Tesla Motors’ Supercharger is billed as the world’s fastest EV charging system

Tesla Model S and Tesla RoadsterTesla Motors tried to set the bar for electric automotive performance and style with its Model S, and now the company is giving that sleek sedan a suitability high-performance charging system. Tesla says its charger, modestly dubbed “Supercharger,” is the fastest of its kind.

Tesla says the system is “like an adrenaline shot for you battery.” That’s a very odd image, but if Tesla’s claims prove true, the Supercharger could make current EVs into viable long-distance vehicles, despite their relatively short ranges.

Tesla says the Supercharger can add 150 miles of range to its 85 kWh (the largest battery pack Tesla makes) Model S in just a half hour. It reckons conventional 240 volt outlets and high-powered wall units can only add 16 and 31 miles of range, respectively, in that time.

The Supercharger cuts charge times by pumping more electricity into a car’s batteries. At 90 kW, it easily outdraws conventional systems, which typically produce 10 to 20 kW. Tesla says all those watts are routed through special cables to keep things safe, and that said cables plug directly into the Model S’ battery to further increase charging speed.

Tesla plans to set up a network of over 100 Supercharger stations by 2015 to keep the juice flowing. The stations will be located at restaurants and malls so drivers have something to do while their Teslas recharge.

Six charging stations are already open in Tesla’s home state, California. Located in Los Angeles, Barstow, Tejon Ranch, Harris Ranch, Gilroy, and Folsom, they create a 200-mile radius circle that also encompasses San Francisco and Las Vegas.

In other words, the maximum distance between any of those cities or a Supercharger is 200 miles, well within the range of the 85 kWh Model S and 40 miles beyond the range of the base 40 kWh model.

The next round of Superchargers will be installed in urban corridors throughout the United States and Canada, creating a similar chain of stations for intercity electric car travel. Tesla has earmarked Vancouver-San Diego, Montreal-New York, and Los Angeles-New York as the three corridors it would like to develop.

Tesla will also export the Supercharger to Europe and Asia in the second half of 2013.

Although there has been talk of standardizing EV chargers, Tesla did not say whether the Supercharger is compatible with other companies’ vehicles. Given the trick direct-to-battery connection, it may not work with other cars.

A lack of charging stations has limited most EVs to commuter duty and general urban driving, but Tesla has decided to take matters into its own hands on this one. A cross-country network of charging stations is about as ambitious as the Model S itself, and both might be necessary to make Tesla’s vision feasible.