Is Tesla’s Supercharger Network About to Serve More Than Just Teslas?

With the capability to deliver up to 135 kilowatts of instantaneous power, recharging compatible Tesla electric cars at speeds of up to 300 miles of range per hour, Tesla Motors’ Supercharger network is unarguably the most robust, highest-powered charging network in the world.

With Tesla Supercharger sites now numbering more than 500 locations globally, it's no wonder someone else wants to join the party.

With Tesla Supercharger sites now numbering more than 500 locations globally, it’s no wonder someone else wants to join the party.

Indeed, with other publicly-available rapid charging technologies capping out at around 50 kilowatts — 70 to 160 miles per hour in most real-world cases — other charging technologies available today can’t compete with the 500+ unlimited-use Supercharger network now crossing North America, Europe, and parts of Asia and Australasia.

To date — despite offers to the rest of the automotive industry from Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk to share Tesla’s proprietary charging network and its technology in an open-source, quid-pro-quo arrangement — Tesla’s supercharger network has remained something that only those with Supercharger-enabled Tesla-brand cars have been able to use.

But that could be about to change, says Musk, who dropped hints more than once during a recent trip to Berlin, Germany that a European automaker is on the brink of adopting Tesla’s Supercharger technology.

As Autobloggreen details, Musk mentioned during at least two different events in the Germany city that Tesla was in talks with other automakers about sharing Supercharger technology.

The first reference to sharing Supercharger technology was given by Musk during a Breakfast meeting in Berlin on Thursday last week. In the video above — recorded by attendee, entrepreneur and investor Lars Hinrichs and shared on Periscope — Musk hints that an announcement on sharing Superchargers with other automakers is imminent.

After outlining the requirements that Tesla would have of any company wishing to share the Tesla Supercharger network — namely that partner automaker shoulder the financial burden of allowing their customers to charge at Supercharger networks to enable Supercharging to continue to be free at point of access — Musk said that Tesla was “in talks with some manufacturers,” adding that it “will be exciting to share that news” when talks are complete.

Tesla would require any partner automakers pay an appropriate fee for use of the network. (Photo: G.Parrott, via. GCR)

Tesla would require any partner automakers pay an appropriate fee for use of the network. (Photo: G.Parrott, via. GCR)

At a second appearance in Berlin during the same visit — at a panel held during the “Energy for Tomorrow” conference at which Musk joined Germany’s Minister of Economy and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel on stage — Musk was questioned about his earlier reference and sharing of the Supercharger network with another automaker. This time however, his reply indicated a single automaker, rather than multiple ones.

“With regards to the Supercharger [technology], there’s no intent to create a walled garden or protectionist thing,” said Musk. “The only requirements are that the car can take the high power level…and there needs to be proportionate payment.”

“The CEO of one European car company, not a German car company, has approached us recently about doing exactly that, and we’re super supportive of anyone who wants to do that,” he stated.

Tesla’s Supercharger technology — or rather all patents associated with it — were released by Tesla last year under an open-source agreement giving any automaker, academic institution or parts manufacturer free license to use Tesla’s originally proprietary technology. At the time he proudly proclaimed in a blog post that ‘All Our Patent Are Belong To You’, Musk had said that the decision to reclassify hundreds of patents to include Supercharger technology was to help accelerate the development and mass-adoption of electric cars.

Automakers could apply to freely use Tesla technology “in good faith,” he said at the time, indicating that automakers who used Tesla technology would have to offer some of their own technology to Tesla under a similar license.

Superchargers can add up to 300 miles of range per hour.

Superchargers can add up to 300 miles of range per hour.

With regard to Supercharger technology, he intimated, rival automakers were more than welcome to useTesla Supercharger technology on their own vehicles, but they would be expected to share Tesla’s ethos concerning the Supercharger network.

Translated, that meant any charging stations built by a third part using Tesla’s Supercharger technology would not be allowed to charge users a fee to access the network, with the only barrier to entry being the ownership of a Supercharger-compatible car. Similarly, Automakers who wanted to use Tesla’s Supercharger protocols would be expected to invest their own money in Tesla’s network, or supplement it with compatible technology and the same ‘free at point of use’ access policy.

As to who the automaker in question is? While we know Nissan and BMW have both been in discussions with Tesla in the past over electric car charging infrastructure, the former is not a European automaker. The latter is a German automaker — and Musk specifically said that the company in question was a European automaker, not a German one.

This leads us, like our friends over at Autobloggreen to suspect that the automaker in question is none other than luxury British brand Aston Martin. With former Nissan executive and known electric vehicle fan Andy Palmer now at the helm of the prestige brand, Aston Martin has undergone a massive transformation in the past few years, dramatically changing its attitude towards plug-in and all-electric vehicles.

Indeed, in recent months, Aston Martin has showcased its all-electric DBX concept crossover — a car that will offer Tesla-like performance and range and is slated to enter production in the next few years. In addition, the brand has promised, it will even bring an all-electric version of its iconic Rapide to market.

For those who have enjoyed the exclusivity and ease of use of the Tesla Supercharger network thus far, the news that another automaker may be about to share spots at Tesla’s electric watering holes may be unwelcome, especially in some key locations where there are already queues during peak periods for Supercharger access.

But ever the businessman, we can expect Musk to ensure that any automaker who opts to share Tesla’s Supercharger technology will be asked to contribute enough to Tesla’s coffers — or add its own Superchargers to Tesla’s network — to ensure nobody is left without the charge they need.


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