thus far 3 Vehicles that I’d drive across country.

      #1 S550 / S400
      #2 Jaguar XJ-L
      #3 Cadillac XTS

      The Model S’ seats aren’t supportive enough for that level of driving. The 3 cars I mentioned have cooled seat features which really does wonders for the crackofmyass.

      • 0 avatar

        Pretty much agreed, although it’s worth noting that the regenerative braking is user adjustable. You can set the car to glide when your foot is off the accelerator, or you can set it to a basic level of regen, which is designed to feel like a traditional car. Ditto for taking the roll out when taking your foot off the brake from a full stop; you can have the car creep, or not creep.

        One of the many virtues of the car is it’s level of customization via computer controls. Not everybody’s cuppa, but with all newer cars (ICE or not) being driven by computers, it sure is nice to be able to tweak things a bit to your own liking.

    • 0 avatar

      A Supercharger adds range at the rate of about 5 miles per minute.

      A gas pump adds range to a 50mpg Prius at the rate of over 150 miles per minute.

      Gasoline has a huge advantage for long-distance travel. Besides that, there’s gas stations everywhere. Eventually, electricity might become just as convenient but that point really isn’t on the horizon, yet.

      The Supercharger network does help instill confidence in a prospective EV purchaser that he’s not going to get stranded. I’d certainly consider an EV for around town use (there’s just the small matter of price) but it would be comforting to know that, in a pinch, I could take it on an extended trip.

      • 0 avatar

        The super charger is free, the 10 gallons for the Prius is $40. $40/hr isn’t a bad wage.

        • 0 avatar

          Ten gallons of gas in a Prius will actually take you about 500 miles. That hour at the Supercharger is worth more like $20.

          Anyway, OK, now you’ve saved $20 by spending an hour of your time.

          Suppose you want that time back? Can you go somewhere an buy an hour of time for $20? Was that an hour of your vacation time you just spent waiting for the Supercharger to load up your Tesla at 5 miles/minut? I’m not the highest-paid guy in the world but my vacation time is over $20/hour. And how many people do you have with you, also waiting for the Supercharger to load up your Tesla at the rate of 5 miles/minute?

          This is why HOV access is so dear; there are precious few ways to buy time and buying an EV to get the HOV sticker is one of them.

          And a fast gas refuel can be done almost anywhere. The Prius allows for far more flexible trip planning. It’s going to be like this for at least a few years.

          • 0 avatar

            The idea isn’t for Model S owners to commute across flyover states. Its about the inside-voice telling a prospective buyer of said Model S that they can do it if they want. If thousands and thousands of Model S’s end up driving all around, supercharging all the time, it won’t stay free for long.

            This is purely a psychological exercise, almost akin to selling soccer mom a honking Canyonero-pig-SUV that she will never, ever, take off pavement or even into inclement weather.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          Indeed, they’re also upping the chargers from 90kW to 120kW as well.. Full charges in about 45-50mins, 200mi in about 30..

          I’m still not sure how well this scales or how oversubscribed chargers can be without pissing off Tesla owners, but if/when the 3-class competitor comes out I’ll be taking a pretty serious look at it..

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s not that EVs don’t have a place, or a customer, or value. It’s just that a cross-country road trip doesn’t work, and trying to force it just underscores the inherent limitations at play.”

      That’s exactly right. Not only is there the whole “range anxiety” thing, but ICE-based cars work most efficiently at constant high speed. A road trip minimizes the efficiency benefits of an electric drivetrain.

      Further, the benefits of superchargers is to recharge while you wait during the day. During the day… when electricity use is already at its peak and inefficient and most-polluting electrical generators are being put into use. Recharging during the day minimizes the clean air benefits of an electric drivetrain.

      That said, I think electric is great for local driving, provided people recharge at non-peak hours. (My company put in recharging stations at work so people can maximize the pollution by increasing the peak electric load to the energy grid. Go figure.)

  • avatar

    I agree…I think that they are actually damaging the image of EVs by forcing them into the role they are least suited for.

  • avatar

    The same things could have been said long ago when ICE-powered cars first entered the market. Paved roads and interstates were yet to be built, legal precidents/regulations had to be formulated, and gas stations were hard to come by.

    E-cars are still in their infancy (OK, maybe at the toddler stage now – the Model S is a flat-out awesome car, regardless of powertrain), and so is the infrastructure to support them. Dismissing the idea of transcontinental travel simply due to a lack of charging stations (only 27 needed?, that doesn’t sound remotely insurmountable) or lack of battery tech just seems very short-sighted.

    Of course there are currently “technological limitations” to E-vehicles, that’s why people like Musk are pushing the envelope and trying to “force” the issue, we have to start somewhere. I’m sure plenty of folks in 1905 thought Henry Ford’s idea of replacing the horse & buggy with cars as a mainstream means of transportation was just as foolhardy as some people think of Musk’s plans, and we know how Ford’s vision turned out…

    I really don’t understand the Luddite attitude many auto geeks seem to have toward electric powertrains (ESPECIALLY given the performance potential – just drive a Model S sometime).

    There are currently precious few idealistic visionary types in the auto industry, but Musk is definitely one of them and I certainly wouldn’t bet against him; the odds have been against him from Day 1 yet Tesla continues to grow and innovate.

  • avatar

    Unlike some other retro grouches here, I think plug in electric and plug in hybrid cars should be a small but significant fraction of the cars sold in the US. With that said, Tesla needs to step up or stop drinking their own kool aid. Any significant driving route should have a fast charging station every 50 miles at most if real world range is 100 to 200 miles. People will be pissed off if they have to stop at inconvenient times. I bet the real world charging station tolerance for the typical EV driver is 30 to 45 minutes (50 miles at highway speed). That means at least 9 fast chargers between Boston and DC or 16 fast chargers between NYC and Chicago. In reality, you want a station at each side of any significant metro area along the way which is closer to 25-30 on the NY-Chicago route.

  • avatar

    ahhhh Broder and his ‘fake’ review

    I’m sure a lot of investing ‘shorts’ regret reading that article.

  • avatar

    A generator with a ten gallon tank on a trailer makes much more sense for ferrying an EV across the country.

    For a typical trip, you would leave in the morning with a full charge, start the generator when available range hits 50 miles or so and keep a sustaining charge running. Eventually, you stop for gas and take on another 300-400 miles of range in 5 minutes. Plug in at night.

    That gives you the flexibility to stop when and where you want and take routes that are convenient; you’re not locked into spending an hour or so every three hours at the few Supercharges that would be spread thinly across the 5 or so principal cross-country Interstate routes.

    • 0 avatar

      Aixro already makes a successful 50-hp, 40-lb single rotor engine. Turning it into a 30-40hp 60-80lb removable generator would be quite feasible. I see an aftermarket opportunity here.

    • 0 avatar

      If you want an ICE/EV, get a Volt.

      The ridiculous towed-generator ideas that people propose completely miss the point. Generators are loud, consume a lot of fuel and are terrible polluters besides. Why would you want to drop your fuel economy from 85 MPGe to 16 MPG because you’re towing a generator? And you’ll look pretty goofy, too.

      • 0 avatar

        It depends on how you use the car.

        The Volt is actually a prety mediocre EV, mostly because it’s always dragging that heavy engine around (bonus points to GM for using an off-the-shelf iron Otto cycle engine in an application where light weight and Atkinson cycle would have made a big difference).

        So, buy a good EV, and take the motor along only when you actually need it. Or rent one.

        One implementation of the generator trailer idea, the LongRanger, is said to give 38mpg when attached to one of the original Rav4-EVs. The integrated system in the Volt doesn’t do any better than that. If heat could be pulled from the trailer to the tow vehicle, that would be great (and it could be done).

        As for “look pretty goofy,” trailers are a common enough sight, so it’s hard to figure how this comes from any inspiration other than a desire to be annoying.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Your wrong. If you look at the efficiency of the Volt in EV mode it doesn’t trail all that far behind a Leaf. Pretty amazing considering it is dragging around all the ICE baggage.

          Gslippy is right on, pulling a back-up generator around is a ridiculous idea on so many levels. It makes far more sense to stick it in the car. I’ve towed enough trailers in my lifetime, especially down wet salty MN roads, to know how impractical that would be.

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            The off-the-shelf lump is the weakest part of Voltec 1.0, I’m rather intrigued by the i3 + range extender since it appears to be a much better-optimized configuration. However, I have a feeling that the i3’s motorcycle engine will prove to be too weak, and in range-extended mode it’ll be way too gimpy on the highway. They really needed to have added a turbo to it to get at least 85kW for maintaining 100mph on the highway. A 3cyl 750cc with turbo and 100kW would be quite doable, and as turbine-smooth as the K75 motorcycle motor from 20+ years ago.

          • 0 avatar


            I was thinking of a horizontally opposed two-cylinder of 40-50KW, water-cooled, and tricked for the Atkinson cycle. It should be mechanically linked to the drivetrain but a lot of power really shouldn’t be necessary.

            Carlson Fan,

            People don’t seem to freak out over towing their 1-ton boats and double snowmobile trailers when the spirit moves them. I can’t see where a 300 lb generator trailer is going to be such a big deal.

  • avatar

    The main application of having a fast charging station every hundred miles from sea to shining sea won’t be trips from New York to L.A..

    For Tesla S owners with 200+ mile highway ranges, it’ll be “Oakland to LA, recharge north of Bakersfield”, “Houston to Oklahoma City, recharge in Dallas”, “Boston to Philadelphia, recharge north of New York”, “Charlotte to DC, recharge south of Richmond”. “Hartford to Detroit, recharges at Utica and Hamilton”.

    Building an electric car that’ll go 500 miles nonstop is very difficult right now. Tesla already builds a car that’ll one-stop it. If that stop isn’t much longer than the break you’d take on a 500-miler in a gas car, then you’re not much worse off on a trip of that length.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Both Oklahoma City to Dallas and Dallas to Houston are >200 miles with normal traffic moving at about 80 mph. A Tesla Model S would probably leave you stranded somewhere in the exurbs short of your final destination. You could also use a Tesla to haul lumber home from Lowe’s, but in both cases there are better vehicles for the job. Leave the Tesla at home and rent a car or fly Southwest.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      When next-gen batteries with 400+Wh/kg come out in the next 5 years or so, it’ll be a bit easier. A 200kWh Model X would probably be able to get 500mi highway at a level and steady 60mph.

      I’m thinking that Phinergy range extenders make more sense from a weight and cost perspective, however. A 40kWh battery weighing about 120-150kG coupled with 120kg worth of range extender (aluminum enough for 500kWh, water, assembly), plus 2x50kg front motors each with 60kW/180lbft of torque and 2x80kg rear motors each with 90kW/250lbft (all 4 sprung with short shafts to the wheels), would make a helluva platform on which you’d have about 1000kg of weight budget for body + interior for what would be considered a lightweight car. I can see that being a Model S/X platform, with the ‘affordable’ car only having 2 motors, or perhaps the platform would be as customizable/optionable as a build-your-own PC/Mac.

  • avatar

    From what I understand, such superchargers severely damage the life of the batteries if used regularly, which would be the case in a cross-country trip – thus their use is definitely not “free” even if the electricity is. Also, assuming electric cars becomes somewhat popular, you can be certain the electricity will no longer be “free” and will likely also be taxed. Now imagine I am trying to drive my Tesla cross-country and my navigation points me to the next supercharger just at the edge of my battery range, and when I arrive there are two Tesla’s in line ahead of me waiting to fill their tanks – will such a wait be acceptable to people that have spent almost $100K on their electric eco machine?

    • 0 avatar

      I understand there’s a “Range Max” or similar button in the Tesla that allows the car to charge to 100% for absolute maximum mileage. Otherwise, it charges to some lesser percentage. I think it’s hitting the limit that degrades the battery, not the speed of the charge (at least not at Supercharger rates, higher rates, maybe).

      I don’t know if Tesla users routinely hit the button. Broder didn’t but nobody had mentioned it to him, so he didn’t know about it.

      • 0 avatar

        And, yeah, if you’re not first in line… you’ll be there a long while. I think most of the Supercharger stations have multiple charge points but if Teslas or other Supercharger compatible cars were common, this would be a big problem.

        • 0 avatar

          The Tesla supercharger that is around here is a one car at a time set up. The plug is proprietary so only Teslas can use it.You can bet that Tesla isn’t going to let someone make an adapter to charge vehicles using the standard plug. Tesla does supply adapters so the Tesla can charge at other fast and standard rate chargers.

    • 0 avatar

      @stingray65 & KixStart:

      Repeated fast charging of a lithium ion battery does indeed shorten its long-term life. Mr. Musk is conveniently omitting this fact from his quest to install a Supercharger network.

      And, it’s not just the ‘fullness’ of the battery that hurts it, it is also the charge rate. You’d think that the charge rate problem is easily overcome with a bigger filling ‘pipe’, but that is not the issue – anyone can do that. Lithium ion cell mfrs typically list an optimum charge rate of 0.3 to 0.5 C (in Amps/hour), which means you’re taking 2-3 hours minimum to fill the cell from empty.

      Charging a battery in a half hour means you’re filling it at least 4-6x the normal rate – this can damage the chemistry and metallurgy, and generate a lot of heat. And most people don’t know that a lithium ion cell will physically grow when charged quickly, so that could present problems as well.

      The Superchargers exist only because Tesla’s battery packs are so large, but they don’t really overcome basic lithium ion cell charging limitations.

      Incidentally, my Leaf recommends charging to only 80%, with 100% done a maximum of once a day. In 8 months of ownership, I think I’ve charged to 100% only 3 or 4 times.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Repeated fast charging of a lithium ion battery does indeed shorten its long-term life. Mr. Musk is conveniently omitting this fact from his quest to install a Supercharger network.

        “How often can I Supercharge, is it bad for my battery?
        Supercharging does not alter the new vehicle warranty. Customers are free to use the network as much as they like.”

        A whiff of weaselliness, but if it’s fully covered under warranty then it’s covered. In 8 years, I’m thinking battery tech will have improved enough to be worth upgrading, and I assume Tesla will maintain a standard battery formfactor even if its internals change.

      • 0 avatar

        At a certain point, I’m sure that rapid charging does affect battery life but I expect Tesla knows what the point is and I doubt that Musk is going to do something that threatens the life of the most expensive part of the car.

        The Range Max button, on the other hand, they do warn they buyer about that.

  • avatar

    This is totally ridiculous on so many levels, it makes my head hurt. What sane individual would want to cross the US in an EV? None with any commonsense whatsoever.

    About as bright an idea as rowing a boat across the Atlantic when cheap flights are available. Some perverted idea of adventure takes over, even when Hertz will rent you a perfect solution.

    • 0 avatar

      The whole notion of electric cars is the very midsummer of madness. They are—and will remain for a very long time—the playthings of the very rich in certain ZIP codes who are anxious to display “environmental sensitivity”. Ask Leonardo diCaprio how he’s enjoying his Fisker—assuming the car is still operative.

      • 0 avatar

        Not at all. Most of the families hereabouts have at least one car per driver. An EV that’s a decent value proposition would make a great deal of sense, unless all the drivers have a long commute.

        We have 4 cars and 4 drivers. One of us has a regular routine of over 50 miles/day but the other 3 are 3 to 20 miles. An EV would be perfectly suitable.

  • avatar

    Soo…. what happens when a large stretch of road is down for maintence and there is a detour that takes you away from the charger?

    • 0 avatar

      See the above pic of a Tesla on a tow truck. In all seriousness, I like the Tesla but using one for a cross country trip is like driving a nail with a screwdriver. You might be able to make it work, but it really isn’t the tool for the job. Besides if you can afford a Tesla you are probably flying business class from NY to LA.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    They’re not putting them here in Oklahoma; that’s for sure. I’ve seen exactly one Tesla Model-S here, though…

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t count OK out just yet; sure we’ll be among the last to get the chargers, but I think there IS a market.

    There are more Tesla owners (er, leasers) than you might think. There are two Model S in my neighborhood alone (one red, one black), and I’ve seen a couple of others around town as well. Also, someone who works near me appears to have recently taken delivery of new one. Finally, I remember seeing a couple of roadsters (one red, one white) a year ago or so. All of these had OK tags.

    Granted, we’re talking a total of only about six cars seen in a fairly affluent area with a population pushing 100k (Edmond), but that’s at least a LITTLE more optimistic than the thought that there’s only one in the state! Also, I’d be shocked (sorry, couldn’t resist) if there weren’t a few in Tulsa too – they have even more supportive demographics than OKC.

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