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See also where Elon Musk makes the announcement.

It seems like about 95% marketing gimmick to me. He claimed the "network" of chargers (6 so far) would solve the 3 perceived problems of electric cars. I'd say they are: 1: not being able to drive anywhere you want like you pretty much can with gas, 2: the cost of the battery, both as part of the purchase of the original car and replacement as needed if you keep the car that long, and 3: lack of a wide variety of vehicle sizes, styles, and trim levels. He said they are: 1: not being able to drive anywhere you want as conveniently as with gas, 2: that the emissions aren't really reduced because the power is likely generated by fuel-burning power plants anyway, and 3: the cost (specifically which costs, he didn't say, just of "electric vehicles compared to gas").

He went on to show how it's just as convenient to drive the Tesla Model S as any gas car. Imagine a trip from LA to Vegas (this is a pretty common trip in the southern-CA area). You drive a few hours, and when you get to Barstow you're ready for lunch or dinner or at least a bathroom break. So you stop at the one-and-only restaurant that has a Supercharger, and have dinner while the car charges. Then you drive on to Vegas. Hey... that's pretty much the same as with gas.

Except it's not an accurate picture. First of all, most people who drive from LA to Vegas also want to drive back later. Assuming you started with a pretty good charge (because the charge you can add in 1/2 hour at the charging station in Barstow may be less than the remaining 150 to 200 miles, depending on route) you can indeed get to Vegas. But then you're stuck there. There's no charging station in Vegas. According to Tesla's on-line calculator, at the electric rates I pay a 150-mile charge takes $10.61 worth of electricity, which is not something a typical motel is going to be happy with you taking for free... and it's probably illegal to use someone's power without permission. But worse for our hypothetical Vegas visitor, it takes almost 33 hours to perform such a charge from a 110-volt outlet that just happens to somehow have 12 amps available (a typical circuit, which usually serves several outlets, has a 15 amp total limit, though some have 20 amps).

Second, when you get to Barstow, will any of the 4 charging spots there be available? Since charging is free, you better hope the Model S doesn't become popular with Barstow residents. Although with pricing for the "Signature" starting at $88k and the "Signature Performance" at $98k (both after fed tax credit), it may not be a very common vehicle in Barstow.

The free charging, by the way, is how the third problem he mentioned is solved. You don't need to worry about cost, because once they finish putting their planned charging stations in place (about 100 total), you can drive anywhere in the continental US for free. This is because if you draw circles around each charging station showing the available range, those circles cover the entire US. Don't worry about the fact that the route any normal person would take to get from one place to another might not ever go near any of the changing station locations. It'll be "just as convenient as gas" to drive, say 50 miles out of your way to a charging station and then 50 miles back to your route.

The 100 charging stations they hope to have in place by 2015 is roughly equal to the number of Model S cars they are building each week now (according to Musk). So by 2015 they should have about 100 times as many cars on the road as there are charge-for-free stations (more if production rates continue to improve). At 4 car spots per station, the maximum possible number of cars a station can charge per day, even with a continual 24-hour-a-day line, is well under 200.

The second problem is solved because the roof covering the charging station spots is covered with enough solar panels to generate, they estimate, more power per year than the charging of cars will consume during that year. Which might lead you to believe no fuel-burning-derived electricity will be used. Unless you realize there's no way they're going to store enough of the sunlight-generated power to actually operate the charging station during periods of low sunlight. During those periods, they're going to use power from the grid, which might (or might not) be fuel-derived. I suppose you could get into elaborate calculations about whether or not the excess power generated during peak sunlight causes less fuel-derived power to be needed elsewhere on the grid, but that's an exercise in futility with the available data.

Mind you, I really admire Tesla and think he's done wonders for the electric car market. The Roadster shattered the "they're all glorified golf carts with no power" myth. But this "everyone will drive for free, for free!" is nonsense. Reminds me of the "nuclear electric power will be too cheap to bother metering" story.

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