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A Challenge for Tesla Motors Is an Opportunity for AeroVironment

Travis Hoium
October 22, 2013

There are a lot of hurdles for Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA), Ford (NYSE: F), Nissan, and other automakers trying to sell electric vehicles, or EVs. One of those challenges may be a lot closer to home than we realize. It may be nothing more than your garage's electric car plug-in, which probably doesn't exist. 

As it stands today, not only do electric-vehicle buyers have to fork over thousands of dollars more than for buying a conventional vehicle, they must also spend at least $1,000 for an electric charger at home. Condo owners and apartment renters face a greater challenge even getting a charger installed.

At least one town is trying to eliminate the home plug-in challenge. The city of Palo Alto, Calif., is requiring new homes to come with electric vehicle chargers. The city is already a hotbed for electric vehicles, and as Tesla Motors' hometown it also has incentive to go electric.

Electric vehicles face many adoption hurdles
The home plug-in isn't the only challenge the EV industry faces, but it's one that's largely out of the industry's hands. Tesla Motors has already done a lot to dent the range anxiety electric vehicles present to new buyers. The Model S has a range up to 265 miles, enough to take a three-hour drive on the highway. Of course, Tesla is way ahead in the range game. The Nissan Leaf has an average range of 75 miles and the Ford Focus Electric has an estimated range of 76 miles, or 100 miles in the city. Expect these ranges to pick up as the industry matures.

The next big challenge is the charging infrastructure, on the road and at home. So far, the industry has focused much of its attention on the nationwide charging network. Tesla is building its own supercharger network, which will give a Model S an 80% charge in 40 minutes and a full charge in 75 minutes.  

AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV) is building some of the "West Coast Electric Highway," a network of stations that will run from the Mexican to Canadian borders along Interstate 5. Washington and Oregon selected the company to build their portions of the highway. But home charging is up to homeowners or EV buyers, adding another hea