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How Convenient Is Tesla's New Cross-Country Route?

Tesla team recharging at a Supercharger stop while traveling on its Cross Country Rally last weekend. Source: Tesla's official Twitter feed.

On Sunday, a team from Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) driving two Model S cars crossed the finish line in a cross-country drive. The two fully electric vehicles made the trip only charging at Tesla's Supercharger stations. More importantly, however, Tesla recorded a record for the lowest charge time for an electric vehicle traveling across the country. But just how convenient is the route?

Killing range anxiety
One potential threat to demand for fully electric vehicles is range anxiety, or the concern that there are not sufficient charging stations for long-distance travel in an electric vehicle. While making long-distance travel viable will certainly help minimize range anxiety, making it convenient would be an even better antidote.

For instance, the bare minimum number of charging stations on a route may enable long-distance travel, but it will likely take more than the bare minimum for the route to feel convenient. Even more, charging can be inconveniently slow, or it can be expedient -- obviously, the faster the charge, the better.

Taking a look at Tesla's recently completed cross-country route may give investors a glimpse of just how convenient Tesla plans to make its Supercharger network. To assess the convenience, let's take a look at the two major factors that go into charging convenience: charging speed and charging station density.

Charging: It's no secret Tesla's Supercharger stations are better than the typical charging infrastructure. Roughly 16 times faster than the typical public charging station, a Supercharger can give a Model S a 50% charge in 20 minutes or an 80% charge in 40 minutes. The Supercharger network was recently named "Technology of the Year" by AOL Auto. 

Thanks to fast charging, Tesla's Cross Country Rally team managed to complete the drive in just 76 and a half hours last weekend, despite "road closures, detours and traffic delays" as a result of a Colorado blizzard that cost the team eight hours. Other challenges included blinding sand storms, freezing temperatures, and heavy rain.

Charging station density: But how dense is the cross-country route with charging stations? Is it set up to handle both the 265-mile range and the 208-mile range Model S?

Currently, the Supercharger stations are approximately 120 miles apart, spaced for both the 60-kWh and 85-kWh vehicles. Tesla says it is adding additional stations along the route for greater density.

Solid progress
Currently, 80% of the U.S. population is now within 200 miles (just enough for a 60-kWh Model S) of a Supercharger station. By the end of the year, Tesla plans to have 95%-98% of the U.S. within range of a Supercharger.

While it's unclear just how convenient Tesla plans to make coverage over the long haul, the company's ambitious short-term achievements and its current goals suggest that Tesla doesn't plan to slack on the network. This is good news for Tesla investors; a convenient charging network is a key factor in the customer experience of driving a Tesla vehicle.

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Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 11:42 AM, hunter3203 wrote:

    So what is the coverage percentage using Tesla's own plan of 120 miles between charging stations? It can't be 80% because that's based on 200 miles and that would really only apply to those owners who have the 85kwh battery pack.

    I was a little taken aback when I heard they were claiming 80% coverage of the US population with only 70 supercharger stations. That seems like an awfully small number of stations for that kind of coverage.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 11:50 AM, txfilmguy wrote:

    "Currently, 80% of the U.S. population is now within 200 miles (just enough for a 60-kWh Model S) of a Supercharger station."

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 11:52 AM, txfilmguy wrote:

    80% of the population are in range of at least 1 of the 70 supercharging stations because Tesla has focused on points between the most populated areas. The U.S. population is not evenly distributed over the land mass.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 12:42 PM, pondee619 wrote:

    There needs to be a charging station every 104 miles, half the range of the second tier battery. Why? If I have a trip planned, 115 miles away, i can't get there and back on my battery range (208) and will not pass a charging station.i.e. from my house to Ceasars Palace Atlantic City, according to Google maps, is 135 miles. Without a charging station within that trip, on the Garden State Parkway, I can't make it. Its 167 miles to Cape May, a nice seaside town. The charging stations are now set up to get you coast to coast on the route that they have set up. They have to be set up so a round trip of greater lenght than the range of your battery can be made. Carging staations must be laced no more than 50% of the vehicles range to eliminate "range anxiety".

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 1:57 PM, Jason89 wrote:

    The coverage is rather sparse today. The plan though is to in two years cover the needs of 98% of the population. That doesn't mean they will all be convient. They will require planning for many trips, but they will add more if there is a big need. There are over 7000 other puclic chargers that a tesla can use today, plus all the homes and trailer parks. Its not going to be as convient as a gasoline car or phev, but it seems to be aiming for good enough.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 2:46 PM, TXObjectivist75 wrote:

    This is the equivalent of Ford building gas stations.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 3:59 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    "Carging staations must be laced no more than 50% of the vehicles range to eliminate "range anxiety"."

    Umm, no. Just a smidge of planning gets you there and back. You only have to be just a bit smarter than the average crow to realize there are limited superchargers and a return trip involved. Charge a little extra going in to make the return trip, or (like the crow) charge at your destination at less than supercharger speeds. Done.

    Either way, it is far more convenient to never go to a gas station again. Then trading never having the inconvenience of gas stations for sometimes having to anticipate having enough electrons on the relatively few longer trips - for now! That's about as bad as remembering if you had a tune-up and have checked the tires before going on a longer trip.

    Waking up to a full tank every day would be very convenient. No?

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 4:42 PM, pondee619 wrote:


    "charge a little extra going in to make the return trip"? Can you charge over 100%? Just asking.

    "charge at your destination..." I haven't seen any electric outlets at Ceasars parking garage. How would I go about this?

    Waking up to a full tank is very convient, but there is a hole in the range between a daily mileage limit of your vehicles range and a super charger to super charger run.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 6:19 PM, todamo13 wrote:

    It seems to me that once this really takes off, other companies will make more charging stations (maybe Tesla will license their system?) This is sort of a proof of concept, but if it turns out to work well then there will be many more popping up.

    Needless to say, if the big car makers get onboard with electric cars at some point and start making charging stations then they will be all over the place. Hopefully they will standardize around the Tesla technology.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:40 PM, excaldoug wrote:

    Hey everybody, don't forget, they may not be as convenient as we would like right now, but the are free!! Think about that, and the implications as they expand the network. And even when you do need to charge on a meter, it's a lot less than gas. At least until the government GPS's get installed, which they will.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 9:49 PM, Mega wrote:


    Considering charging stations are free and a loss leader, you probably want to rethink your theory that there will be competitors.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:46 AM, RDPence wrote:

    Will Tesla build charging stations along secondary highways, or only along the Interstates? I'd love to buy a Model E when it becomes available, but my longer journeys are not confined to Interstate highways.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 7:58 AM, emilypeter389 wrote:

    TSLA is all hype. The stock fluctuates a lot, i wouldn't want such a stock in my portfolio

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 9:15 AM, Fatboybeck wrote:

    Drive two hours, stop for 20/40 minutes. Imagine doing this with kids in the car. Can never see me driving outside my local area in a battery powered car. At least not until they can hold a much longer charge. In my local area...I use a golf cart.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 10:13 AM, damilkman wrote:

    I will wait for the sugar based batteries to go into production. Then I would not have to worry about charging stations. Instead of waiting 20 minutes it would just be like filling up at the gas station.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:00 PM, Shai wrote:

    Five Electric Cars That Want to Kill Tesla!!

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Daniel is a senior technology specialist at The Motley Fool. To get the inside scoop on his coverage of technology companies, follow him on Twitter.

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