How Far-Out Will Tesla's Charging Stations Get?

Jackson Lewis, Associate Editor

elon musk tweet

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Electric-vehicle maker Tesla appears to be saving its grandest supercharger station for la-la land. A new vision of what the fuel station of the future can be seems to be taking shape in Los Angeles, where a planned facility will involve roller skates and a drive-in restaurant.

That’s according to a series of tweets from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “Gonna put an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant at one of the new Tesla Supercharger locations in LA,” the electric car mogul said on Twitter on Jan. 6.

Here's a look at Tesla’s supercharger station plans and what the announcement might mean for convenience stores …

Blast from the past

Speculation of just how ambitious plans for Tesla’s supercharger stations could be gained traction in the fall during Winsight's foodservice technology conference FSTEC, where the company’s Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel gave attendants a glimpse into what these electric-car charging stations might look like.

Once built, the stations previewed at FSTEC seemed similar to existing c-stores. The most noticeable difference was that the Tesla charging stations functioned more like members-only lounges.

But the Los Angeles station that Musk is discussing on Twitter sounds like something else entirely.

Into the future

elon musk tweet reply

In his initial tweet, Musk did not clarify whether his reference to roller skates means a fully functional roller rink or simply that the staff would wear roller skates. When one follower suggested there be popcorn, Musk tweeted, “Of course,” adding, and a screen outdoors that cycles through the “best scenes in movie history.”

Another Twitter follower suggested the supercharging station should include growler service and a bowling alley, while a third questioned if this mythical location would actually be built on Mars.

It is unclear from the Twitter conversation if similar features will be included in all Supercharger stations moving forward or just the Los Angeles location. One aspect that makes the plan for a drive-in restaurant sound plausible is the fact Elon Musk's older brother, Kimbal Musk, is an experienced restaurateur, the founder and chief of The Kitchen American Bistro and a director of Chipotle.

Musk's road map

For now, electric vehicles (EVs) are still seeking their breakthrough moment, meaning only a select number of drivers—plus the curious—would logically take their business to Tesla’s supercharger stations.

However, that is likely to change over time as EVs gain acceptance. At that point, Musk’s flashy members-only clubs might offer a guide on how to attract visitors to an electric-vehicle charging station. It stands to reason that when electric cars become more mainstream, charging stations will become more common in places where consumers already plan on spending time, such as shopping malls or movie theaters.

Today, no one leaves home to pump gas simply for the joy of the experience. The key to attracting EV motorists to fill up at a local c-store instead of the nearest movie theater will be to offer an experience that consumers can’t get anywhere else. Tesla's sites will offer roller skates and rock ’n’ roll. What will you offer?