Fully electric cars are still more of a novelty than a mass market standby, but as more automakers roll out new and improved models this could change rapidly in the near future.
One of the primary hurdles faced by companies like Tesla is the lack of charging facilities.Consumers have been hesitant to drive long distance in purely electric cars, out of fear that they will lose power and be miles from any nearby charging stations. In the past, charging an electric vehicle could also be time-consuming.
Yet with advances in technology, today’s rapid charging networks manage to reduce charging time from three or four hours down to a mere 20 minutes. In a bid to make driving cars like the Model S more convenient, Tesla has announced plans to increase its current rapid charging network over the next few years.
The electric car industry is just now taking off. As recently as 2012, there were only 12 rapid charging stations in the United States that could fuel cars like the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. Yet in the past year, that number has blossomed to 154 without even taking Tesla’s own supercharger network into account.
The automotive world is embracing luxurious new models like the fully electric BMW i3, which from preliminary reports on carsales.com.au and other websites looks to be a big hit with consumers. Yet one of the major barriers to widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the time it takes to charge them.Tesla is tackling this problem head-on by providing a wider network of supercharger stations.
At the moment, the company provides eight stations in the United States, primarily located on the East and West coasts. These allow Model S drivers to obtain approximately three hours’ worth of charging in 20 minutes.
The power is also provided free of charge to sweeten the deal, although the system is incompatible with other electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf. Tesla plans to increase the number of charging stations to 80 by the end of the year, connecting the majority of metro areas throughout North America. There are over 100 stations planned by 2015, which would allow Model S owners to theoretically drive from coast to coast without spending a penny on fuel.
The expansion of Tesla’s charging network mirrors a global trend. A recent report from IHS Automotive shows that the number of rapid charging networks is predicted to grow up to 199,000 by 2020. By comparison, there were 1,800 charging stations worldwide last year.
Tesla’s supercharger stations offer typical rest stop amenities, giving drivers the chance to stretch their legs and have something to eat while their cars charge for 20 minutes at a time. The company plans to build their new stations near restaurants, shopping malls, or other public areas in the interest of convenience.
With over 13,000 drivers already on the waiting list for a new Model S, the expansion of Tesla’s rapid charging network could push demand even higher. It remains to be seen if other electric automakers will follow suit and provide a more amenable charging network to compete with Tesla’s. If charging an electric car becomes as convenient as fuelling up at a traditional gas station, this could be the final push the industry needs to enter the mainstream.
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