Posted on December 29, 2016 by Matt Pressman
Guest Blog Post: Charles Morris is the Senior Editor of Charged, the magazine of electric vehicles, for which he writes a daily blog and regular print articles. He's also written five books including Tesla Motors: How Elon Musk and Company Made Electric Cars Cool, and Sparked the Next Tech Revolution.
Electric vehicle (EV) ranges are getting longer every year, and that means that charging levels must increase as well. Recently, five automakers pledged to to deploy 400 ultra-fast (350 kW) charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe. And, several companies, including EVgo, Porsche and Phoenix Contact, are also deploying or developing more powerful proprietary charging systems.
Surprise! Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] may have something in the works that will outdo them all. CEO Elon Musk has been dropping hints about a next-generation Supercharger V3, with charging levels much higher than the 145 kW delivered by the latest Superchargers. In response to a question from Electrek’s Fred Lambert, Elon Musk recently tweeted, “A mere 350 kW...what are you referring to, a children’s toy?”
Although current EVs can’t handle that much power (yet), it’s quite possible that the new battery cells Tesla plans to make at the Gigafactory for Model 3 have been designed to work with higher charging levels. Musk has also hinted that solar arrays and Powerpack stationary storage could allow some Supercharger V3 stations to operate off-grid. Another rumored feature, the “robotic snake cable,” could enable hands-free autonomous charging for self-driving vehicles.
Higher power levels are a necessity for longer-range EVs, and if they could really be pushed significantly higher than 350 kW, charging times could be shortened, perhaps to as little as 10 minutes. That’s getting pretty close to the time it takes to tank up an old-fashioned gas burner, and could be “the very last piece of the puzzle,” as Mr. Lambert puts it, that would seal the victory of electrons over fossils.
Lambert also points out another intriguing possibility: Supercharger V3 could increase Tesla’s income from California ZEV credits. Under current ZEV rules, vehicles with over 300 miles of range and a charging time of 15 minutes are eligible for 9 credits instead of the 4 that current EVs earn. This was intended to give a boost to fuel cell vehicles, but it could apply to a future ultrafast-charging Tesla Model 3.
At an estimated price of $4,000 per credit, Tesla could theoretically earn as much as $36,000 for every vehicle sold in California - a tidy sum indeed when multiplied by 300,000 or so Model S. But before you start snapping up (even more) TSLA stock, note that this is pretty speculative stuff. As far as we know, Model S can’t do 300 miles/15 minutes... at least not yet. Flooding the market with ZEV credits would surely cause the prices to drop, and the rules could change once CARB realizes that fuel cells are a dead end... or that Tesla stands to take a few hundred million bucks off the other automakers for ZEV credits.