What’s that Spaceship at the Rest Stop?

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?

Bravada from GMI
Member
4 years 4 days ago

Before I read the article and had a closer look, the photo appeared to me to show the 9-3 to stand side-by-side with the new Mazda Atenza (6). It would have been so cool if Mazda and Saab got together in the end, and combined (mass-market brand + premium-brand) became the offbeat innovative automaker that would provide a viable alternative to the less open-minded major manufacturers.

JH
Member
4 years 3 days ago

I don’t think it’s a Mazda, but rather a Tesla Model S. Otherwise I completely agree! Mazda has some sort of spirit in itself, like Saab, and is definitely my second choice when it comes to cars (after Saab).

MeanSabean
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Mazda. Sucks! The most expensive Jap car to repair and maintain!

GerritN
Member
4 years 4 days ago
“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” Well, that seems like a new way of looking at it, but actually it still comes back to the difference between people driving only short distances and people driving long distances. For short distances this is of course great, but since most shorties will only drive 20-30 miles max per day it wouldn’t be a big advantage other than it is free. For long distance driving it just means that you have to take a… Read more »
SpinM
Member
4 years 4 days ago
“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” I am tempted to say yes, though considering my usual needs, I would bring the car authonomy capabilities to the limit. On rare occasions, when I take a long distance ride (close to 1000 km/day or several thousand km’s over a week or two, the car would be close to useless).There are two questions though: 1. Can the battery really deliver 250 km of authonomy?… or is that just an idealised number, like advertised fuel… Read more »
Ivan
Member
4 years 4 days ago

Look at the second picture. We all know which car is right, but what about two cars left of the 9-3? Tat is not 9-5. New 9-3 maybe? Looks nice.
Ivan

Ken H
Member
4 years 4 days ago

Those are Tesla Model S. The Saab has been photoshopped into the picture.

kochje
Member
4 years 4 days ago

This shows clearly how technology is developping fastly and a lot of us were not aware of this.
What more will be developped by the time the first BEV Saab comes off the line?
Hope we all will be positively surprised and have to re-think our comments which we might have today.
Nice article Jeff, thanks

Red J
Member
4 years 4 days ago
I like to see Tesla as a game changer in the Automotive Industry, but they are getting more and more like Apple. I mean, the whole industry has agreed on a standard connector for AC and DC charging, Tesla is using its own, making Tesla Drivers rely on Tesla’s own Supercharger Network. Imagine BMW using triangular orifice to fill the tank. Tesla brings more or less existing technology to the people and is selling it as ground braking, DC 400V 250A charging stations are state of the Art. Don’t get me wrong, I love companies like Tesla that try to… Read more »
Ken H
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Tesla has only started up and is still facing an uncertain future, and you think they are already becoming like Apple…? Seriously…

Tesla is offering this now as an answer to all the questions about range, to make their own new Model S more attractive. Wouldn’t it be a bit suicidal to offer this technology to their own competitor before they even have a foothold themselves…?

Red J
Member
4 years 3 days ago
Ken, I think we have different views on what does it mean to be like Apple. For me “Apple” is a company that creates great products, but many times I get the impression that they do things differently for the sake of being different and not because it offers a really better user experience. Where I live there is a E-station where you can charge your EV for free. If somebody buys a Tesla S here, he won’t be able to charge his car for free, and will have to wait that Tesla also builds a Supercharger Station here, or… Read more »
JH
Member
4 years 3 days ago

The best would be to have electromagnetic inductive charging plates in the roads, so we can charge while driving! But I guess it’s unrealistic… 😉

Dan P
Member
4 years 3 days ago

I was about to say the same thing. It’d be like the shield regeneration sections of track in games like Wipeout and F-Zero (sorry to those who I just lost!). It’s unrealistic.. for now!

Allan B
Member
4 years 2 days ago

I reckon that is how we will be charging them eventually. Or something like it. But, you know, baby steps first. 🙂

Carma
Member
4 years 3 days ago
Funny that, on a website about a swedish company in the year of 2012, it still does not come naturally to use the metric system. Why can’t the english speaking contries (and persons) get with the program already,and stop using bodyparts for measurments (like feet and thumbs)? Did you know that a yard was defined as the distance between the tip of the nose to the tip of the thumb, arm extended? How silly is that? (On a metric scale) Anyway, 180 miles is almost 300 km, and that would certainly be good enough for me. Maybe 30 minutes is… Read more »
hans h
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Good points. Both of them. 😉

Dan P
Member
4 years 3 days ago

The worse problem is if there’s a queue. But things can only get better. This is just the very start, and it’s bloody exciting.

phermansson
Member
4 years 3 days ago

I think we should all measure distance in the Nautical system because that is the only system which is most accurate, which is why its used in the world of Aviation…

As for language I feel its a bit sad that latin didn’t catch on, it was after all the unified language for several hundred years and its still used extensively in the science community.

Allan B
Member
4 years 2 days ago

I think we should go the whole nine yards and change everything to metric. Ett Brittisk ordsprak 😉

900 classic cab
Guest
4 years 3 days ago

Could anyone imagine back in the early 1900s the current range of our cars ? Very few could afford a car back then. Batteries will get us there too…

hans h
Member
4 years 3 days ago

And back in around 1900 you had to buy your petrol at the pharmatists.

900 classic cab
Guest
4 years 3 days ago

good point 🙂

Carlo A
Member
4 years 3 days ago

The simplest idea is a battery exchange system …. I stop change the empty batteries and go …. but it would mean standardised batteries size for all manufacturers

phermansson
Member
4 years 3 days ago
The problem with battery exchange system is that you need to have the batteries in a modular installation. Compare the system with laptops where you could remove the battery with today’s apple laptops which have them integrated and spread out inside the computer. Thats also the idea with cars. You could get about 30% more range out of your batteries if you spread them out and integrate them into the car itself rather than grouping them in its own connected “box”… Imagine every little cavity in the car where there really is “nothing” today is being filled up with a… Read more »
Silas
Member
4 years 3 days ago

What if you married those two ideas together? I’ve had the idea of the battery exchange too and you could still do that. How the manufactured the car to have extra batteries scattered throughout the car is what would separate makes and models.

GerritN
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Just replace the whole car!

Börjesson
Member
4 years 3 days ago

There was a story in Dagens Nyheter just the other day about Swedish research into making the whole chassis of the car into one big battery. Far to go before the technology is ready, of course, but it certainly raises interesting possibilities. (And interesting questions. What would happen in a collision, for instance?)
http://www.dn.se/ekonomi/svenska-forskare-gor-hela-bilen-till-batteri

Svein Arne Børresen
Member
4 years 3 days ago
Red an interviw with one of the bosses at Toyota how stated that Toyota has completely dropped theri plans for developing more 100%EV-cars as they belives that hybrid solutions are the future. Hybrid based on batteries combined with gas/diesel/fuelcell etc. I totally agree with him. Here in Norway we have had a manufacturer of small city-EVs, the Think car, for years which even Ford owned for a while. I think they have gone bankrupt 6 or 7 times. Good luck NEVS with only EVS – you are doomed. Good luck NEVS with EVS AND hybrids – you will have a… Read more »
JasonPowell
Member
4 years 3 days ago
I tend to agree because it’s a mindset thing. It is much easier to sell a car that offers both because if you run out of EV power you then have gas to fall back on. For the customer who thinks what if my battery goes dead? A hybrid is the step in the door that opens their mind to an EV because they get to experience both. Maybe the next car is a fully electric EV after they have driven the hybrid. I’ve driven hybrids that run on EV and have to say the feeling is cool except that… Read more »
Trollblazer
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Very interesting stuff…
but (just for fun) let me answer with a great music video ‘A Little Gasoline’ sung by a wonderfull lady from one of the most beautiful places on Earth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPv2rhax0FA
😉 🙂

Bernard
Member
4 years 3 days ago
I think that this sort of solution is fine for most customers. It means that you can get from LA to Las Vegas with just one pit stop. That’s about as far as most people will go without flying or taking a train. One of the advantages of electric cars is that you can start each day with a full tank. An occasional 30 minute wait at a charging station has to be weighed against recurring 15 minute stops for refueling non-electric cars. I really doubt that most electric car owners will need to use public chargers at all. If… Read more »
adams
Member
4 years 3 days ago

The Tesla Supercharger should catch the eye of female motorists …

phermansson
Member
4 years 3 days ago

I was thinking exactly the same thing but didn’t really have the guts to mention it =P

SaabKen
Member
4 years 3 days ago

So the Supercharger is a um, male plug ? 😉

scand
Member
4 years 3 days ago
What Tesla is doing is great, and the model S really looks good, especially from the outside. (A close friend is number 8000 or so on the waiting list). The big if, is whether the company can get from A to B without crashing: it is burning cash at a really alarming rate, its not meeting its production forecasts, and its essentially using later customer deposits to build earlier cars, which is slightly ponzi scheming it. they won a break on the government loan payment, but the result is they possibly have to pay the whole thing off earlier. f… Read more »
saabyurk
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Having just watched the video, I am starting to feel some excitement about what SAAB/NEVS can offer us in the future. I wish sincerely hope Tesla can accomplish what they have set out to do, and the same for NEVS.

Dave
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Ok, the first thing that popped in my mind after seeing that picture, was: “hmmm, if people here already object to having windmills around, because they spoil the view, make to much noise, and gods know what other reasons, how well are they going to react about a glowing, humming supersized dildo in the neighbourhood ??”

Other then that, i must admit on paper it does sound like a nifty idea… Time will tell all 🙂

Dave
Member
4 years 3 days ago

by that i mean, if charges can be sped up significantly in the near future…. i don’t see having to pull over for 30 minutes to fill up as practical tbho.
once down to 5 minutes or less…

Aerobic
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Still not convinced by all this electrickery. Fast charging systems have been developed in the past, but they have always shortened the life of the battery being charged. It’s possibly OK as an emergency system, but it would be hugely expensive if the battery life was reduced to 25%/30% of its expected life on a series of overnight slow charges.

And then the governments will want to find a way of replacing lost petrol/diesel tax revenue, so the price of something will rise a lot.

3cyl
Member
4 years 3 days ago

Consider a road tax at the charging station. Then BEV owners would not have to carry the guilt of driving on roads they were not paying for. The extra weight would reduce range.

Allan B
Member
4 years 2 days ago

This was another interesting article. Thanks. I must admit I, too, am puzzled about the big phallus. Perhaps it is a way of convincing luddite petrol-heads that EVs are for MEN not sissies. Mind you, I suspect the lady drivers will be intrigued by it too. So it’s a win-win. Genius.

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