Will Tesla’s sci-fi super charger include solar panels and battery swapping?

Tesla Motors intends to unveil the plans for its long-awaited and much-hyped “super charger” next Monday. In true Tesla fashion, the unveiling will be a media event – you can watch it happen live on the company’s web site – and the charging station itself will be designed to look cool – like an advanced alien artifact that’s landed in the desert, according to CEO Elon Musk – and get people talking about EVs.

The super charger will be installed between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and will use 90 kW fast chargers that can add 150 miles of charge in 30 minutes, enabling a Model S driver to make it from LA to Frisco with only one stop for recharging.

The sci-fi superstation is expected to be topped with solar panels, doubtless provided by one of Musk’s other companies, SolarCity. It’s only logical, as sunny California is a fine place for solar, and installing panels at a point of use avoids transmission losses and leverages solar’s strength as a distributed form of energy generation. It’s also splendid marketing, as everyone who sees the high-tech hacienda will be reminded of the symbiotic relationship between electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The big question: will the new electron emporium include a battery swapping station? The innovative company Better Place has developed battery swapping as a faster alternative to recharging (one minute instead of half an hour). On June 6, Tesla held its annual stockholders meeting, where Musk presented on the state of the company, and fielded questions where he teased us with tasty tidbits on future plans. When asked about the soon-to-be-announced Supercharger Network, he hinted at the possibility of battery swapping.

“We’re being deliberately coy, but when… people see what our supercharger network is going to look like and just how awesome it is, it’s gonna blow your mind. It’ll finally make sense to a lot of people, not just to people who have been enthusiastic about electric vehicles for a long time. It’s going to make sense to the broader population.”

“I intentionally architected the Model S to have a battery pack in the floor pan that can be swapped out in less than a minute. We’re going to show something interesting in that regard.” [Sly smile.]

If Tesla does embrace the concept, it could give battery-swapping proponents a big boost. Stay tuned.


Source: gigaom
Image: jurvetson (flickr)

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