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Tesla superchargers lonesome states

2014-01-09 05:12

CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS:Mark Kupke, owner of the Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming, inspects one of four Tesla supercharger units installed in the courtyard. Image: Mead Gruver/AP

MEAD GRUVER

Finding a battery Tesla Model S roaming around the US mid-west is about as likely as spotting the mythical jackalope. Until now that is, as the electric automaker is on a mission to install quick-charge stations to enable drivers to driver from coast to coast.

WYOMING, USA — In the least populated county in the least populated US state, Wyoming, old Ford and Chevrolet trucks roam and rule the roads.

Finding a Tesla, the sleek albeit pricey battery car, around these ranching towns is about as likely as spotting the mythical jackalope.  In December 2013, a Model S sedan pulled in at the America’s Best Value Inn Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming - population 1557.

LONG JOURNEYS MORE FEASIBLE

Its mission was to plug in four supercharger units the automaker installed in the motel’s courtyard. The visit was part of a test of a planned coast-to-coast route of quick-charge stations for Tesla vehicles.

The automaker has plans to install more quick-charge stations in the US in 2014, as part of its strategy to make long journeys more feasible.

Some Folks in Lusk are hoping that the stations will bring a steady stream of wealthy tourists while others are doubt whether the charging stations will be used.  After all, there’s no shortage of skepticism about electric cars in Wyoming, it’s not the kind of place for battery vehicles.

First, drivers are partial to bakkies because of their ability to tow heavy loads and endure the rattling of going off-road. Second, Wyoming is famous for its open ranges, terrain that has worried EV owners because they could end up stranded.

Tesla claims its Model S can drive a 426km on a single charge. Draining the battery pack and recharging it all the way takes more than four hours with the best available home charger.

The automaker’s superchargers offer a trade-off that makes long-distance trips more feasible – recharging a depleted Tesla battery pack to 90% in just 45-50 minutes.

In Lusk, that’s enough time to grab a burger at the nearby Outpost Cafe or Triangle 4 Cafe & Steakhouse, or visit the antiques stores downtown.

‘THE GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP’

The Supercharger station will be a critical stepping-stone between stations in Cheyenne and Rapid City, on the first coast-to-coast route to be followed. Tesla said it will have more cross-country options by the end of 2014, including the scenic Four Corners region and Mount Rushmore.

Tesla spokesman Patrick Jones said: “That’s kind of the thought behind this first, initial route, is enabling the great American road trip.”

New charging stations also are going in across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to connect existing facilities on the coasts. Tesla owners use the stations free of, well, charge. Tesla picks up the electric bill.

The last time Lusk got any attention for such cutting-edge technology was in the late 1990s, when a Microsoft television ad trumpeted the town’s connection to the Internet as an answer to tough times for the ranching community.

‘I’M A PICK-UP GIRL’

In reality, a R32-million project to link Lusk to fiber-optic broadband was stalled for years.

Niobrara County, population 2456, is home to plenty of wealthy ranchers who can afford a Tesla, said Michael Mercer between oil changes at a downtown auto repair shop. The problem is that most live in country far too rugged for low-clearance vehicles.

Mercer said: “They’re not going to take some hundred-something-thousand-dollar car off road.”

Inga Miller, a bartender and store clerk at the Lusk Liquor & Lounge, said her dream truck is a Ford F-150 extended cab with four-wheel drive, a great stereo system and a bed big enough to haul plenty of hay for her friends’ horses.

Miller said: “I’m a pick-up girl. If they come out with one that’s an electric pickup, it might be all right.”

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Read more on:    tesla  |  usa  |  environmental  |  electric cars

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