LOS ANGELES — Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car company led by Elon Musk, plans to build a network of solar- powered chargers on major U.S. highways to expand the driving range for owners of its cars at no charge.
Tesla has installed the first six of its so-called superchargers on highways in California, Nevada and Arizona, Musk said yesterday at its design studio in Hawthorne, California. The system recharges Tesla’s Model S sedan at a 100- kilowatt rate, providing power for three hours of highway driving within just 30 minutes, the company said.
The system provides “a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Musk, who is also the Palo Alto, California company’s biggest shareholder. “We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight.”
A network of fast-charge devices on U.S. highways is a way to overcome the problem of limited range, one of the challenges automakers cite for battery-powered cars. Tesla, named for inventor Nikola Tesla, wants to become profitable as early as next year from sales of its $57,400 Model S and by supplying battery packs and motors to investors Daimler AG and Toyota Motor Corp.
The company’s goal is to deliver at least 20,000 Model S sedans next year and achieve a gross profit margin of more than 25 percent, Musk told Bloomberg Television on Sept. 21. The superchargers are designed to work with versions of Model S with 85-kilowatt hour battery packs that allow the cars to go more than 200 miles per charge, Tesla said.
The superchargers cost $250,000 each and can power four to six cars at one time, Musk said. Tesla plans to install 100 of these super-chargers at a cost of $20 million to $30 million over the next three to four years, he said.
Following the first six charging stations, with power supplied by SolarCity Corp., a Musk-backed solar panel installer, Tesla said it aims to install superchargers in busy traffic corridors across the U.S., “enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York.”
Tesla said it also plans to begin opening superchargers in Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.
Tesla rose 2.1 percent to $30.66 at the close yesterday in New York. The shares have gained 7.4 percent this year.
Copyright 2012 Bloomberg