Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors announced Monday that it will roll out a network of solar-powered charging stations across the United States over the next two years, enabling owners of the company's all-electric "Model S" vehicles to "travel for free, forever, on pure sunlight."
Appearing at an unveiling event Monday in Hawthorne, California, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the same creative force behind PayPal and SpaceX, said the company's new charging technology is an important advancement in human history because it could soon free zero-emission vehicles from limited areas of operation.
More importantly, he said the company's "Superchargers" add 150 miles to a car's range in just 30 minutes -- a dramatic improvement over other current vehicle charging technology.
"People have this idea that if you have an electric car, there's no freedom. You're stuck," he said. "They have this idea that you can't go anywhere. What we're showing today is, in fact, you'll have more freedom [with electric cars] than with anything. You'll be able to go anywhere and feel really good about your travel. If you want to go from L.A. to New York, if you pack food and stay with friends you can leave your wallet at home."
Tesla's "Superchargers" look like something out of "2001: A Space Odyssey," shaped like a tall, pointy oblong tower bearing the company's logo. It works by connecting directly to the car's battery through special cables designed specifically by Tesla, supposedly enabling the vehicle to charge much faster than with older technology.
The chargers are, for now, only compatible with Tesla's Model S, which goes on sale this fall at several price points. Other electric vehicles will not be compatible, including the Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S sedans with batteries smaller than 60-kWh.
Musk said that Tesla plans to blanket the U.S. with a "Supercharger network" in the next two years, with a planned expansion covering the whole country and parts of Canada within the next five. The company also plans to install Superchargers in Europe and Asia in 2013, he added.
While that all certainly sounds good, it remains to be seen whether Tesla can deliver on Musk's lofty goals. The company's first car, the Tesla Roadster, was repeatedly delayed during production after the company's founder, Martin Eberhard, stepped down as CEO.
This video is from Tesla's Supercharger unveiling event, broadcast Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.