Elon Musk’s next project looks set to be a Tesla restaurant

CEO Elon Musk has said he wants to open a restaurant at one of the company's L.A.-area Supercharger stations.

Tesla Inc. electric vehicles charge at the company's supercharger station inside a parking garage on...

Tesla may be far from achieving CEO Elon Musk’s dream of fully autonomous driving, but it is close to accomplishing another: opening a restaurant. The automaker filed applications last month to use its logo in the foodservice industry.

Musk first suggested in 2018 that Tesla planned to open an “old school drive-in restaurant” at a new Supercharger location in Santa Monica, California. He is one to throw out lots of outlandish ideas, but the company soon thereafter applied for relevant building permits. The project lay dormant until earlier this year, however, when updated building plans were submitted to the city.

Five-dollar shakes? — Musk in April reiterated his hopes of opening a ’50s-era diner at the location, which will be one of the biggest Supercharger stations in the world: “Major new Supercharger station coming to Santa Monica soon! Hoping to have 50’s diner & 100 best movie clips playing too. Thanks Santa Monica city!”

Stay a while — An on-site restaurant concept could make sense for Tesla, whose proprietary Supercharger network now extends across the markets in which it operates. Its vehicles take longer to charge up than a traditional car requires to fill with gas. Depending on the charging standard used at a particular Supercharger station, charging a Model S from 0 to 80 percent could take about forty minutes. That means Tesla owners may have to sit around and wait — time the company could use to entertain drivers and keep them occupied instead of thinking about how slow charging an electric vehicle can be.

There intuitively seems to be a business catering to this audience, and it could help Tesla further differentiate itself as the cool EV brand as legacy automakers rush to catch up. But most Supercharger stalls are located within existing malls and other locations where it wouldn’t be possible to build a restaurant. And drivers often charge up overnight at home, only using Supercharger stations for a quick top-up. The model really only works at standalone Supercharger stations in less dense areas.

A Tesla tequila while you wait? — In Kettleman, California, a rural area between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Tesla operates a Supercharger station including bathrooms and a coffee bar. This could be the next logical step. Tesla last year sold a limited edition run of its own branded tequila, but it probably wouldn’t be a good look for the automaker to serve that to drivers stopping by to top up their vehicles.