Remember Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA ) humble days back in September 2012? Shares were trading around $30, quarterly Model S sales had just begun, and Tesla's Supercharging network had just six stations. A gain of 475% later, the story is quite different. In Q4, Tesla sold 6,900 vehicles, and it's now exporting vehicles overseas.
Today, there's no turning back. Tesla has ambitious plans to expand internationally. This is more evident than ever in its recent progress update on its Supercharger network.
A journey from 6 to 80
Tesla's mission is ambitious.
"Our goal when we created Tesla a decade ago was the same as it is today: to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible," Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk said in a Nov. 18 blog post titled "The Mission of Tesla."
The company has already created a compelling electric vehicle. The next major step is to create a compelling electric vehicle that has mass-market appeal. Though the company's affordable car is still about three to four years out, Tesla isn't hesitating in building the infrastructure to handle such a vehicle.
In just about a year and four months, Tesla has expanded its Supercharger network from just six stations to 80. Of these 80 locations, 14 are in Europe. While 80 may seem small compared with the type of convenience we are used to with gas stations, it's important to keep in mind that electric-vehicle owners can charge at home; so it doesn't take nearly as many charging stations for electric vehicles as it does gas stations for traditional vehicles to make long-distance travel feasible.
Even more, Supercharger stations aren't your average charging station. They are by far the world's the most powerful charging technology, providing up to 120 kilowatts of DC power. AOL Auto recently dubbed Tesla's Supercharging Network the "Technology of the Year." AOL Auto's multimedia director, Adam Morath, explained why the technology is game-changing:
With the Supercharger, Tesla is tackling the tired arguments against the electrification of the automobile head on by addressing range, charge times, charger accessibility and clean energy production (the Supercharger is powered by solar energy, not coal) all in one stroke.
Tesla says that its vehicles have charged more than 11 million kilometers using its network and that "nearly 1.13 million liters of gas have been offset." The company continued: "Its 14 locations in Europe now connect Germany, Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. Norway, too, is energized with charging stations.
Where's Tesla headed next?
By March, 50% of the German population will live within 200 miles of a Supercharger, Tesla says. The company expects to have 100% of the population of Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, and Luxembourg within 200 miles of a Supercharging station by the end of 2014 and 90% of England, Wales, and Sweden.
But the expansion doesn't stop in Europe. Tesla is already talking about bringing its Supercharger network to China.
Domestically, Tesla has already equipped the West and East coasts with an adequate network for travel. And now Tesla says an announcement boasting cross-country travel on Superchargers alone is just a couple of weeks away.
By the end of 2014, Tesla expects to have charging stations within driving range of 80% of the U.S. population. By 2015, it plans to connect 98% of the population.
A reason to hold
Tesla's already priced for incredible growth, so the company's rapid expansion of its Supercharging network isn't a reason to buy. It is, however, a good reason to hold on to the stock. Building out its charging infrastructure effectively helps to hedge its bet on future demand for a compelling mass-market electric vehicle. Having the charging infrastructure already in place will certainly boost the value proposition for the car when it finally comes to market.
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