Tesla Motors, Inc. Wants to Annihilate Range Anxiety

The biggest concern consumers seem to have about electric vehicles is charging; it's been dubbed "range anxiety." Electric-car maker Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) is attempting to tackle this concern and crush it once and for all. Nowhere is this clearer than by looking at the rapid expansion of Tesla's Supercharger network.


Supercharging data as of July 10, 2014. Image source: Tesla Motors.

The fastest-growing charging network on the planet
Not only is Tesla's network of Superchargers the fastest-growing charging network on the planet, but it is also now the largest fast-charging network on the planet, period.

Just how big is the network? It now enables owners of Tesla vehicles to travel the entire width of the U.S., and up and down the West and East coasts. By the end of next year Tesla says that there will be a charging station within 100 miles of 98% of the population, giving almost any Model S owner in the U.S. the ability to travel long distances using Superchargers only. Best of all, supercharging is free for life for Model S owners.

This sort of scale is helping Tesla achieve big milestones, which the company shared in a blog post.

In June, Tesla's Supercharger network passed a charging milestone, delivering more than 1 GWh of energy to Model S vehicles in a single month. That energy accounts for a collective 3.7 million miles driven, 168,000 gallons of gas saved, and 4.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide offset. That's like driving to the moon and back seven and a half times, and nixing a day's worth of CO2 from 73,684 Americans. 

Tesla's Supercharger network is overseas, too. There are already 32 in Europe (eight were built in the last week alone), and the network is just beginning in China.

Model S charging at a Tesla Supercharger station. Image source: Tesla Motors.

This network would be insufficient if Tesla's vehicles couldn't drive long distances on a single charge. Fortunately, the entry-level Model S with a 60-kWh battery gets 208 miles of range -- plenty to drive locally without ever needing to charge anywhere except at home. The larger 85-kWh battery boasts 265 miles of range.

Further, charging must be fast enough to not be an inconvenience while traveling long distances. Tesla has addressed this concern, too. Model S owners can get a 50% charge in 20 minutes and an 80% charge in 40 minutes. Tesla-branded charging stations are about 16 times faster than most public charging stations. Considering that Tesla drivers only have to rely on Supercharger stations on long distance trips (assuming they charge while asleep at home for local driving), 20-40 minutes is reasonable -- especially when it's free.

The next steps
Tesla doesn't want to stop at serving its own vehicles with its Superchargers. The company's CEO, Elon Musk, has said that he would be open to letting other manufacturers tap into the network if they made cars capable of handling the charge and contributed their fair share toward the capital required for the network. Shortly after Tesla opened up its patents for peers to use "in good faith," it got together with Nissan and BMW to discusses a new level of collaboration on charging networks, the Financial Times reported. 

Tesla plans for 98% of the U.S. population to be within range of a Tesla Supercharger by 2015. This map shows Tesla's planned Supercharger locations for the end of 2015. Image source: Tesla Motors.

For Tesla to succeed, a robust and convenient charging network is key. And if it can inspire other manufacturers to join the race with comparable charging stations, total charging convenience may come sooner than we think. While there's bound to be many challenges and hurdles along the way, Tesla shareholders should hope that the company continues to address range anxiety -- and eventually crush the concern once and for all.

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Read/Post Comments (21) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 5:47 PM, tombland wrote:

    Typo:

    "Fortunately, the entry-level Model S with a 60-kWh battery gets 208 miles of range -- plenty to drive locally without ever needing to charge anywhere accept at home."

    Should be "except at home."

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 5:53 PM, ultracapacitor wrote:

    IT'S very easy to achieve the range problem.

    all Tesla has to place brushless alternators into the front wheel system or as an integrated solution by making HUB generators inside the front wheels. These will be connected to Ultracapacitor Bank that will store that power generated and feed the Main Battery. With an addition of PV-photovoltaic cells attached on the roof of the car the generated power can be increased even further more. All these are existing technologies just need to be implemented into the Tesla manufacturing plant. If this is done the right way there will be No need to stop by the charging stations during long trips especially.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 6:38 PM, TMFDanielSparks wrote:

    @Tombland, Thanks! We grabbed it.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 8:15 PM, Bioengr wrote:

    Range anxiety is not as much of a problem as it seems. Once I got my Model S, I quickly realized there is a completely different paradigm with it. Since you charge the car at night in your garage and start every day with a fully charged car and therefore 200+ miles of range, you don't really worry about the location of chargers unless you're taking a trip. For everyone but those with really big commutes, you have plenty of range for a days activities. I'm now at 1 year with the car and still really enjoy it. And not going to gas stations is really nice.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 8:19 PM, BurlapTampon wrote:

    Tesla has the capability to swap out the battery of a Model S in less time it takes to fill up a car. That costs 60 bucks.

    Tesla could out in the automated changers for those who Just. Can't. Wait.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 8:30 PM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    They need to get that battery swap price down to 15... 20 bucks tops.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 8:37 PM, so75 wrote:

    @ultracapacitor - you are talking about perpetual motion. Sorry. Won't work. The model s already has regenerative breaking. If you add the parts you suggest, it will just add more load to the battery. Wish it was that simple though.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 8:38 PM, so75 wrote:

    I mean "braking".

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 12:37 AM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Tesla will suffer until there's a battery that can be charged in less than 5 minutes. Stopping every 150 miles to wait a half hour to charge the battery is a no-go. That assumes that there will be no line at the charging station.

    Battery swaps only make sense if Tesla owns the batteries. Otherwise they are going to turn into an easy way to swap out a battery that's old and no longer holding as much of a charge with hopefully a new battery. that means most owners of newer batteries will not swap out an risk getting stuck with an older battery.

    Also Tesla needs a common standard or a small number of different styles of chargers. Otherwise each brand is going to be unique causing too many headaches. Could you imagine if every brand of car needed it's own specific nozzle to fill the tanks with gas?

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 1:30 AM, ultracapacitor wrote:

    @so75 i have a feeling that you have never seen an ultracapacitor....light weight compared to batteries. if you are talking about energy load problem...no such thing. schottky diodes in the system won't allow any problem. regenerative braking is a joke compared to what can be done via the system i'm talking about. Back in late 90s i have had renegerative breaking system in my r/c car speed control made by Tekin of California nothing new there either...

    perpetual motion is a gimmicky name given to waste energy harvesting by people who have no idea about technical side of these thing btw.

    brushless hub motors are also light weight already being used in ebikes as we all know. it's just the Turn amount on the coil is different between a brushless motor and a alternator.

    Tesla with the capacity of developing electric cars definitely has the power & resources to implement a working regenerative system to fully power up a secondary ultracapacitor bank that will continously feed the battery or even directly the drive motor itself. So before tossing out this idea you have to see it being tested by Tesla first... which in my opinion will be noticed sooner or later to the full extend.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 2:17 AM, Ustauber wrote:

    ThxTSLA

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 2:44 AM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    @ultracapacitor:

    So you think you can generate more power than you consume in order to move a car down a flat road, do you? There's no such thing as something for nothing.

    The Model S already uses a brushless motor. What difference does placing them in a wheel hub do other than increase unsprung weight?

    Other than creating extra drag, which causes more energy to be consumed in order to turn them, please explain EXACTLY why you think this would work? You'd make a fortune if you could pull it off. It would be like handing someone a dollar and them giving you back a buck fifty in change.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 5:03 AM, greenknight32 wrote:

    @ CrazyDocAl - The way the battery swap works, you either swap back on your return trip or they bill you for the difference in value between your old battery and the new one you received. They re-use old batteries for fixed energy storage installations, recycle them when they get too worn-out for that. Nobody is going to get an old battery when they swap, unless they're getting their own battery back on their return.

    Teslas with the current generation of batteries, you have to take a break every few hours on a long trip. May be a deal breaker for you, but a lot of people wouldn't mind.

    Next-generation batteries will be much better. The tech is already available to quadruple battery capacity and charging speed. I think that will be good enough for almost everyone.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 8:28 AM, djplong wrote:

    I'm one of the lucky ones. I actually get to TAKE a vacation every year. So many other Americans are being treated like commodities by today's corporations. The idea that you would need the "stop every 150 miles" model doesn't hold water. First, it wouldn't happen very often today. Second, it'll happen less often 'tomorrow' because of improved battery technology (ranges increasing an average of 5% per year with prices dropping). Third, you can only drive so many hours in a day for that long trip. Fourth, for *really* long trips, you're better off flying otherwise you're spending an inordinate percentage of your already slim vacation time in the driver's seat of the car.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 10:02 AM, AndyMahnFL wrote:

    Typo:

    it got together with Nissan and BMW to discusses a new level of collaboration on charging networks, the Financial Times reported.

    Should be "...to discuss..."

    Thanks for article.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 3:51 PM, ultracapacitor wrote:

    you just said "extra drag"...obviously you have no idea about inner workings of brushless motors & physical specifications; do your homework a bit you will understand the technology better.

    I think you have a ton to read before that happens, good luck...

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 4:55 PM, plange01 wrote:

    so far with a 200 mile or less range tesla is a very over priced car to just make errands with..

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 11:53 AM, tombland wrote:

    @CrazyDocAl: "Tesla will suffer until there's a battery that can be charged in less than 5 minutes. Stopping every 150 miles to wait a half hour to charge the battery is a no-go. That assumes that there will be no line at the charging station."

    Don't you eat when you're on the road, or take a break to stretch your legs and go to the restroom? You're clearly conditioned to the ways of the gas station, but there IS another way. Think about it...

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 4:00 PM, ultracapacitor wrote:

    http://gigaom.com/2014/07/14/supercapacitors-are-slowly-emer...

    Now here's the better tech.... finally realized by some online news...

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2014, at 11:58 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    Ultracaps, Tesla uses regenerative braking to recapture kinetic energy when braking or "coasting." Since 94% of the energy not used for propulsion is recaptured, use of ultracaps to regain this energy more efficiently cannot result in recapturing lost kinetic energy at any more than 4 to 5% better than the Model S does it now.

    And that is not 4 or 5% of what is in the battery, but only of the kinetic energy potentially regained, when slowing or "coasting." Any other use of the technology for any other form of hoped for gains, would be dabbling in the engineering of perpetual motion.

    Tesla uses the main motor as a generator by reversing it's polarity during stopping, to efficiently accomplish just what you suggest. This saves the weight of added motors in the hubs, and also reduces unsprung weight, leading to a better handling vehicle as well.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2014, at 12:01 AM, jeffhre wrote:

    phillipzx3,

    They need to get a full tank of gas down to...20 bucks tops, LOL.

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