As mentioned a few days ago, Oregon "leaders" were crowing about having completed the state's contribution to the West Coast Electric Highway (I-5) with the installation of the final rapid-charge station for electric vehicles. Some day soon, you'll be able to drive from Baja, California to Bellingham, Washington on I-5 without ever having to fill up a gas tank - if the weather's nice.
Steve Chu, as Barky's Secretary of Energy, announced three years ago that they'd given a $465 million guaranteed loan to Tesla Motors as part of the "advanced vehicles program" intended to fight man-made global warming.
The loan to Tesla would “begin laying the foundation for American leadership in the growing electric vehicles industry,” Dr. Chu said.
At the time, Tesla set a target of producing 20,000 Model S cars by the end of 2013. Some 13,000 eager buyers have reserved 2013 models at prices from about $61,000 to more than $100,000. To give those cars family-vacation capability, the company plans to have 90 Supercharger stations built across the country by the end of 2013.
Tesla's built a couple of them along the east coast already, and loaned a Model S to a reporter to demonstrate its coolness. As noted, one day you'll be able to drive from southern California to northern Washington on I-5 without ever filling up a gas tank - if the weather's nice. That latter part, as the intrepid reporter discovered to his chagrin, is key:
The new charging points, at service plazas in Newark, Del., and Milford, Conn., are some 200 miles apart. That is well within the Model S’s 265-mile estimated range, as rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, for the version with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery that I drove — and even more comfortably within Tesla’s claim of 300 miles of range under ideal conditions.
Apparently, a sunny 30-degree day doesn't qualify.
He made it from Washington D.C to the Delaware charging station uneventfully enough, and with half a battery-charge to spare. After nearly an hour at the charging post, he was rolling again. But all was not well. The battery was losing charge quickly, and he resorted to energy-saving measures that included turning off the heat and driving r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. All the while, the charge level kept dropping, as did the temperature of his hands and feet.
He was able to make it to the Milford charging station, on the electric equivalent of fumes and amid high anxiety, and was finally able to warm his hands with a cup of coffee. It took another hour at the charging post, so he had plenty of time to drink. Unplugging, he set off again:
I drove, slowly, to Stonington, Conn., for dinner and spent the night in Groton, a total distance of 79 miles. When I parked the car, its computer said I had 90 miles of range, twice the 46 miles back to Milford. It was a different story at 8:30 the next morning. The thermometer read 10 degrees and the display showed 25 miles of remaining range — the electrical equivalent of someone having siphoned off more than two-thirds of the fuel that was in the tank when I parked.
As you may have surmised, things went downhill from there; culminating in the vehicle's announcement that it was shutting down - which it promptly did. .
Tesla’s New York service manager, Adam Williams, found a towing service in Milford that sent a skilled and very patient driver, Rick Ibsen, to rescue me with a flatbed truck. Not so quick: the car’s electrically actuated parking brake would not release without battery power, and hooking the car’s 12-volt charging post behind the front grille to the tow truck’s portable charger would not release the brake. So he had to drag it onto the flatbed, a painstaking process that took 45 minutes. Fortunately, the cab of the tow truck was toasty.
Ah, the miracles of modern technology! Five hours after leaving the place of his overnight stay in the town of Groton, the trusty flatbed approached the charging station in Milford. The drive is normally less than one hour. But the fun wasn't over yet; after half an hour of charging, the battery had enough juice to allow the parking brake to be released, and the car rolled triumphantly off the tow truck.
Presumably, he spent another hour at the charging post, after which he was able to drive to the Tesla dealer in New York City, where he dropped it off.
But at least he didn't have to fill a gas tank on the $100,000 car.