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Tesla Pushes Electric-Car Viability With Rapid Charging

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric-car maker that has tripled in market value this year, is preparing to expand a network of fast-charging stations to make its Model S a more viable alternative to gasoline-fueled cars.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer and biggest shareholder, has said he will make a “big supercharger” announcement this week. The Palo Alto, California-based company operates nine stations that provide free electric power for owners of high-end versions of the Model S and has said it will have at least 100 along U.S. and Canadian highways by 2015.

Tesla needs an expanded network of charging stations to appeal to customers beyond California and the Northeast U.S. where it now has fueling spots. Without such stations along nearby roads, Tesla drivers are limited by the estimated 265-mile (426-kilometer) range of a battery charge.

“Like most things Tesla has done, it’s very good marketing and a very good early-adopter thing to do,” said Brett Smith, an alternative-vehicle analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Given who’s buying Teslas, it won’t mean much for the mass market.”

The planned announcement follows a series of events this month that put the carmaker on the most secure financial footing since its founding a decade ago. Tesla’s first quarterly profit was followed by a top rating from Consumer Reports for the Model S and a share-price surge. Investor demand created an opportunity to raise $1 billion from selling equity and debt and retire its U.S. Energy Department loan nine years early.
Changed Story

“Tesla’s role is kind of interesting: They’ve changed the whole story line” about electric vehicles, said Tom Turrentine, director of the California Energy Commission’s Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis. “This is a company that thrives on mythology.”

Tesla slid 4.2 percent to $105.69 at 10:14 a.m. New York time. The shares have more than tripled this year through yesterday to a record $110.33, compared with a 16 percent increase for the Russell 1000 Index.


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