High-End Electric Car Firm Unveils Free, Solar Fast-Charging

Image courtesy Tesla Motors

People who've ordered the Tesla Model S sedan got some good news this week: the Tesla company announced yesterday that you'll be able to fast-charge your car for free, for life, using solar electricity, at any of the network of Supercharger stations the company is building across the country. If, that is, you ever get your hands on one of the cars.

The first six stations unveiled Monday, all in California, were built in Los Angeles, Tejon Ranch, Harris Ranch, Barstow, Gilroy, and Folsom. At an EPA range of 265 miles per charge, the network will now facilitate easier Tesla driving between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, as well as to Las Vegas -- assuming you find a place to slow-charge your car while you visit The Strip.

The firm plans a network of hundreds of Superchargers across the country. Some of the Superchargers will derive their power from on-site photovoltaic panels being supplied by SolarCity, each solar awning designed to generate more power than is used to charge cars. The chargers will supply 90 kilowatts directly to the cars' batteries, bypassing their onboard charging regulators. A 30-minute charge session, according to Tesla, will give a Model S with an 80 kilowatt-hour battery pack about 150 miles' worth of charge.

The supercharging hardware is standard on the 85 kilowatt-hour models of the Model S, and an option on the line's 60 kilowatt-hour models. The baseline 40 kilowatt-hour model won't be able to take advantage of the Superchargers at present. Other electric vehicles won't be able to use the Superchargers either.

Precise locations of the Superchargers weren't made available to press, though it's unlikely the Harris Ranch location would be too hard to find.

The announcement comes in the same week in which Tesla quietly cut its 2012 earnings forecast after admitting that it's behind schedule on producing the Model S. 12,000 of the cars have been ordered, and the company's Fremont, California plant had produced fewer than 300 as of last week. The company won a postponement of a scheduled $14 million payment on its $465 million Department of Energy-backed loan last week, and is selling stock to raise more cash.

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