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Will Fast Charging Make Electric Vehicles Practical?

It can take hours, even days, to recharge an electric car. That’s one reason GM added a backup gas-powered generator to its electric car, the Volt. Another option is the DC fast charger, which would allow cars to recharge up to 80 percent of the battery’s capacity in just half an hour.

Tesla Motors’ first DC fast-charging station, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, will allow drivers to add 150 miles of range to their electric cars in half an hour—provided they have one of the higher-priced battery packages. Adding those miles would ordinarily take from several hours to more than a day, depending on the size of the battery and whether an ordinary outlet or a higher-voltage one is used.

But the impact of such charging stations will be limited by their high cost, and by the fact that fast-charging still takes far longer than it does to fill up a tank of gas. Conventional vehicles will remain the best option for people who regularly drive long distances; and those who purchase electric vehicles for commuting won’t need fast chargers—they can charge overnight at home or during the day at work.

For now, at least, the biggest barrier to electric-vehicle adoption is simply the high cost of the cars, which can cost twice as much as comparable gas-powered vehicles.


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