By Giles Parkinson on 31 October 2014
Tesla Motors – the transformative US-based electric vehicle manufacturer that is about to launch its product in Australia – is looking to power its network of supercharging stations with solar.
The decision should not be surprising. Tesla is installing solar-powered superchargers in its network in China, and it will make sense in Australia – given its excellent solar resources and that the alternative – relying entirely on the main grid will deliver costly electricity that comes mostly from coal-fired power stations.
Tesla is keeping quiet about the details of its launch plans in Australia, with the exact timing yet to be announced, and likely dependant on establishing its first service centre in Artarmon, on Sydney’s lower north shore.
But solar will almost certainly be a core part of its strategy and marketing for the first part of the network that will link Sydney and Melbourne, and presumably Canberra. As founder and CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month when officially launching Tesla in Japan:
“I’m a big proponent of solar. I think the combination of solar and electric cars can actually work extremely well for a country like Japan. There’s actually enough sun on Japan to completely power Japan with just solar. Many times over.”
And that would certainly be the case in Australia, which has some of the best solar resources in the world, and the highest prices for residential and business consumers. “We have done this overseas and we are investigating the possibility locally,” Tesla spokesman Heat Walker said.
RenewEconomy understands that all, or nearly all, of the first group of customers who will take delivery of the first privately owned Teslas in Australia will use rooftop solar in their homes to charge their cars. Walker said this would be cost-effective for the EV owners.
One customer told RenewEconomy he had just added another 3.5kW solar array to boost the rooftop capacity on his Sydney home to more than 7kW. He hopes to prove that this will generate enough electricity over the course of the year to supply both the home and the car. Battery storage will mean less imports and exports back into the grid.
Musk, of course, is also chairman of SolarCity, the largest installer of residential solar in the US, which is now bundling solar systems with battery storage, and looking at how they can be also bundled with Tesla batteries – at least using the battery cells for stationary uses.
The $5 billion “giagfactory” to be built in Nevada will also generate more than 100 per cent of its electricity needs with wind and solar
Solar is looking like an obvious choice for users of Tesla and other electric vehicles. Most private owners of Nissan Leafs and Mitsubishi MieV, for instance, use solar to charge their vehicles, and the well-healed customers of Tesla .
The Tesla Superchargers allow Model S owners to travel for free between major cities in North America, Europe and Asia, and soon in Australia – although it should be pointed out that it usually costs an extra $2,000 to have the super-charging facility added, so it’s likely that Tesla will be profiting from the venture anyway.
The superchargers provide half a charge in as little as 20 minutes, and are usually located near amenities like roadside restaurants, cafes, and shopping centers. Usually they have between 4 and 10 stalls.
So far, there are 231 super charging stations across the world, with much over half in the US. This map here shows the coverage in the US by the end of 2015.
And this map below shows the planned coverage in China and Japan by the same date. Asia is its fastest growing market. In China, Tesla teamed up with Hanergy Solar Group to design and manufacture the solar PV supercharging stations being rolled out initially in Beijing and Shanghai.
The first Beijing carport, a mobile carport designed to be assembled and transported, used Hanergy’s GSE flexible thin-film solar modules, while the first Shanghai carport was a fixed structure, and adopts Hanergy’s MiaSole CIGS high-efficiency modules. The solar power is stored on-site with a battery array.