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Charger Congestion a Problem for Electric Cars

So far, the Tesla superchargers are located in a few places connecting San Francisco with Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as on the freeway from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

One obvious problem with the Tesla superchargers is that there are too few locations spread over too much space. Not too far to make it, but too far for an ideal safety net given the risk of a detour or delay. There are also not enough Tesla superchargers at each location.

I am hearing more and more that as Tesla owners show up at a supercharger location on a road trip, all four supercharge hoses are taken by other Tesla owners. And there are only approximately 5,000 Tesla Model S cars in the field right now. The quarterly deployment rate is 5,000, so the problem will double three months from now. Tesla is just selling too many cars!

Waiting behind another electric car while it is charging isn't like at a gas station, where you may have to wait five or ten minutes. If there is even one person in front of you at a Tesla supercharger, you might have to wait close to an hour. If it's a "regular" 240-volt AC charger, it could take many hours.

If things are this bad already with 70,000 electric cars on the road, including 5,000 Teslas, imagine a year from now, with well over 170,000 cars, including an estimated 30,000 Teslas, needing a charge.

Currently, most electric car chargers are free to use. One interesting aspect of how to price electric car chargers in the long run is how pricing power differs from selling electricity to pure electric cars such as Tesla and the Nissan (NSANY) LEAF, vs. plug-in hybrids such as GM's (GM - Get Report) Chevrolet Volt.

In a pure electric car, "filling" your battery from a public charging station may not be optional. You may need it to get home or to work! Theoretically, you would be willing to pay many dollars per kW, per mile of range, if need be. (It's cheaper than a tow truck.) For these cars, the seller of electricity has enormous pricing power.

However, in a plug-in hybrid such as the Chevy Volt, you always have the option to simply run on gasoline, enabling you to price-arbitrage the cost of electricity vs. the cost of gasoline, and then pick whichever is cheapest.

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