Back in the early 2000s, people thought of electric cars as slow vehicles and car companies saw no market for them outside of environmentalists and tech enthusiasts. That has changed dramatically. So far this year, 320,000 people worldwide have paid $1,500 to reserve the Tesla Model 3. And that's without knowing what the car looked like.
Tesla can't just release cars into a market. The beauty of an electric vehicle is that it doesn't need petrol and hence has low running costs
; the drawback is that it needs places to charge. If it comes into a market such as Australia where there are no public charging stations, the onus of responsibility is on Tesla to provide them. Unfortunately, the rollout of these public charging stations, which are called Tesla Superchargers, can't happen all at once.
Heath Walker, senior marketing and communication manager at Tesla, explained to us how the company is prioritising the Supercharger rollout. "We want to connect major cities based on sales and where we are operational and then branch from there. We are also putting in place a Destination Charging program where hotels, shopping centres, airports and secure parking locations receive high power wall connectors for charging of the Model S," he said.In the US, the Supercharger network is much more advanced, which Walker says is due to a few key factors.
"The US has built infrastructure as the population of vehicles have been adopted. In addition, they launched the Model S in 2012. This being said, 90-95% of charging is done at home, and Superchargers are for long-distance travel which we have enabled in the two major cities where we are operational."
Tesla aims to "cover Australia in superchargers," according to Walker, which he said should not stop anyone from purchasing a Tesla within 500km of range of the Supercharger network.
Range anxiety, or the fear of losing charge and being nowhere near a charger, is an issue often discussed by Australian Tesla enthusiasts. Tesla's focus has been on the east coast, with all major cities planned to be connected this year. However, the next phase of its plan, which may or may not involve the introduction of more Superchargers on the west coast of Australia, is yet to be announced.
While range anxiety is very real, Walker says the solution is about changing behaviour.
"Range anxiety was introduced by petrol vehicles. Every time the red light comes on in a vehicle, that is range anxiety. Owning an electric car is like owning a mobile phone, you get home, charge, and wake up with the equivalent of a full tank of petrol every morning. And nobody fills up twice in a day unless driving long distances, which is where Superchargers come into play."
Superchargers provide 270km of range with 30 minutes of charging time. Based on a Model S, you would need to charge for 75 minutes to get the car to full battery, but Tesla estimates only 10-80% of charge is needed to travel between most Supercharger locations.
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