With the rate of automotive technology ever increasing and new products and features hitting the market on a regular and frequent business, it’s a fairly daunting task to sort through them to determine which of those innovations qualify as Tech of the Year. However, AOL Autos (NYSE:AOL), in cooperation with AOL property Autoblog, believes it has done so with the help of a voting panel of judges. For 2013, the Tech of the Year Award was given to Tesla Motors’ (NASDAQ:TSLA) Supercharger system.
“While enthusiasts will likely associate the name ‘supercharger’ with forced induction, Tesla has successfully redefined the term to apply to its increasingly sprawling network of charging stations across the country,” Autoblog reports. There are currently 54 stations up and running for Tesla owners to take advantage of, though that number is scheduled to continue to increase over the next couple of years. By the end of 2014, Tesla’s network could easily double in size to cover about 80 percent of the population, going by the infographic on the company’s website.
So what makes the Supercharger such an engineering feat, deserving of such an intense name? For one, it charges a Model S 20 times faster than most public charging stations: 80 percent of the car’s charge can be had in 40 minutes. For a family of four, that’s essentially a coffee stop and a bathroom break. At a conventional charger, that would take the better part of eight hours. More impressively, Tesla is working on a more powerful charger, which would provide a 33 percent improvement on the current system.
“Tesla is showing, again, that there are amazing technological breakthroughs to be made in the EV game, and are kind of making the rest of the industry look bad,” Sebastian Blanco, editor of Autoblog Green, said in a statement.
While a nationwide EV charging infrastructure has not been among the federal government’s top priorities, Tesla has decided to take matters into its own hands and built on its own to support its growing family of products. Though the Model S is currently the only Tesla in production, the crossover utility Model X is slated for production later this year, while the third-generation Model E is apparently scheduled for a 2015 debut.
A picture of the Model X — which has already hit the auto show circuit — surfaced online this week, showing the vehicle for the first time out on public streets. InsideEVs speculates that the X had just come from Tesla’s Hawthorne Design Center and was being prepped for its trip to Detroit for the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
It’s likely that as infrastructures like Tesla’s charging network continue to be built out, the public will become more receptive to the idea of electric cars, and the barriers to ownership — limited range and mobility — will weaken. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, is planning a family road trip in March across the country in a Model S to show that transcontinental travel by electric power is indeed possible.
But perhaps the best part of the Supercharging network? For Tesla owners, it’s free. As Musk is trying to demonstrate, it could be possible for Tesla drivers to drive from California to the East Coast and back entirely for free.
“There’s simply no way the average consumer is going to consider putting an electric vehicle in their garage if there’s no way to refuel it on the go,” said Jeremy Korzeniewski, the managing editor of Autoblog. “If Tesla is able to continue rolling out long stretches of Superchargers, EVs will finally have the level playing ground that they need in order to have a chance at succeeding.”