Tesla Motors is delaying an update on its Supercharger network until next week, CEO Elon Musk tweeted Monday.
Musk said the announcement would be pushed back to make room for news that Tesla may repay its loan from the Department of Energy (DOE) Wednesday.
The early repayment would be a big deal for Tesla and the Department of Energy, but the Supercharger announcement could be more important to the electric car maker’s long-term health.
The biggest problem for electric vehicles is the lack of cheap, powerful battery technology, keeping ranges limited, charge times long, and prices high.
To get around that, Tesla has plans to install 100 Supercharger stations around the country by 2015, where its customers can charge their car batteries halfway in 30 minutes, for free. So far, only nine stations are active. Seven are in California.
If Tesla significantly expands or improves that network, it could be a boon for drivers, who would be able to travel longer distances without worrying about running out of juice on the road.
There is also speculation that Tesla will announce a battery swapping scheme, which would involve replacing a depleted battery rather than charging it. In a May 10 SEC filing, Tesla wrote, “we plan to introduce [the technology] in the near future.”
As the Christian Science Monitor points out, Musk tweeted on May 9:
There is a way for the Tesla Model S to be recharged throughout the country faster than you could fill a gas tank.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2013
Batteries can be switched out out in less than 60 seconds, as proved by Better Place, the company that developed the battery-swapping technology.
Swapping has its problems, however. Better Place recently ended operations in North America after failing to prove the feasibility of its model, the New York Times reported.
The Final Piece?
Tesla has cleared a lot of hurdles in recent weeks. It’s profitable. Its stock is way up. It has plans to repay its federal loan nearly a decade early.
So if Musk can make Tesla’s biggest problem — battery range — less of an issue, it would be a huge win.
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