The Tesla Model S has exceeded sales forecasts, which has helped the company pay back its Department of Energy loans years in advance. To encourage long-distance travel, the automaker is speeding up its plan to install Supercharger charging stations all over the U.S. and today we got a first look at Tesla's plans.
By the end of next month, the number of operational Supercharger stations will triple, and the company claims that within six months, there will be enough Superchargers to service most major metro areas in North America. A year from now, the company says, Superchargers will provide coverage to 80 percent of the population of North America and 98 percent a year later.
The automaker also announced that new technology will significantly cut charging times. While the chargers at 120 kW are in beta test mode (versus 90 kW currently), the faster chargers will be ready this summer. At 120 kW, Tesla claims it will only take 20 minutes to replenish three hours of driving in the Model S.
Some Tesla Supercharger stations have roof-mounted solar panels (from Musk-owned SolarCity) that are said to pump more electricity back into the grid than what is used to recharge cars. Since the Tesla Supercharger has a unique charger receptacle, the stations can't charge other EVs. Currently, Model S cars with the 85 kW-hr batteries can recharge for free, while those with the 60 kW-hr model can do the same once they purchase Supercharger capability. Musk says all future Teslas will be capable of using the Superchargers.
So what's next for Tesla? The company is still kicking around the idea of a sub-$40,000 electric sedan as well as a high-torque electric truck and a second production plant in Texas. Of course, those models would likely arrive after the Model X crossover goes on sale around late 2014 and early 2015.