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Environment & Science

Tesla raises ante for electric vehicles, introduces new Supercharger

On Monday night, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk stood before a crowd at the company's Hawthorne design studio and introduced his latest game-changer in the world of electric vehicles. World, meet the Supercharger

Nevermind the smoke screen, the spooky Gregorian trance music or the fact that the Supercharger looks like a prop borrowed from Tomorrowland; this is vintage Elon Musk, and he just dropped a bomb on us, baby.

Musk spelled out the three main criticisms to today's EV's - they are low range, expensive, and ultimately not carbon neutral - and then gave three solutions that Tesla has come up with through their new product. First, the Supercharger will be able to fully re-charge cars in 1 hour (with a Tesla Model-S sedan's 265 mile range, you could drive from LA to SF and stop for just a 30 minute charge). Second, the charging stations will provide exclusively solar energy and will be free to use. Third, they estimate that the stations will (at least for now) generate more energy than cars will consume, and so Tesla will put excess energy onto the grid, making this whole system carbon negative. At the end of the speech Musk proclaimed that drivers will now be able to travel "for free, forever, on pure sunlight."

Tesla has already secretly installed 6 of these stations - costing roughly a quarter million dollars each - throughout California (Folsom, Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Barstow, Tejon Ranch and Los Angeles) and they plan to have 100 stations operating throughout the country by 2015. From there Tesla plans to expand the system to Europe and Asia - that is, if Musk hasn't by then invented a flying car that runs on feces. Wait, what?

Now to the annoying part: the new Supercharger stations are only compatible with Tesla's Model-S cars, and even then only ones equipped with an 85kW-h battery, at least for now. According to Wired there are only about a hundred Model-S's on the road, meaning that so far this is good news to just a handful of people. On top of that, investors learned today the company will not meet its end-of-year Model-S production targets, so you won't see heaps of these sedans hitting the highways just yet.