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Tesla is a Carmaker, But it Could Also Be a Gas Station – Corporate Intelligence – WSJ

Tesla TSLA -6.85% has attracted plenty of attention for the Model S, dubbed by some in the know as thebest car of the year and maybe one of the best cars ever. But here’s an idea worth considering: the company is quietly building up a product that could end up being much more important to the future of the auto industry than its high-priced luxury sedan.

That product is the network of so-calledSupercharger rapid-charging stations, which the company says take just 20 minutes to fill a battery with enough power to drive for 200 miles (other charging systems can take hours to do the same). While others are rolling out public infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, there is no single standard for fast charging that all electric cars can plug into, and Tesla’s Supercharger system is the fastest public charge available.

If Tesla can roll out a proprietary fast-charging network before anybody else, it could be a big deal for the company — big like Henry Ford following up the Model T with a national network of gas stations he also controlled access to. As an entrepreneur familiar with the Internet, Tesla founder Elon Musk understands network effects, and the prospect that Supercharger could become the platform for fast, long-haul electric car charging must be on his mind as the company doubles down on the network of stations.

There are competing fast-charging standards compatible with other cars, including CHAdeMO, originating in Japan and compatible with Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles, among others. About 160 fast charging stations using the standard are already available around America, with almost 1,700 in Japan. A rival standard is being backed by some U.S. and European carmakers. But the Tesla Model S doesn’t work with either system, although there has been some talk it will be able to in the future. Utility companies, local governments and upstart charging businesses are all making moves to roll out charging stations of their own.



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