Moab is about to leap into the technological future.
Tesla Motors is nearing completion of a 4-stall Supercharger station at Best Western on the corner of Center Street and 100 West. These stations are specifically designed to charge the Tesla lithium-ion battery used in their all-electric cars in the time it takes a driver to eat lunch.
Founded in 2003 by a group of Silicon Valley engineers, Tesla set forth on a mission to change what the world drives, from traditional gas-fueled cars to zero-emissions electric vehicles (EV). “The overarching purpose of Tesla Motors is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy,” said Elon Musk, Chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors, in a blog post in 2006.
Before the mass market can transition to EV, there needs to be an infrastructure to support the driving of those vehicles. The Palo Alto, Calif., based company currently has at least 63 working Supercharger stations strung out on a coast-to-coast route from Los Angeles to New York City with a plan to build many, many more.
Their initial route includes Hwy 191 through Moab and Blanding, forgoing I-70 stations until a later phase. Both stations are within just a few weeks of completion. Though Tesla enthusiasts debate the merits of this initial route on Tesla Motor’s web forums, officials in both cities seem pleased.
“I’ve had quite a bit of interest in it already from Tesla owners calling to ask if it’s open,” said Jeremy Redd, Blanding’s city administrator. “I don’t know what kind of use it will get, but even if a hundred people stop, it’s a hundred we didn’t have before.”
Moab’s mayor echoed a similar response.
“Tesla figured that because of our notoriety and proximity to national parks and the scenic attractions, Moab would be an ideal spot,” said Dave Sakrison. “It puts us on another map and it’s part of their larger network so it’ll attract some people, and I think electric cars are the wave of the future.”
Sakrison, who owns a Prius, had the pleasure of riding in a Tesla Model S, a luxury sedan, when the Supercharger project developers were in town last year. He said he was impressed by the quiet ride and quick handling. However, with a price tag of $69,000, the mayor said he will wait with the for an affordable, mass-produced version.
When that may be is unclear. Developing big leaps in new technology is an expensive endeavor.
“The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model,” Musk said in the same blog post in 2006.
In the meantime, they’re developing the infrastructure required for mass numbers of electric vehicles by focusing on the Supercharger stations.
The Moab station will be only the second one in Utah, but according to the Telsa website, six more stations in Utah are planned for this year. By the end of 2015, they hope to have enough Supercharger stations to serve 98 percent of the US population.
A Supercharger can now recharge a Tesla car for 150 miles in about 20 minutes, or to full capacity of about 300 miles in about 75 minutes. According to US Department of Energy, most public charging stations provide 12 to 30 miles of range for an hour of charging, depending on battery type.
The stations are strategically placed to allow Tesla owners to drive from station to station, taking into consideration that forces like gravity, friction, and drag, will always vary the range. The charge is free for all properly equipped Tesla models; other EV cars will have to find other options.
Furthering their environmental commitment, some of Tesla’s Supercharger stations that are canopy-covered use solar panels to offset energy use. Their website encourages owners to install solar panels at home for charging.
With zero emissions, no fuel costs, no oil-changes, fuel filter replacements, spark plugs, or timing belts – Tesla estimates their car owners aren’t only being environmentally wise, but can save more than $20,000 over the life of their car compared to a similar gas-fueled sedan.
The government also offers a $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle.
However, with some car maker’s still considering hydrogen-fuel cell cars as a green alternative, it may be too soon to say if electric cars are the wave of the future. Until the price tag is more affordable, it may be a future locals watch drive through town long before we see it parked in our own driveways.
Tesla charging station nearing completion
“Tesla figured that because of our notoriety and proximity to national parks and the scenic attractions, Moab would be an ideal spot.”