Ahead of high-volume production of its recently launched Model 3, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been revamping its Supercharger program to meet the needs of a much larger vehicle fleet. From implementing an idling fee designed to speed up turnover to its ongoing buildout that will double the number of Superchargers in 2017, the electric car maker's charging network is a top priority.
Now Tesla is taking those plans for its Supercharger network a step further. On Monday, it said it will build charging infrastructure into city centers, expanding beyond its previous focus on locations along highways and popular driving routes. This will help make charging easier for Tesla owners who don't have access to charging at home or work.
"Supercharger stations in urban areas will be installed in convenient locations, including supermarkets, shopping centers and downtown districts, so it's easy for customers to charge their car in the time it takes to grocery shop or run errands," Tesla said in its press release on Monday.
These new Superchargers have a post-like design, so they take up less space than earlier models, and are a better fit for population-dense areas. The new chargers will fairly rapidly provide 72 kilowatts to each vehicle -- the approximate rate customers can charge at traditional Superchargers when sharing a stall with another Tesla. "This means charging speeds are unaffected by Tesla vehicles plugging into adjacent Superchargers, and results in consistent charging times around 45 to 50 minutes for most drivers," the company explained.
Tesla said it is beginning this expansion into city centers with stations in Chicago and Boston.
The pricing model at these new stations will be the same as at all Superchargers, though that varies by state based on local electricity rates, Tesla said. Of course, Tesla's current referral program still allows customers referred by owners to receive free unlimited Supercharging on new Model S or X vehicles for the life of the car.
Tesla currently has 6,550 Superchargers globally, and has enough of them deployed across the U.S., Western Europe, and the densest parts of China to enable long-distance travel almost anywhere in those regions.
This isn't the first effort Tesla has made to expand charging beyond home and long-distance travel. The company's Destination Charging connectors, which have charging speeds similar to what a customer would get at home, have rapidly spread to places customers might stay several hours or overnight -- locations like hotels and restaurants. In April, Tesla said it had installed more than 9,000 Destination Charging connectors worldwide and planned to have 15,000 by the end of this year.
Home will remain the primary charging spot
While city-center Superchargers will help solve a crucial problem for those customers who can't easily recharge at home or work, home will remain the primary place for most owners to do so. As Tesla emphasized in its Monday announcement, "for most people, this is all that is needed." With all of its vehicles boasting ranges of over 200 miles, customers with home charging can start the day with enough range for basic commuting and city driving, and will only need to visit Superchargers when they travel long distance.