Even with Expansion, Tesla Supercharger Stations Still Lacking


Charging Stations Today

In early April 2013, I wrote an article on why the electric car was not ready for prime-time use in the United States.  My reasons revolved around a large price-tag, questionable reliability, low-range batteries that require long periods to recharge, and lack of infrastructure in the U.S. to charge the cars.  Tesla, the beauty queen of EVs, and its lack of charging stations were the inspiration behind many of my problems with electric vehicles:

“[However] since stations are sparsely located in the Midwest, Dakotas, and Rockies (among other places), finding a place for your car to get its lightening juice may start to resemble a game of “Where’s Waldo?”

It seems Tesla realized that if it wanted real domination, it needed to expand its charging stations—and put pencil to paper to sketch out a possible solution.  Although a start, Tesla has a long way to go in order to both compete with gasoline and woo new buyers.

Note: Get ready to read lots of maps! Don’t worry, it’s good for you.


Charging Stations: Summer 2013 Expansion

Behold the newest map of green juice drive-ins!

According to Car&Driver Magazine, Tesla is planning on “tripling” the number of existing supercharger stations by the end of the month…but don’t get too excited, as only 8 stations currently exist. Additional Supercharger stations will be set up within the coming years — to eventually create a national charging network. All future charging stations will be free and will cut the current charging time from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.

This is a decent start for Tesla — at least there will be more than a dozen stations currently available. However, the majority of the stations scheduled to be built by the end of this month will (still) be located on the coasts. Tesla’s “expansion map” shows that the Midwest will only receive two supercharger stations for phase I of expansion. One will be located near (what looks to be) Rockville, IL. This station will be 1 hour west of Chicago and 2.5 hours from Milwaukee, WI. The other Midwest station will be placed around Peoria, IL (think mid-Illinois).  The remaining stations will be placed in various pockets around the country. Colorado and Virginia will each pick up one station, Texas will gain two, and Florida will receive three. By Fall 2013, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana will all have at least one supercharger station – -but don’t plan a road-trip to the east coast just yet. Drivers would have to travel past Niagara Falls, through Canada, to pick up the nearest supercharger station in New York state. By Winter 2013, drivers will be able to make a cross-country trip—but only through the lower Midwest states, across the state of Wisconsin, into Minnesota, across South Dakota, through the mountains of Colorado, across Utah, into Nevada, and into Southern California.


Charging stations: Winter 2013 Expansion


Charging Stations: Expansion by 2015

Again, although Tesla is planning a major expansion phase, its charging stations will still be few and far between — even in metropolitan areas. The city of cheese and beer (Milwaukee), which has a population of more than half-a-million people, will only have one station. The “ya betchas” in Minneapolis, MN apparently aren’t worthy of a station. Meanwhile, one of the biggest cities in the region (and home of “da bears”), Chicago, won’t receive a supercharger station. Tesla owners in Chicago will have to drive an hour west to Rockville or south-east into Indiana to fill up their car. Peoria gets a station over Chicago? Odd.

I’m sure the “placement” of these stations is based on some sort of market research, but if Musk is serious about getting everyone into Teslas, he needs to actually place the supercharger stations in places that have people. It doesn’t make much sense to skip places like Chicago or Minneapolis. Maybe he just hates the Bears and the Vikings? Consumers (in/outside cities) are less likely to switch to a Tesla if they don’t have a station anywhere near them and/or if they know they will be unable to locate charging stations — even in LARGE cities — when traveling.

The “expansion map” only shows progress through 2015. Is that the end of expansion or is that just all that has been planned so far? Although Tesla is making a concrete effort to grow, Elon Musk has more planning to do — and the smart priority would be to equip some of the county’s largest metropolitan areas. I thought that was the point all along, Mr. Musk…?