One of the more obvious obstacles to the adoption of EVs that Saab will undoubtedly face is long distance travel using Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). It’s the big reason why most companies to date are also focusing on including a motor generator on their EVs and thus building Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs). But adding a conventional fuel powered generator onto an electric car adds cost and complexity, which changes the chemistry requirements for the battery and yields a much lower range than if the car were simply battery powered. Since NEVS has stated their intention of first going the BEV route with their first production model based on the existing Saab 9-3, it’s worth a look at one very interesting solution unveiled this week.
Tesla decided to go the pure EV route, and chose to deal with range anxiety in a pretty radical yet simple way. This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a network of spaceship-like stations dubbed Superchargers. Each station can charge four to six cars at a time, and costs about $250,000 to build. They’re charged by a high voltage power supply presumably pulls it’s power from the grid, with PV (solar) panels that feed power back into the grid to offset the load. At the moment only the Model S and future Tesla vehicles are able to take advantage of the superchargers. It takes about 30 minutes to fill up a car with 100kW, which is about enough for 3 hours at 60mph. Obviously that’s not enough for most SU readers, who want less than 10 minutes and 4 hours at 75mph+, but for first-of-its-kind technology that actually exists today, it isn’t too shabby. There are already a number of other companies with similar plans, Better Place, NRG Energy, Ecotality and Coulomb to name a few, but it’s obvious that Tesla will have a serious presence along highways in major urban areas very soon.
Tesla will be plunking down approximately $20-30 million to build out a network over Europe, Asia and North America over the next two years, and Musk claims that the major corridors in the US will be completely built out over that time. Because Tesla has developed much of the Model S charging tech in house, their costs are minimal and because Musk also runs a major Solar Panel company, SolarCity, the panels used to charge the batteries at each station off the grid will also be cheaper. For an indefinite amount of time, Tesla plans to allow their owners to charge their cars free at these stations, since the power is mostly coming from PV panels which are already paid and accounted for. I could easily see them licensing their charger tech to EV companies like NEVS to allow for compatibility, and charging a small fee to these companies. I’d hope that NEVS strategically partner with at least some EV infrastructure company for reduced rate charging.
What’s amazing to me is that this technology even exists. When we heard about EV recharging stations a few years ago, even this supercharging tech seemed far off. Yet here in 2012, there are working examples ready to be deployed across the world. By 2014, when the first NEVS Saabs are driving off the line, they’ll be online. It begs the question, would you be okay with a 30 minute quick charge for 180 miles of driving if it was included in the cost of your car? After all, by the time you take a bathroom break, buy a drink, fill up your tank and stretch your legs at a rest stop, haven’t you already spent close to 20 minutes?