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Tesla taps solar to power its "Superchargers"

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Tesla Motors' solar-charged Supercharger. [Credit: Tesla Motors]

Tesla Motors is giving solar-charged driving a "super charge". Tesla's so-called "Supercharger stations", which the company officially unveiled Monday, will use electricity generated by a solar carport system provided by SolarCity. According to Tesla, this will result in "almost zero marginal energy cost after installation."

Each solar power system is designed to generate more energy from the sun over the course of a year than is consumed by Tesla vehicles using the Supercharger. This results in a slight net positive transfer of sunlight generated power back to the electricity grid, says Tesla.

In addition to lowering the cost of electricity, this addresses a commonly held misunderstanding that charging an electric car simply pushes carbon emissions to the power plant. The Supercharger system will always generate more power from sunlight than Model S customers use for driving. By adding even a small solar system at their home, electric car owners can extend this same principle to local city driving too.

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Long-distance EV-ing
Tesla's first six Supercharger stations will allow the Model S to travel long distances with ultra fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.

The technology at the heart of the Supercharger was developed internally and leverages the economies of scale of existing charging technology already used by the Model S. Combining these two factors, Tesla is able to provide Model S owners free long-distance travel indefinitely.

The six California locations unveiled today are just the beginning, says Tesla. By 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. Tesla will also begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.

Tesla says the Supercharger is substantially more powerful than any charging technology to date, providing almost 100 kilowatts of power to the Model S, with the potential to go as high as 120 kilowatts in the future. According to Tesla, this can replenish three hours of driving at 60 mph in about half an hour, which is the convenience inflection point for travelers at a highway rest stop.

Most people who begin a road trip at 9 a.m. would normally stop by noon to have lunch, refresh and pick up a coffee or soda for the road, all of which takes about 30 minutes.

"Tesla's Supercharger network is a game changer for electric vehicles," said Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO. "We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight."

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