2014 Tesla Model S
Electric car charging may be about to get a lot faster—and a lot cheaper—for everyone. Speaking at the Tesla Model S official U.K. launch, CEO Elon Musk dropped the clearest hints yet that he planned to offer Tesla Motors' [NSDQ:TSLA] Supercharger fast-charge specifications to other automakers.
A recent Engadget article revealed that Telsa was planning to share some specifications of its Superchargers to create a technical specification that automakers could adopt, allowing compatibility with Tesla's stations. Tesla itself clarified that it wouldn't necessarily involve sharing patents, but the specifications themselves could be shared. Musk has further suggested (via Green Car Reports) that automakers wanting to use Superchargers would have to agree to Tesla's business model. That means contributing capital costs for their fleet's usage of the network, to account for its drivers charging up free-of-charge at the stations.
Typical quick-charge stations allow the average electric car—a Nissan Leaf with a 24 kWh battery pack, for example—to charge to 80 percent capacity, from empty, in around 30-45 minutes. The widely-used CHAdeMO charging standard delivers up to 62.5 kilowatts of high-voltage current. Tesla's Superchargers are a little more powerful—and Musk says any automaker adopting its standard would need to take account of the Supercharger's 480-volt, 135 kW (and rising) delivery. That's enough to supply a Model S with 150 miles of range in 20 minutes, or 200 miles in half an hour.
As Green Car Reports notes, there's no risk of Tesla's prized Superchargers suddenly being swamped with Nissan Leafs wanting a quick top-up. Not only has Tesla not yet released specifications for its stations, but even when it does so, adapting other electric vehicles could be the work of years. By then, charging should be even more plentiful than it is now, and the whole infrastructure better adapted to the charging demands of tens of thousands more electric vehicles.