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Free solar energy could power Australian cars

16th Jan 2013

There is a solar powered car on the horizon for Australian drivers.

The first thing that probably comes to mind is one of those tiny, low to the ground, solar-panels-on-a-chassis contraptions that look closer to an elaborate bicycle than a real road vehicle.

Thankfully, that is not what they have in mind for us. 'They' being US electric car manufacturer Tesla.

Instead, Tesla plans to bring its Model S sedan and Model X SUV to Australian shores over the next two years.

This is great news for clean energy enthusiasts, as it will provide more options for drivers hoping to cut down their greenhouse emissions.

What is particularly interesting however, is that Tesla has developed a unique recharging solution for drivers of its cars embarking on long trips.

The Supercharger is an electric car charging station with a few differences. The first is that you don't have to pay to charge your car's battery. That's right - it's free.

The second is that these stations are designed to minimise the time needed to recharge an electric car. They can give electric car drivers up to 240 km of range - half a charge of the Tesla 85 kWh engine - in about half an hour.

Tesla has currently installed nine of these sites in the US - mostly in California - but plans to extend to over 100 locations by 2015.

Where is the link with solar power? Well, at many of these locations, the weather canopy protecting the station from the elements will have mounted solar cells.

That means the energy powering Tesla drivers' cars will be coming directly from the sun.

Tesla global sales boss George Blankenship told News Unlimited that though the manufacturer hadn't yet put a map together for Superchargers in Australia, they would do so and in a logical way.

"In a place like Australia where there's lots of sun and big distances in between (cities), the ultimate way to do that is with solar panels that put solar energy into a battery that then charges to a car whenever it needs it," said Mr Blankenship.

His comments came at the Detroit motor show overnight, where the Tesla Model X SUV was being unveiled.

Deliveries of the Model X are expected to begin in 2014. In the meantime, if you wish to reserve one, a down payment of US$40,000 should do the trick.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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