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Tesla looks to solar to power Australian supercharging network

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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.

tesla car charger

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’a 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 of electricity for residential and business consumers. “We have done this overseas and we are investigating the possibility locally,” Tesla spokesman Heath 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. The addition of 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 full 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 must over half in the US. This map here shows the coverage in the US by the end of 2015.

tesla US

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.

(Note: See also Could a Tesla test drive cure Abbott government’s deep denial?

tesla asia

   

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  • Alexander Dudley

    Local councils in NSW should be clamouring to get these installed to drum up business and promote their green credentials. When I get a Tesla I want to be able to take it on a road trip. As I live in Coolatai, I could be waiting a while.

    • WeaponZero

      Tesla can role out superchargers extremely fast. Right now they average about a supercharger per day. The biggest time consumer is getting all the permits.

      It only takes 3-5 weeks to build it. But 10-15 weeks to get through all the paperwork

      http://insideevs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/timeline-superchargers.png

    • john

      Do you honestly think local councils would have a clue about this ?
      I very much doubt it frankly
      Just think about your local council made up of real estate people they do not have a clue about any change to technology

      • JohnD

        For your information a couple of the larger Local Governments have had EV’s in their own fleets for a number of years and installed charging stations for use by both their staff and the public. Local Governments tend to be far more supportive of energy transition than the State and Federal Governments.

      • Harry Verberne

        A small but growing number of councils are not just dominated by real estate people. We have had news on this site that several have or are planning to install PV systems for a start. Others are replacing their street lighting with LED.

  • JET Charge

    It’s fantastic that Tesla are making the investment in Australia. These solar supported Supercharger sites are very expensive. Tesla must think that Australia is going to be fantastic market – I would tend to agree.

  • James

    Someone needs to send this to LNP/PUP (and no, I am not a green, nor ALP voter). It’s the simple reality of what is going on elsewhere in the world. Until the Tesla story came along I never thought I’d see the day when I would consider buying an EV.

    • Roger Brown

      The COALition/ PUP would not be interested , unless Tesla started “donating to the LNP ” in the same way as the coal industry do.

  • Ronald Brakels

    In sensible countries I would expect these to feed electricity into the grid during the day and draw it out to charge cars at night. However, given the low feed-in tariffs in Australia and the high retail cost of energy and given the dirty tricks that are being used to block commercial scale solar, which stochastically at least kill people and therefore count as evil. And given that Tesla has access to lots of batteries, they may actually use solar power to charge batteries and use them to charge vehicles at night. I’m guessing they won’t do this at first. Too much of an upfront cost for now, but a good business case could probably be made for it and Australia would likely be the first country in the world to get them, on a large scale at least, because we’re exceptional. Just not necessarily in a good way.

    • WeaponZero

      Every supercharger will have batteries in the long run. Not only will it insure 100% power comes from renewable energy. If for some reason the grid goes down, the superchargers will still work.

  • Petra Liverani

    Thank God for Tesla! I would’ve expected at least some of the the charging stations to be solar-powered, especially on the Nullarbor:) – I wonder how long it will take for EVs to be able to cross from east to west!

  • Chris Jones

    The RAC’s Electric Highway from Perth to Augusta as well as Bridgetown will be rolled out before Tesla’s east coast network (early next year) and will allow every make of EV to use it. Just got to get the ball rolling and everyone will jump on board!

    • Hi Chris, you seem in the know. From quick googling, I’ve read Harvey’s council meeting agenda mentions RAC is going to install fast-charger. Do you know what standard these quick chargers will be? From my limited knowledge, there are different standards out there (i.e. CHAdeMO, Tesla fast chargers, and who knows many more). I mean, if I want to get electric car, I guess these fast chargers will be compatible? I can’t find any details in the Rev project website either

      • Chris Jones

        Hi Rusdy,
        I’m the chair of the Perth branch of the AEVA, and together with the Fremantle council we helped get the RAC to back the first complete electric highway in Australia. There will be 9 or 10 charging stations between metro Perth and Augusta, as well as Nannup and Bridgetown. The charger most likely to be used will be a three-lead type – ChaDeMo, SAE Combo 1 and Fast AC (Type 2). This means all production EVs will be able to take advantage of a fast charge, even the Tesla at 22 kW. A level 2 charger will be adjacent, as well as the ubiquitous 15 A GPO. It didn’t have anything to do with the REV project, but they can be credited with getting the ball rolling a few years ago. Any Japanese EV with Chademo, the BMW i3 and the Tesla will all be able to use these chargers. Converted EVs will still be able to get a charge, but not a fast one.

        • Simon Thwaites

          Hi Chris
          Have AEVA contacted all local governments to participate in establishment of charging networks? I’m at Torbay between Albany and Denmark and considering purchasing EV. Knowing local EV charging network to be implemented would make me even keener on EV

          • Chris Jones

            Hi Simon,
            The RAC have chosen the Circontrol Trio charger, and will be aiming to buy 13 of them. Local governments will be the owners of the chargers. The route so far stops at Bridgetown, but do get in touch with Neil from Albany Solar. We’ve been discussing ways we can expand the network all the way to Albany. The RAC expect works to begin in the coming weeks, but getting councils to move can be difficult.

  • Neville Bott

    We will soon have a number of car assembly lines becoming redundant, while Tesla is growing stronger in the US. Would it not be reasonable to encourage Telsa (or even start a competitor) to reuse the engineering and manufacturing expertise we have to begin manufacturing here in Aus. or do we loose these skills completely as people move on into other industries.

    Electric is the future of motor vehicles we either standby and watch or pay for this technology later. If only we could find someone with the vision and optimism required to make it happen.

    • Steven Ison

      Tesla is actually currently seeking out engineers from the car industry in Australia to work for them, however it is to move over to California. Unfortunately I cannot be bothered to provide a source, but a simple search should suffice you.