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With new Tesla Superchargers, travel far in an electric car

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Sure, you can drive the Tesla Model S electric car from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a single charge. But what if you want to go farther or go back to L.A. without spending a night in Vegas? With the release of new Supercharger stations, Telsa is making it quick and efficient to drive an electric car longer distances.

Yesterday, Tesla Motors unveiled six new Supercharger stations in California that will recharge the Model S (to be able to drive three hours at 60 mph) in 30 minutes, or not much longer than a stop on a typical road trip might take. The charging stations will provide 100 kilowatts of power and in the future could provide as much as 120 kilowatts.

"Tesla's Supercharger network is a game changer for electric vehicles, providing long distance travel that has a level of convenience equivalent to gasoline cars for all practical purposes. However, by making electric long distance travel at no cost, an impossibility for gasoline cars, Tesla is demonstrating just how fundamentally better electric transport can be," said Elon Musk, Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO. "We are giving Model S the ability to drive almost anywhere for free on pure sunlight."

And to make it a truly green alternative to gasoline-powered automobiles, the electricity used at the stations will come from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity. Telsa says that each solar station is expected to generate more energy than will be used by drivers throughout the year, meaning clean energy will be fed back to the electricity grid.

Next year, the company plans to have the Supercharger stations along high-traffic corridors throughout the United States. And in the second half of 2013 Superchargers will be installed in Europe and Asia.

This is big news for electric cars. Anything that makes the electric cars more competitive with traditional gas-powered cars will go a long way towards convincing people to spend their money on an all-electric car. Because while free long-distance travel is a nice bonus, a car that lists at $50,000 will need to be practical in order to have a large customer base.

Of course, for now, these charging stations will only work on the Tesla Model S and not other electric cars. Keep in mind, however, that the Model S gets around 265 miles on a single charge, more than any other electric car on the market. But now that we know the technology is out there (and being used) to make driving longer distances in electric cars a reality -- and as other companies catch up to Tesla's distance per charge mark -- electric cars are one step closer to becoming a practical option for the average driver.

Photo: Tesla Motors

— By on September 25, 2012, 2:40 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure