EV range: Has Tesla cracked it?

2013-06-04 10:12

NEW YORK - Electric cars, while great for the environment, have two severe limitations - price and range. Has battery supercar-maker Tesla solved the range problem?

Most automakers seem more concerned with producing new battery models than building the infrastructure needed to support them.

Imagine the strain on Eskom should electric vehicles become popular in SA?


To tackle the issue of electric vehicle range, US automaker Tesla says it will create an charging network in the US and Canada making cross-continental travel by electric car feasible in 2014. It will grow the number of charging stations it runs from eight to 100.

Tesla's Model S (equivalent of R687 000) has a claimed range of *335km or three hours when fully charged and, the automaker says, its supercharging stations are 10 times as faster than most public charging stations and that will enable Model S drivers to go overland from Los Angeles to New York with 20-30 minute stops for recharges every three hours or so."

(Wheels24 reader TONY ROBINSON points out Tesla's supercharging network will be even better than predicted, especially if the charging stations were introduced in South Africa)


The automaker claims its supercharger can recharge its Model S to 50% of its battery capacity in 20 to 30 minutes or 100% in about an hour. In practical application this would mean a trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg (1400km or 14 hours) would be covered in 18 hours given four stops.

Currently Tesla has eight supercharger stations in California and on the US East Coast. It has plans to add four stations in California before the end of 2013. More will be added from June 2013 to allow drivers to travel from Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle and Portland as well as from Austin to Dallas. Stations will also be available in Illinois and Colorado.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the stations would always be free for owners of its large-battery Model S. Owners of the lower-capacity version would have to pay for recharges.

Musk said most Tesla customers did not know about the supercharger stations and their existence would not have much of an impact on the company's current sales of 20 000 a year. "They want to know that they have that ability to do so, and at a moment's notice, to go wherever they want," he added. "I think it's really important for accessing a broader audience."

Tesla said by the end of 2013 it should have charging stations in most metro areas, with coast-to-coast travel available from 2014.

In 2014 the automaker expects to have charging stations within reach of 80% of drivers in the US and Canada and 98% by 2015.

Tesla said new technology was being tested that would will allow its cars to be fully recharged in about 20 minutes. The technology would be available at stations before the end of 2013.


Earlier in 2013, Wheels24 reported on Jason Kavanagh, engineering editor at the research firm edmunds.com, stating that battery-only electric vehicles were unlikely to get past 1% of the US market, even by 2040.

Kavanagh said: "Sitting around for eight hours waiting for your (Nissan) Leaf to charge up is not exactly a selling point. EV's have a sitting-on-your-ass factor that conventional cars do not."

"You would need a multitude of small nuclear power stations to support that recharging."

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*The actual figure accodring to Tesla is 335km for its 65kw variant. Apologies for any confusion


  • jeremy thorpe - 2013-06-04 10:39

    Well, I've been a critic of electric cars - but it certainly sounds as though Tesla are moving in the right direction. Good-looking car too! Hang on though...it still has a range of only 320km. That's a bit less than 3 hours highway driving.....so even though the top-up stops have been reduced to an hour, it still isn't practical for a long trip. I definitely could see myself driving one from Joburg to Pretoria and back daily though.....

      Omge Klits - 2013-06-04 17:14

      Top Tesla's have a range of up to 300 MILES

      Omge Klits - 2013-06-04 19:40

      And for the petrol sniffers who have thumbed down the 300 MILES range matter - here - go and read and leave the dark ages: http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric#range

  • John Retief - 2013-06-04 11:02

    "Imagine the strain on Eskom should electric vehicles become popular in SA?" When the load on the network decreases (i.e. any non-peak time), it does not mean that we generate less electricity. Coal power stations do not ever get shut down. Electricity is not like petrol which you can use less or more of as needed. If we introduce time based charges and have EV's charge at night, it will basically place no strain on the network and charge the cars at comparatively extremely little cost. I.e. Currently we burn fuel for cars, and waste coal at night to keep the power stations running. After EV's, we don't burn fuel at no longer waste the coal.

      Piet Strydom - 2013-06-04 16:32

      Some people that are looking toward the future, also see these vehicles as batteries for larger society - at night you charge them at home for very little cost, and then during the day/ peak power times, the flow gets reversed and you sell the excess power in your battery back to the energy company, leaving enough for your driving requirements for the day.

      Omge Klits - 2013-06-04 17:16

      Just to illustrate why I am not going to rely on the predictive powers of News24 and Jason Kavanagh, engineering editor at the research firm edmunds.com, to map out the future of electric cars for me: "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will be obtainable." -- Albert Einstein "Radio has no future." -- Lord Kelvin "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible." -- Lord Kelvin

  • Colin Shephard - 2013-06-04 11:35

    Instead of charge stations create battery change stations, stop pay and get your batteries exchanged for fully charged batteries in the same way filling stations are selling gas bottles.

      Regte Boer - 2013-06-04 12:32

      That will only work if all or most manufacturers standardise on batteries.

      chrisX - 2013-06-04 15:47

      Indeed, I think the only way is for the infrastructure to be in place that forces manufacturers to go with swappables. It's a real pity that our local taxi industry is so anti-competitive. Imagine if a local manufacturer had to roll out swappable battery electric taxis, they could probably halve the fares and cut down on huge amounts of smog at the same time. I doubt that would fly with the route-hogging racketeers who are currently running the show though..

  • Hendrik Voges - 2013-06-04 11:40

    Has anybody told these clever dudes about our Eskom? Just picture this: Nice vacation planned to visit the family in Joburg. For the 1st time in about 3 years nogal. And in your new electric car nogal. So, you get to Beaufort or where ever for a charge and a burger, and Eskom decides: Now is the moment! Out goes everything. Going fun in Africa and material for Shuster for a new song!!

      Omge Klits - 2013-06-04 19:41

      Musk is planning recharging stations that will run on photo voltaics. Can't imagine photo voltaic's having a problem in Beaufort-wes.

  • Erik Kasper Van Wyk - 2013-06-04 12:42

    SA does not have the infrastructure or managment to make electric cars succesful, but I do think diesel hybrids are the closest concept we are going to get to not using fuel at all. Why no diesel hybrid?

      Omge Klits - 2013-06-04 19:42

      And how have you determined that we don't have the capacity to make electric cars successful ? Opinionated much ? and how do you feel about the fact that the builder of last years car of the year (Tesla) hails from our neck of the woods ?

      jeremy thorpe - 2013-06-05 09:59

      Omge, I heard Elon Musk interviewed recently. He shows no enthusiasm for returning to SA, which presumably indicates that he doesn't have much faith in this country. Pity, becuase he really is the Bill Gates of the car and rocket industry...

  • Harold Nkgudi - 2013-06-05 13:37

    I guess it all depend where one position him/herself on the scale of diffusion and innovation curve.which ever position u are, you are probably right. For innovators and early adopters, progress is sure, possibilities for success plenty.The key issue for EV cars is not range but power storage of batteries. I think the next invention after computer is someone who can bring solution to increase battery capacity (60% or more, presently we are at 20%)to hold large energy whilst at the same time reducing battery size.edmunds.com, just like Jeremy Clark knows a lot about finished cars and not innovation and scaling, plus check who is their major sponsors? The old war between petroleum VS electric is coming back, and I guess petroleum is resisting change, they call themselves petrol heads even if diesel and hybrid are emerging. 7th millennium is quite interesting I guess.

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