By David Z. Morris
September 11, 2017

Tesla’s Supercharger network has so far been primarily focused on keeping long-distance drivers juiced up, with hundreds of stations located along highways. But this morning, the electric carmaker announced it will start building more Superchargers in city centers, including more locations in downtown districts and shopping centers. The initiative will start with new Superchargers in downtown Chicago and Boston.

According to the company’s announcement this morning, using the new urban Superchargers will cost the same as existing chargers, while having a smaller footprint.

Expanding the Supercharger network for everyday city driving makes sense as Tesla ramps up production of the Model 3, its mass-market electric sedan. The company had nearly half a million pre-orders for the car as of early August, with more coming in daily.

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If the company can meet its ambitious Model 3 production schedule, the number of Teslas on the road will more than double within three years. Though the company says most buyers charge at home, that bigger userbase could still lead to overcrowding at what are, effectively, the gas stations of tomorrow.

More Superchargers could also solve a market issue for Tesla: It could give urban dwellers, who often don’t have garages and rely on street parking, a plausible way to keep a Tesla charged.

It could also give other manufacturers more reason to build cars compatible with Tesla’s charging network, one apparent strategic goal when Tesla open-sourced its patents in 2014. That’s looking more and more like a longshot, though – no other major manufacturer has taken up that baton so far, though, and Tesla’s Superchargers now only make up about 6% of all charging stations in the U.S.

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