A few hours before Elon Musk debuted the delightfully deranged Cybertruck, he tweeted something less delightful but equally deranged. When a Twitter user asked him about getting some Superchargers in Ukraine, Musk replied, why stop at Ukraine?
A full Supercharger route from London to Shanghai?! That would certainly be neat.
Let’s put aside the fact that the United Kingdom is a series of islands so, strictly speaking, one cannot drive from there to Shanghai. In any event, this got us wondering, approximately how many more Superchargers does Tesla need to install to complete this modern Silk Road?
The answer: 30, at least.
That is a screenshot from Tesla’s Supercharger network map. Red dots are Superchargers. On the route from London to Shanghai (which the Tesla routing system and Google Maps cannot complete) the easternmost Supercharger in Europe is in Katowice, Poland.
Meanwhile, the westernmost Supercharger in China—if approaching from Kazakhstan via Ukraine, which Musk clearly alluded to in the tweet reply—is in Xi’an, although in the future one might be better off taking the yet-to-exist highway through Russia.
So, as the bird flies, Tesla must plug a roughly 4,400 mile gap in the Supercharger network in order to make London-to-Shanghai a theoretically possible electric car journey.
Of course, that’s as the (very tired and likely dehydrated) crow flies. Driving will add hundreds of miles if not more to the route by taking, ya know, roads. But let’s call it at 4,400 miles for now.
The lowest-range Tesla for sale right now is the base Model 3 with an advertised range of 250 miles. But due to vagaries in terrain, wind, weather, and a host of other factors that could influence range, including people driving older Tesla models, even putting Superchargers every 200 miles might be cutting it a little close. After all, I hear AAA service is pretty poor in the Gobi desert. Let’s call it at 150 miles just to be on the better-safe-than-sorry side.
So, Tesla would have to install 30 Superchargers to make London-to-Shanghai a reality, assuming there are no other gaps in the network.
That might not sound like a lot, and if we were talking about charging stations in major metro areas, it wouldn’t be. But putting a Supercharger in the middle of the goddamn desert or unpopulated high plains or mountain passes is a tad more logistically complicated than in a Southern California shopping center.
And for what? Who is actually going to drive from Europe to China? Who is going to use the Tesla Superchargers in the middle of nowhere?
I don’t mean to jump to conclusions, but it is possible, slightly possible, Elon Musk something without thinking it through.