As Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk hinted in an during the , the California-based EV automaker plans to expand its fast-charging "supercharger" network across the continental U.S. During today's announcement, Musk said New York to Los Angeles trips would be viable as soon as this winter.
"When you get in a car you have the ability to go almost anywhere," Musk said. "That's what the supercharger network will do."
The rollout will begin as soon as this summer, with the number of stations tripling to 27 nationwide by the end of June. In addition to increasing supercharger density along the already-established California and Mid-Atlantic coasts, Tesla will debut chargers in a handful of new metropolitan areas within the next few weeks, including Austin/Houston, Portland/Seattle, Boulder/Denver, and Chicago/Milwaukee. By the end of the year, Musk expects to to have "a couple hundred" superchargers spread across the U.S. and southern Canada, with as little as 80 to 90 miles between stations along the Altantic and Pacific coasts.
Tesla also will begin rolling out improved Supercharging capability at select stations this summer. With a more powerful 120 kW charger—up from 90 kW—and a modified charging algorithm, these new chargers will require only 20 minutes to provide around three hours of driving time, Musk told reporters. "This allows people to stop anywhere they would normally stop on a road trip," he said.
While Musk was hesitant to put a cap on maximum number of superchargers, he estimated the critical mass for the fast-charging network to be around 200 stations. By 2015, Tesla expects to have the entire continental U.S. dotted in supercharging station (a map detailing the expansion can be found .)—effectively allowing Tesla owners to have free travel across the U.S. and parts of southern Canada. The company says trips from L.A. to New York, Vancouver to San Diego, Montreal to Miami, or any combination will be possible. While the Model S can safely travel 200 miles on a single supercharger charge, Musk predicts that "in the long-term, it'll be quite rare to be 200 miles from a Supercharger station. Even in a pretty unpopulated section of the country it'll probably be under 150 miles between supercharger stations."
With a $300,000 price tag for each station, Musk estimates, the entire network would cost the company somewhere around $60 million over the next year and a half. Given that the company recently announced its —totaling $561.8 million in revenue with a $11.2 million profit (albeit with help from $68 million in zero-emission vehicle credits from the state of California) it would appear Tesla has the means to invest in fast-charging proliferation.
If Tesla is able to meet its self-described "dramatic expansion," the supercharger network would be the most robust fast-charing system to date. And although Musk was coy about the prospect of opening it up to other manufacturers, he reluctantly entertained the idea of licensing Tesla's fast-charging tech. "Because of the nature of the technology—the supercharger is delivering 60 times the power level [of a house]—it's extremely difficult to make that generic," Musk says. However, he admits that if a "major manufacturer was interested in the Supercharging system, and were willing to use the same basic architecture, then it could be used by more than just Tesla. We're not closed to that idea."
While such licensing could provide Tesla with another revenue stream, Musk maintains that isn't the primary goal of the expansion. "We need to solve the problem of long-distance travel, and we can't wait for others to agree with our strategy," he says. "We just need to get going and other manufacturers can either copy us or join us."