Tesla has completed the zero-emissions driving loop.
On Thursday, the electric car company took the wraps off its third-generation Las Vegas supercharger, complete with a solar canopy that makes it look like a gas station from the future. The 250-kilowatt charging points will add up to 180 miles of driving range to a Model 3 Long Range in just 15 minutes.
Tesla is the first automaker to sell more than 200,000 electric cars in the United States. But while those cars may be an environmental win, charging from fossil fuel sources means that using the cars still ultimately creates emissions in the long-run. But with this latest development, drivers will be able to fill up their car with energy derived from sunlight in a matter of minutes and complete their journey.
It’s the culmination of CEO Elon Musk’s grand vision for the company, outlined way back in 2006 before the firm’s first vehicle even hit the road:
The overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.
The Vegas station, located right off the city’s iconic strip, is a big leap toward this goal. It has 24 of the high-powered chargers to get drivers back on the road, plus a further 15 connectors for drivers that don’t need such fast speeds. The solar canopy generates power and stores it in on-site Powerpack batteries, meaning it can supply zero-emissions energy at all times.
Those faster charge times will mean the station can serve more cars in a single day. Before the station was unveiled, the city had around 6,500 supercharging sessions per month. These new chargers can serve 1,500 owners per day.
This is not the first solar-powered Tesla charger — the company has been using solar since the first chargers went live in 2012 — but these are few and far between. Tesla has 1,533 stations worldwide, but most of them are simple stations that offer charging capability.
The Las Vegas layout may prove a more long-term solution to the issue. Musk stated on Twitter in December 2016 that a full rollout of solar and superchargers requires some more pieces to fall in place. It needs SolarCity, which at that point had recently merged with Tesla. It required the second-generation Powerpack, which was also announced around the same time. The third-generation supercharger, Musk’s final requirement, only launched in March 2019.
Alongside its solar-powered credentials, the Las Vegas charger is the first all-new third-generation supercharger.
From here, it may only be a matter of time before solar-fitted superchargers become the norm. Musk stated in June 2017 that “all Superchargers are being converted to solar/battery power,” adding that “over time, almost all will disconnect from the electricity grid.”
On the home front, Musk detailed a house of the future that uses a Tesla Solar Roof to charge a vehicle in the garage. The roof itself may still be something of a rarity, but solar installs in the United States have soared in recent years. As public chargers also switch to solar, running off sunlight may finally become the default option.