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Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Tesla Supercharger Network Will Help You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse

May 31st, 2013 by  

Unless you’ve been pickled in The Walking Dead reruns for the past 24 hours, you are probably aware that Elon Musk, co-founder of the US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, hosted a media roundtable on Thursday to let loose with yet another big announcement regarding the company’s Supercharger EV charging station network, which provides owners of the Model S sedan with free fast-charging services. Boy are we glad CleanTechnica got a seat at the table, because we got a chance to ask the one thing we are dying to know: what’s the next Tesla model to roll off the assembly line gonna look like?

Tesla Motors announces upgraded Supercharger network

Tesla Model S (cropped) by tjdt.

The New Tesla Supercharger Announcement

Okay, so we admit up front that the Tesla Supercharger announcement was pretty big news — a dramatic, rapid expansion of the free, fast-charging network — but for regular readers of CleanTechnica (and our sister site, the gist of the technology is probably old hat by now, including the zombie apocalypse survival advantages.

If you’re trying to figure out where the zombies come in, one highlight of the roundtable occurred when Musk mentioned the actual and current potential for integrating onsite renewable energy harvesting and storage at Supercharger stations, which all things being equal would enable you to get a fix for your Tesla Model S even if zombies take over everything and the grid goes down.

Musk is obviously not alone in his anticipation of a zombie apocalypse, because exactly such a solar-powered EV charging system with onsite energy storage was introduced back in February at an Indiana shopping mall by a trio of heavy hitters: Simon Property Group, Duke Energy, and Toshiba. The idea is that anybody using that station can be sure of getting a 100% solar-powered charge, even on a cloudy day.

Let us also note for the record that a suburban shopping mall is the perfect location for a zombie apocalypse-hardy EV charging station, as anyone who has seen the original George Romero film Dawn of the Dead can attest. (Disclaimer: yes, the Monroeville Mall was a huge deal if you grew up in Pittsburgh, even before the zombies took it over. I was there. I know. And you know what, in terms of shopping, there is no contest between your local mall and your local prison).

Tesla Motors And EV Affordability

Speaking of shopping, whenever the zombie apocalypse hits, you sure better get dibs on the coolest car around (okay, so motorcycle if you’re that cool), and affordability is not an obstacle if there is nothing standing between you and that spanking new Model S but a herd of hungry zombies.

However, until that day comes about, affordability is an obstacle, and that’s where things start to get interesting.

Previously during the roundtable, Musk had emphasized that the Tesla Motors goal was to provide its customers with “total freedom of travel,” with the free Supercharger network providing a “sense of freedom” and “the ability to go almost anywhere.” He also reminisced at length about a road trip he took 20 years ago, from Los Angeles to New York City with plenty of room to ramble between the Grand Canyon to Chicago and other points of interest.

Put all that together and you come up with a charging network built around the free-to-travel lifestyle of someone who is not tied down by a full time job or family responsibilities, say if you were still in school or you were a hippie or whatever, but it’s paired with a car that requires you to have a career and be bringing in the big bucks.

So, is Tesla Motors looking to build a car that’s more of a mashup between the Supercharger lifestyle and EV ownership? A reporter from Autoweek Magazine got into the subject by asking how Tesla Motors plans to reach the mass market, and Musk’s reply included tackling the Tesla affordability issue with a new model due out somewhere around 2017, which while by no means cut-rate should come in at about half the cost of a Model S. (He also emphasized that the nationwide, free Supercharger was a critical part of that.)

But What’s It Gonna Look Like?

Relatedly, we wanted to know Tesla’s plans for styling an affordable EV around the Supercharger lifestyle — maybe not going so far as a hand-painted school bus, but something a little more expressive of youth and freedom (case in point: Google’s advertising algorithm has decided that this article goes nicely with a pitch for AARP).

However, although the car might include some unique features, don’t expect a significant departure from the Model S. According to Musk, the forthcoming “affordable” model will be based on the Model S platform and styling, only smaller.

Phooey. But, in answer to our question, Musk did bring up an important point about designing an affordable car. Yes, one factor is to build less car, but the manufacturing process itself also plays a decisive role in determining the sticker price.

Musk alluded to a more affordable model that would be “easier to manufacture,” which could mean any number of things given that US industry has been transitioning to new high-tech manufacturing platforms, including advanced robotics, 3-D printing, and self-assembling materials.

If you have any guesses for what the Tesla Motors assembly line of the future could look like, feel free to drop a comment in the thread.

Oh, and did we mention to stay tuned for another big Tesla Motors announcement on June 20?

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Pieter Siegers

    Of course, future charging will be wireless, such as the ABB bus that charges in just 15 seconds I just read about. The next step is however not use an arm but we’ll drive while loading batteries and then onto the next load strip. And then, hefty battery banks are not that important anymore. Just dreaming ahead… innovation can’t be stopped!

  • JamesWimberley

    The bad news is that Tesla superchargers are proprietary, and not usable on other EVs. This is ridiculous, since there are industry standards. Moniz should bang some heads together. Imagine a network of gasoline stations in 1920 only usable by Fords and another for Chevrolets.

    • Ross

      Being proprietary didn’t turn out too bad for Apple. There are a growing number of regular EV charging points. If I was a Tesla driver I’d be attracted to the super charger network knowing that the hoi polloi Nissan Leaf drivers wouldn’t be clogging up the Super Charger.

    • eject

      We will see if this remains the case. While they will charge the Model S for free (and presumably the Model X as well) this certainly will change over time when and if there are Tesla models in the lower price ranges and therefore loads of them. So they will introduce a charging model for charging (haha). But my main point is, they do supply technology to Toyota and Mercedes (Daimler) and Mercedes has supplied some money and also supplies various Mercedes tested and approved parts for the Model S and thereby giving Tesla the possibility of access to known good parts without too much need for durability testing. I am sure Mercedes does want access to this charging network given that it installs the Tesla drive train into the B class and presumably more models over time.

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  • Skotty

    Why “Phooey”? If the more affordable Tesla is based on the model S architecture and styling, it will really set itself apart from other non-Tesla EVs by being fast, functional, long range, and sexy. Something other EVs generally aren’t. Sounds like a thumbs up to me.

    • J_JamesM

      No kidding! I have always thought one of the very, very few undesirable qualities of the model S- at least when it comes to my needs- is that it is a titanic land-whale that weighs in excess of two and a half tons. The car’s huge. And broad. It’s actually wider, heavier and just as long as a Chrysler 300, which in and of itself is an immense barge of a car.

      So a mini-model S, something the size of maybe a Toyota Camry or something, but still possessing that awesome fastback body style, would be ideal. And toning back on the cost is probably the best part.

      • Ross

        In Europe a Toyota Camry is considered a barge. Anything bigger is massive. Sales of it ended in 2004.

        An even smaller Tesla suited to us short Europeans with narrow streets and low protein diets would be good.

        • J_JamesM

          Wow, so even a Camry is considered huge? It’s completely different here in the States. My truck is 17 feet long, seats six and is a V-8. It’s considered, at least in my area, to be “small.” That’s because it has only 4 wheels instead of six, two doors instead of four, and hasn’t been “lifted” and given huge monster-truck-like tires.

          Even so, parking it, even in our huge American lots, is a lot like trying to thread a Zeppelin through a needle. I can’t imagine how hard it is for “big” trucks…

          • Ross

            It isn’t all epigenetic effects from our grand parents having to eat rations during the war. The price of petrol & diesel is double what it is in America.

            The running costs of EVs are consequently ultra attractive.

            Engines are taxed by CO2 emissions so the vast majority of cars are small 4 cylinder ones.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, there’s the issue of a lot of your streets being only wide enough for two cows to pass. And parking limited to narrow sidewalks. ;o)

            (When in Europe I spend most of my time in the ‘more interesting to me’ older parts of cities. Driving a full sized American car would be a nightmare on those streets.)

          • J_JamesM

            I’m not even referring to the size of the people(have you seen some of those Scandinavians?), I was thinking about how difficult it would be to park, or even just squeeze through those itty-bitty roads.

            But now that I think of it, the gas costs would be nightmarish for anything bigger than a four-door sedan, wouldn’t they?

          • Ross

            My country Ireland has tax bands A, B, .., G according to the CO2 emissions. 94% of the passenger vehicles sold are in bands A & B. With 2/3rds of them in band A. My car is an Audi A4 in band A (<120g CO2 / Km)

            Electric Vehicles pay no vehicle registration tax (on the sale price) and get a grant of €5,000. There's also no annual motor tax on them and the cost of the electricity (for the Nissan Leaf) is 1c/km.

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