In a news that could soon have repercussions for the business energy market, Tesla motors have revealed their first solar-powered fuel stations where consumers with electric cars can ‘fill up’ for free. Dubbed the Supercharger Network, the stations were constructed under strict secrecy by electric car manufacturer Tesla.
Covering six locations in California, Nevada and Arizona, the new solar-powered ‘electric pumps’ allow owners of Tesla’s Model S (their only commercially available model to date) to cover longer distances in their electric cars by being able to take them out of state.
Whilst the Supercharger Network’s construction and mere existence are positive signs of a slow move by the public towards electric cars, it’s the logistics – and most importantly the electricity Tesla are harnessing as a business – that could well change the way people look at both electric vehicles and solar power.
A common misconception over electric cars is that they merely offset the carbon footprint of the car to the power station that has to charge it. What Tesla’s Supercharger stations have proven is that – thanks to using solar power – even the most high-traffic locations will still produce a net positive of energy, feeding commercial electricity back into the grid.
Developed by SolarCity, the solar carport system that provides the solar-power segment of a Supercharger station, has shown a zero marginal energy cost since going operational – resulting in very few overheads past the actual construction.
Tesla say that now Supercharger technology is proven to work in the field, and solar carport systems are now efficient enough to power it, electric car owners will be able to install similar systems in their homes, powering the vehicles and feeding solar energy back into the grid.
Businesses, too will likely see the benefit in such a system. Delivery, haulage, taxi and courier companies, who adopted electric would see larger-scale systems installed at their depots; not only providing free fuel in a world of skyrocketing petrol and diesel costs, but also driving down their commercial electricity needs.
As Tesla look to install similar Supercharger installations in Vancouver, San Diego, Miami, Montreal and New York by next year, the prospect of long-distance electric car travel seems to be more realistic than ever before. One snag may be that – to reduce overheads – the Supercharger system (that transfers energy from the station into the car’s batteries) was designed and patented in-house to reduce overheads and protect their new intellectual property.
If this is the ground-breaking revelation that Tesla say it is, it may take more than one manufacturer to lead the charge; but would historic innovators like Ford, Mercedes, BMW and the like embrace a system for their electric vehicles that they’ll have to license from a competitor?
It’s not something we would deem likely – but what do you think are electric pumps the future of road travel?
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