January 24, 2014 in City

Charging station on I-90 brings Spokane into Tesla universe

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tyler Tjomsland photo

Kevin Lloyd, right, and his father Dale check out a pair of Teslas before taking them for a test drive on Friday, January 24, 2014, at the Davenport in Spokane, Wash.
(Full-size photo)

Going for a ride in a Tesla Model S is like taking off in a jet plane, only without the noise.

“You touch that accelerator, it’s all go,” said Tom Hutchison, a sales representative with Tesla in Bellevue.

He brought his sales team and two Tesla cars to the Davenport Hotel on Friday to show off their performance to about 40 prospective buyers — and to call attention to a new Tesla super-charging station in Ellensburg.

The station just off Interstate 90 makes cross-state travel in a Tesla more convenient.

Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., now has about 22,000 vehicles on the road in the U.S. The company is named for an early-day electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla.

Most Tesla owners are drawn by the sleek performance. It goes from zero to 60 mph in four seconds with 416 horsepower and 443 foot-pounds of torque. The car comes with a speed-limiting governor that tops out at 130 mph, Hutchison said.

Most owners charge their batteries while the car is parked at home overnight. A full charge allows the car to travel from about 250 to 300 miles, depending on the size of the battery.

As a result, a trip to Seattle requires a shot of electricity on the way, Hutchison said.

Tesla operates its exclusive charging station in Ellensburg free of charge. Other Tesla charging stations are located along Interstate 5 at Centralia and Burlington, Wash.

The Tesla charging stations are capable of filling a battery in 40 minutes. That compares with many public charging stations that provide 20 to 30 miles of range in an hour, Hutchison said.

“I like the fact that it’s a sporty, free-emission vehicle,” said one test driver on Friday, who did not give his name because he didn’t want his wife to know he’s thinking about buying a Tesla. .

The Model S is $69,000 with the smaller 60-kilowatt battery while the 85-kilowatt battery goes for $79,900.

“It’s like a dream car for sure,” said test driver Nate Chatellier, of Spokane.

He said the car is large enough with its rear-facing third row of seating to double as a family car.

“Í’m a software engineer, so I love the technology behind everything,” he said.

Curt Kirkeby, an electrical engineer for Avista said that he, too, is drawn to the technology. He scheduled a test drive for Friday afternoon and was planning to take his family along with him.

The Tesla’s low center of gravity gives excellent handling, especially on snow and ice, Hutchison said. It is currently the best-selling car in Norway, he said.

An even more charged Tesla is coming out this year. The new Model X is Tesla’s version of an SUV. It’s equipped with two electric motors – one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels. Its falcon-wing doors are reminiscent of the DeLorean.

The market for Tesla is made up of a wide range of customers, not just tech fans. Retirees make up about 15 percent of owners, Hutchison said.

“They are looking for their last great car,” he said of older owners.

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