The biggest limitation on electric cars, as we know, are the batteries. They take hours to charge, and cannot travel nearly as far as gas-powered engines. So while California may be the center of the “green movement,” traveling the almost 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco is impossible on electric power. Until now.
SolarCity has announced an EV charging corridor spanning the 382 miles between LA and San Fran featuring four stations, with a fifth station opening in October.
The only type of car that can plug in to the corridor currently is the Tesla Roadster, though there are plans to update the stations with a standard universal plug in the future. The Tesla has an optimum range of 220 miles, meaning the journey could be completed (depending on your driving habits) with only one charge in between. Alas, the 240 volt outlets still take between two and three hours to fully charge a car, though they have been smartly placed in shopping centers so there is at least something to do while you wait.
Only one of the stations currently runs on solar power, though there are plans to update the rest with sun juice in the future. But this brings up my biggest problem with electric vehicles so far. Even two years from now, the charging time is estimated to be brought down to, at best, 45 minutes. That is still a long time to wait for your car to get back on the road, especially if you have places to go and things to do.
Another problem is the overly-optimistic nature of this project. Right now, it is free to charge your Tesla at these stations for however long it takes. That is fine and dandy for the few hundred people who currently own one, but it won’t always be free so they might be setting a bad precedent (not unlike what happened to newspapers when they started putting all their news online for free. Even if charging times come down to 15-30 minutes to fully charge a car, that space cannot be occupied by a second car. Think about how many cars pass through a busy gas station in a 30 minute period. Now imagine if every one of those cars took 20 minutes to fill up. You’d need either; a) a very large charging station with dozens or even hundreds of outlets or; B) a very patient populace.
Battery swapping stations make more sense to me, if you’re going to make an argument for electric cars. I’m not a shopper. I am not a patient person. I am not going to sit around waiting for my car to be charged. I want to roll up, get my energy fix, and move on with my life. This is just my opinion of course, but one I feel is shared by plenty of Americans. Standardize a battery, make quick-swap stations, and don’t hold me hostage any longer than you need to.
Still, it is a start. Wired even made a Google Map of where the stations are located right now, so if you do have a Tesla, you won’t get lost.