If you drive a Tesla electric sedan — or you’re thinking about purchasing one — you’ll have no trouble quickly juicing it up locally for a cross-country trip.
California-based Tesla Motors has just opened a Supercharger, a multiple-bay vehicle charging station, in the parking lot of Billings’ Big Horn Resort west of Billings. The device, which is free but works only on the company’s Model S electric sedan, allows for up to three hours of interstate or highway travel before another recharging.
The Supercharger can provide a drained Tesla battery with half a charge in about 20 minutes, said Alexis Georgeson, Tesla’s communications director.
Superchargers cost the company about $150,000 each to install, are designed for city-to-city travel and are usually placed near restaurants and shopping malls, she said. They are strategically placed to allow owners to drive station to station with minimal stops.
The Billings Supercharger is the first in Montana and the 102nd in North America — 101 in the U.S. and one in Canada. The device charges the vehicle about 20 times faster than a conventional electrical outlet, Georgeson said.
“That ability to take a road trip was what was holding people back,” she said. “The Supercharger addresses that.”
The Tesla Supercharger, announced in 2012 and rolled out beginning in 2013, provides up to 120 kilowatts of power.
The Model S is the world’s first mass-produced electric sedan and was named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. The Model S can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and has a range of 265 miles before it needs recharging.
Georgeson said about 30,000 Model S vehicles were sold worldwide during the first quarter of 2014. Those 30,000 electric vehicles have been driven 30 million miles just through the network of Superchargers — an average of 1,000 miles per vehicle.
The placement of the recharging devices has enabled Tesla to carve out a handful of east-west and north-south routes, Georgeson said. One route can take an electric vehicle owner from San Diego to Whistler, British Columbia, while another connects
Miami with the state of Maine. A third route connects America’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles. The Billings Supercharger is part of a northern tier west-to-east route that begins in Seattle and heads east.
“We are putting them along well-traveled corridors based on where customers tell us they want to go,” Georgeson said. The electricity is “free forever, and our goal is to allow people to travel throughout the U.S. for free.”
At each Supercharger, the company picks up the electric bill. A Tesla Model S retails for about $70,000, and the nearest retailers are in Seattle and Lone Tree, Colo., Georgeson said.
But Tesla crews often bring the Model S out to cities not served by dealers so that people can test drive them, she said. More information is on the company’s website, www.teslamotors.com.