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Tesla Unveils Free, Solar-Powered Charging for Model S Owners

Concept art of Tesla's new solar-powered charging station. | Image credit: Businessweek

Electric car company Tesla Motors unveiled the first of what it says will be many free, solar-powered charging stations across the U.S., Europe and Asia for Tesla drivers. 

Tesla revealed the locations of the first six “Supercharger” stations, constructed in secret, that will allow the company’s Model S to travel long distances with fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona. 

By next year, Tesla said it plans to install Superchargers from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York. Tesla will also begin installing Superchargers in Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.

The electricity used by the Supercharger comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity, which results in almost zero marginal energy cost after installation, Tesla said. Each solar power system is designed to generate more energy from the sun over the course of a year than is consumed by Tesla vehicles using the Supercharger. This results in a slight net positive transfer of sunlight-generated power back to the electricity grid. 

Tesla is differentiating its vehicle by offering indefinite, free charging to owners of its Model S sedan. The 100-kilowatt charging system can add roughly 180 miles of driving distance to the Model S battery in 30 minutes, Tesla said. This is approximately the distance the charging stations will be spaced in high-traffic corridors. However, the company has been criticized for designing a proprietary charger that will not work with other types of electric vehicles.

In other recent electric vehicle news, Toyota is participating in a pilot project in central Indiana with utility Duke Energy and the nonprofit Project Plug-IN initiative, and EV owners will now be able to use a PayPal account to pay for electricity at charging stations made by GE.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.


Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also an associate editor for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_kingGoogle+

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