Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tesla Installs the First Florida Supercharger Stations in Port Saint Lucie and Fort Myers

by Lawrence Chanin, Founder of Florida Tesla Motors Club


What is a Tesla?

Tesla is a California-based automobile manufacturer that exclusively makes zero emission, battery electric vehicles (BEVs).  Currently it is producing the Model S which is a luxury sports sedan that seats five adults and, and with optional rear-facing seats, two addition children.  Lately the Model S has been shaking up the auto industry by receiving numerous awards including the prestigious Motor Trend Car of the Year Award, beating all cars, not just electric vehicles. It also has received Consumer Reports highest score ever for any car.  The Model S has very large batteries and, depending on the size the owner purchases, it can travel between 208 - 265 miles on a charge based on EPA testing.   

How do you usually charge a Model S?
Like most BEVs the Model S does most of its charging at home overnight.  Based on typical driver daily commutes it usually only needs to be topped off overnight like your cell phone and rarely needs a full charge. While it can charge from a normal 110v outlet, in most instances this is not practical since for the larger battery it could take as much as 66 hours.  Most owners install a high capacity 240 volt outlet in their garage similar to an electric dryer outlet.  This operates at 40 amps and can fully charge the car in about 8 hours.  For those who need faster charging a device called a High Power Wall Connector can be installed. It also operates at 240 volts and 80 amps and will fully charge the car in about 4 hours.

Because of its large battery, the Model S needs a lot of power to charge in a reasonable amount of time.  Unfortunately the vast majority of public charging stations have a capacity that is lower than the owner’s home charging source and only charges at 30 amps.  As a result public chargers are frequently not practical for Model S owners to use when traveling long distances beyond their range.  The notable exception is when they are installed at hotels where the owner can conveniently charge overnight.

The charging discussed above is done with alternating current (AC).  The car has one or two on-board chargers that take the AC electricity from these outlets or connectors and converts it to direct current (DC) that the battery needs.

What is a Tesla Supercharger? 
A  Tesla Supercharger is an industrial device that bypasses the Model S’s on-board AC chargers and feeds very large amounts of DC directly into the Model S battery at high voltage.  This can be as high as 255 amps at 380 volts.  What this means is that a Model S can obtain around 150 miles of range in as little as 20 minutes.  

What is a Supercharger Station?
A Supercharger Station is a collection of Superchargers that are being strategically built near major highways across the country at host locations.  Supercharger stations are located near amenities like roadside diners, cafes, and shopping centers. A Model S owner can stop for a quick meal, a restroom break and have their Model S charged when they’re done.   They are placed to allow owners to drive from station to station with minimal stops. Ultimately the network of stations is being built to permit travel across the country.  Tesla states that by 2015 98% of the US population and parts of Canada will be covered by the network. 

It is Tesla’s objective, where ever possible, is to add canopies over the charging parking spaces, and to install photovoltaic arrays on the canopies.  Tesla plans to eventually install more solar electric capacity than the fleet of Model Ss are consuming and to therefore produce a net positive flow of energy to the grid.

What does it cost to charge at a Supercharger Station?
There is no cost to charge at a Supercharger Station, for the life of the Model S even if it is sold to another owner.  So for road trips Model S owners are driving for free, forever, and eventually on sunlight.

Line up of Model Ss at Supercharger Station at Gulf Coast 
Town Center in Fort Myers.  Photo credit: Alexis Meyer
So with that background, it should be obvious that the arrival of a Supercharger stations in Florida is a very big deal for Model S owners, but also to anyone who is concerned about the environment. 

It’s also a big deal for the local economy.  Joann Faiella, the Mayor of Port Saint Lucie said she read the positive press about the Model S and the Supercharging stations and had the vision to see that encouraging charging infrastructure in her town would be good for local businesses.  So she reached out to Tesla to build the first Superchargers in the state and they did.  For the ribbon cutting ceremony two dozen Teslas charged up for free.  Afterwards the crowd of Tesla owners with their family and friends enjoyed the restaurants conveniently located nearby.  This is not a one-time event.  From now on individual Model S owners will converge on Port Saint Lucie as they travel up and down I-95 to top off their batteries and enjoy the local amenities.

The day after the Port Saint Lucie opening, a Supercharger station at the Gulf Coast Town Center in Fort Myers had its ribbon cutting ceremony.  Both locations have charging stations to permit 8 Model Ss to charge simultaneously.
Line up of Model Ss at Supercharger Station at Port Saint Lucie Town Center.
Photo credit: Lawrence Chanin

Kevin Kessekert, Tesla Director, Supercharger Deployment listens to Mayor Joann Feaiella
 address the crowd at the Port Saint Lucie Supercharger ribbon cutting ceremony.
Photo credit: Lawrence Chanin

The Supercharger’s heavy electrical cable is about as thick as a gasoline hose.
Photo credit: Lawrence Chanin