By on May 8, 2014

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Vacaville, California. Population 93,899, as of two years ago. Median income $57,667. A series of stripmalls. A Buffalo Wild Wings. And one of Tesla’s Superchargers – the weirdest Supercharger, the Supercharger that I cannot understand the location of, nor the existence of – unless, of course, you’re driving like I was from Napa to San Francisco, and needed a quick charge.

The “Supercharger” in question is really just a line of Supercharging units – the tall white holders that you get your power from. Next to it is a gigantic, billowing generator (I think) that makes a sound like a jet engine. And that’s it. The phrase “Supercharger” in the past had become synonymous with a performance accessory for supercars. If you’re a weirdo like me, you associate it with some sort of Tesla experience – a “place” where you take your car that has an “experience” attached to it. Instead what it is is a peculiar charge-bank in a strip mall.

The chargers themselves worked…strangely. When I parked and plugged my car in, with three other cars next to me, I charged at 100 miles per hour (of course, this denotes how much juice you get in a given amount of time, not the traditional measurement of velocity). This kicked up slowly to 150 “mph” once another car left. This was totally fine – I was spoiled by the speed of the Freemont Supercharger, which at my last trip was able to get me to 320 miles per hour of charging.

The Vacaville Supercharger has a bigger problem, though – culture. On the Supercharger Promise Scale, it succeeds only in being able to give you a place to go to the bathroom (a 5 minute walk across the parking lot) and a bite to eat (a vending machine with some candy in it). The scenery is weird – you’re by the highway, there’s a Coldwater Creek Outlet and some other stores, and nothing else.

In short, the Supercharger feels horribly out of place. As did I charging my car. People would walk past the line of Teslas, running their hands on them, or slowly drift by gawking and staring me in the eyes as I waited for it to charge. I don’t mind, really – hands are fine, at least they’re not keys. It just felt a spectacle.

As a functional “charger”,  it worked well– and as far as travelling to/from Napa, it was about as perfect it could be. It also brought up the interesting definition that Tesla needs to make between a SuperCHARGER and a Supercharging STATION – a secondary term that doesn’t exist yet, but should.

I am frustrated that Tesla seems so ardently unable to follow through on the basic statements on their website. While their definition of Supercharger is a very fast charger, the pictures they use on the website suggest beautiful, scenic chargers – not a line of weird stalls alongside a strip mall, or awkwardly sandwiched next to the sales office at HQ. In the same way that gas stations function as refueling facilities for both the car and the driver, the Supercharger should be a station not a charger – especially since you’re there for a lot longer than it takes to fill a car’s gas tank.

If the Tesla network is to grow illustriously and truly make a go of being an alternative to gasoline, they have to provide more of a service at a Supercharger. Yes, it’s great that I can get back 50% of my power in 20-30 minutes. However that’s 20-30 minutes I’m sitting around in the car – messing with the screen, twiddling my thumbs – that would be a lot better spent stretching my legs. And no, saying “it’s by a strip mall” is not a sufficient answer.

Considering the amount of care and attention to detail put into the Model S, the Superchargers – at least based on my experiences in Vacaville and Fremont – feel deficient. No doubt they’re expensive to install and maintain, and would be even more so if you added actual services on top of them, but perhaps now is the time for Tesla to make the next step. Sorry, Elon, but I shouldn’t be missing gas stations. And I am.

I realize that sounds immensely bratty – but the basic existence of the gas station is one that is there to partially support the driver. Even if it’s just to have a pee, grab a drink, stretch your legs and then get driving, it’s an experience that is unglamorous but necessary. And until Musk recreates it for the Tesla, it’s something that will effect my willingness to take particularly long drives.

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143 Comments on “TTAC Long Term Tesla Part 5: The Mystery Of The Vacaville Supercharger, Or Why I Miss Gas Stations...”


  • avatar

    Excellent commentary.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Electric cars: for people that can’t foresee the painfully obvious.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You mean the death of gasoline as a viable fuel source within our lifetimes?

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        No, he means that to use the Tesla for “normal” travel you are going to have to waste a lot of time hanging out somewhere you don’t want to be while your car recharges.

        If you make enough money to buy a Tesla chances are your time is valuable. Making a social/political/environmental statement with your electric car loses some if it’s appeal when you have to hang out with the proles in Applebee’s for 4 hours waiting for it to recharge.

        We will see how the owner feels about mid trip recharges when the new car smell has worn off.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          We’ll see how much he needs to keep using the Superchargers, too. Most Tesla owners have the ability to charge at home much more easily, so for our purposes, the Op Ed is an exception to the rule.

          And to me, a BEV is far less of a compromise than an EREV which still relies on gasoline for anything over 35 miles. No matter how you look at it, gasoline is going away eventually and the sooner we move to something different the better. Hydrogen MAY be the future, but not until we get a method of producing it that doesn’t burn more fuel than it makes.

          • 0 avatar
            stingray65

            Scientists and government agencies have been predicting the imminent end of oil supplies since at least 1911, and today proven reserves are the largest in history. I feel pretty confident in predicting that the vast majority of car owners will still be refueling at gasoline stations 50 years from now.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Yes, let’s think about that argument for a moment.

            Reserve: Definition — Refrain from delivering. That means it’s oil not sold or perhaps purchased but not released for specific purposes. Now why would we be reserving record amounts IF the supply is unlimited? Over 35 years ago it was reported that known reservoirs of crude would run out within 150 years–assuming demand remained at 1980 levels. It hasn’t.

            A form of crude is now being mined–not pumped–because oil supplies are running out and it has become cheaper to develop more sources through less efficient methods than to admit they’re running out. I don’t expect gasoline to remain the primary automotive fuel for as long as you believe.

          • 0 avatar
            jdash1972

            Gasoline cars are powered by refined crude oil -we drill for that. Electric cars are powered not by electricity, but predominantly by coal…. We remove the tops of mountains for that, burn it and produce electricity. Funny – if the Supercharger station was actually powered by a GENERATOR, that would be a pretty big insult to the whole notion of an electric car. Burn diesel, make electricity, charge your fancy electric car. And the diesel had to be trucked to the site in a rig that also burned diesel. At this rate the aggregate fuel economy and Eco-friendliness is getting pretty ugly.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You’re making assumptions, jdash. Why couldn’t it be a turbine powered by natural gas? Not saying it is, but I’m not willing to assume anything until I’ve seen/heard it for myself.

          • 0 avatar
            jdash1972

            FreedMike, energy exists in identifiable reserves, and these are well known. Fossil fuels is pretty much it. Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear are also sources, but limited in several ways. There is no getting away from fossil fuels, there is nothing to be discovered and nothing can replace them. There will be no miracle cold fusion. It will just get more expensive. Texas is booming again with oil and gas production because the value of the resource is greater than the cost of extraction. That formula dictates what reserves we exploit. Even if we’re all driving hydrogen powered cars we’ll need a hell of a lot of energy to make the hydrogen, or the electricity for a battery powered car. And we have a hell of a lot of coal.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @jdash: I need to address two points here.

            1) The description of the Supercharger location and sounds are based on his opinion that it was a generator operating the location. While I am not a resident of California, I am aware that there are locations in many well-populated states that still have minimal electric service available–barely enough to power the community and frequently knocked off-line by weather, wildlife and motor vehicle accidents. So, going on his assumption that it was a generator, I suggested that it might be a turbine based on the sounds and not a diesel, which would sound completely different. However, should it be that the transformer is enclosed in a shed of some sort, then cooling fans may be critical to keeping it operational. Personally, I think it’s not just a substation/transformer.

            Note also that some communities locate water pumps and other utilities in what appear to be homes or business locations. It is quite possible that the Tesla Superchargers are sharing a location with one of these pumping stations, where 440VAC is more readily available

            2) While you may be correct in stating that we will never escape fossil fuels, you are also condemning civilization to a sudden and messy death; at current usage rates, we will reportedly run out of coal as well within 500 years, even assuming no increase in demand.
            Mankind doesn’t exactly like to stand still any more. 1,000 years ago we were perfectly happy in our little flat world believing we were the center of everything. We also considered anything out of the usual to be an act of the God–or gods. We no longer have that luxury. There are so many of us on this planet that just to survive as a species, we need to Get Off This Planet.

            Mankind may just be the cockroach of the universe–swarming one planet until there is nothing left to feed on and moving to another. But to do so, we will need something more potent than oil and coal. Solar, atmospheric, hydraulic and yes, even geothermal energy can supplant our need for fossil fuels and will need to sooner than you might think.

        • 0 avatar
          Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

          Well, if by ‘normal’ you mean a statistically-high percentage of trips, less than 1% of trips are >=100 miles, and less than 15% of daily miles traveled are >=100 .

          http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/pl08021/fig4_5.cfm

          So the Model S accomodates the regular-to-vast majority of daily driving scenarios for US drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            jdash1972

            Volpine, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the electric car and more importantly for efficiency in general, in everything. The Supercharger could very well be powered by natural gas. It ought simply to be serviced by a large enough transformer connected to the grid to charge all the vehicles that the station can accommodate at once, perhaps the cost of installing the electrical service was prohibitive at the time, or for some other reason. It’s just amusing to think about burning a fossil fuel, to create torque (turn an engine shaft) to turn a generator, to create electricity, which is then converted using power electronics and used to charge a battery, which is then discharged to drive an electric motor in the car to propel you down the road. There are considerable loses at every step of the game and it would be far more efficient to be driving a CNG powered car at this point…. That way you burn the fuel to turn the engine and turn the wheels. Done. I think hybrids, or plug-in hybrids, are the way to go.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @jdash1972

            The key to understanding the benefit of electric cars isn’t in the context of today’s energy production sources. Yes, today coal is king, but we’re moving away from that. The process isn’t instantaneous by any means, but it’s happening. Twenty years from now, the mix of energies will be far more diverse than it is now, and will include far cleaner sources.

            And 30-50 years from now, we could be looking at new technologies that would make ANY fossil fuel completely obsolete.

            But for the time being, it makes all kinds of sense to advance the technology of electric cars, and Tesla’s doing that. In a few years, in essence, the energy used to power electric cars will catch up with the cars themselves.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This seems to paradox the image I have of a Tesla driver. An upward mobile mover and shaker who is forced to keep himself busy for a half-hour while his car recharges. You almost have to restructure your day if you use your Tesla for more then just commuting. I can see where this could be a problem, but I’m sure Elon will come up with a better plan. I wonder what he does during his time-out.

    lol

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Well, I’m certain that there will come a time when even Tesla drivers will consider installing a towing-hitch on their car and fitting it with a Honda EU-6500iSA Inverter Generator on a cargo-carrier.

      People who choose to drive an EV are aware of their limitations and lack of support structure. It may make sense to drive an EV for some.

      I got the impression that this charging was free, as in no cost to the driver. Is that really the case? Someone has to pay for the electricity, or is this paid for by the taxpayers of California?

      • 0 avatar
        blowfish

        should u pack a 6500w genset would u be considered by the EV crowds as an Infidel?

        probably Elon pick those El Cheapo God forsaken places for supercharging stations.

        Being free with the go go juice u shouldn’t look at a gift horse in the mouth.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Many EV advocates have done it, going back as far as the RAV4-EV and the Tango EV.

          But the reality *is* that EVs are for commuting. Can you imagine how much has you could save if every second-car used for commuter car were an EV? Its not enough to be all things to all people. My WAG that would save at least 20% of the retail gasoline sales, which would cause a dramatic restructuring of the world oil markets, likely for the USA’s benefit.

          Using gas for a roadtrip now and then, meh, whatever. That’s 2-3 weeks a year. Using electric to do the cores the other 49-50 weeks a year seems like a big win.

          Oh, and EVs are agnostic about where their power comes from. Dirty coal one day, practical nuclear the next, natural gas on hot days, hydro/wind/solar another day. The car can run on any fuel, so you don’t need to buy a new one when the energy market changes.

          • 0 avatar
            Chicago Dude

            BMW gets it right – buy an i3 for commuting and when you need to drive beyond the range, you just pop in to the dealership and take out a loaner 328 or x5.

            The biggest obstacle to EVs restructuring the energy landscape is battery production capacity. Even with Tesla’s planned gigafactory, there will be worldwide battery supply for less than a million EVs a year. In a worldwide market of 30+ million vehicles per year.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ll correct that:

            The right way to skip the BS is to review the person’s WANTS and pick a machine that does what they WANT.

            Cars in this price range are sold on wants, not needs. Nobody NEEDS a car that costs this much, which makes it necessary to reach those who may want it.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            +1

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          blowfish, I don’t rightly know if they would be considered infidels because I have seen quite a number of PEVs on the Interstates in SoCal, towing a tiny motorcycle-type trailer with an AC generator on it (not even covered).

          One of them had the generator running as we crept along side by side at the merger of I-5 and I-805.

          And that generator was LOUD. I could hear it thundering even with the windows of the Grand Cherokee rolled all the way up.

          I didn’t get the make of the EV though. I was too busy keeping an eyeball on traffic around me and the iPad wasn’t handy to take a picture with.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        It’s paid for BY Tesla as an ongoing service to any who has purchased the capability of using the Supercharger stations, which in itself is paid for up front when they buy the car.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        The Honda EU6500 does not have enough power to recharge the Tesla in a reasonable amount of time. Using Amps x Volts = Watts, the Tesla 240v wall chargers need a minimum of 50 amps (12,000 watts) to recharge the car in 6 hours, and 90 (21,600 watts) amps to recharge in 4 hours.

        A 20,000 watt generator will cost about $20,000; it would be cheaper to buy a second car. Plus towing a portable generator that big is a bit cumbersome.

        Tesla info here: http://www.teslamotors.com/roadster/charging/high-power-wall-connector

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Toad, I think you are right.

          But the point is that some people choose to tow an AC generator behind their PEV and my guess is that whenever they’re stopped for any length of time, any place where there is no ready access to a charging station, they fire up the generator.

          What I found surprising is that some guy next to me had his generator going full blast while he and I were inching along where the I-5 and I-805 merge.

          As far as the Honda EU-6500iSA is concerned, I own one, and it is the best AC generator for my needs I have ever owned during my 68 years of living.

          Really clean, pure sinewave thanks to the inverter. Checked it out with my Oscilloscope. Have my electronic gear hooked up to that one.

          For heavy duty electrical needs and the rest of the house and property, I have a diesel-powered Wacker 70KW trailer-mounted generator.

          When I fire that thing up it is “Katie bar the door” because the whole neighborhood will feel it running if they don’t already see the black smoke billowing from the smoke stack.

          Since I lost my second Ingersoll-Rand Generator earlier this year, I’ve been shopping for a (used) 1500KW McCullough Diesel to replace all my small generators for the house and property.

          The latter two generators would easily satisfy the needs of the Tesla 240v fast charger but they would be too heavy and cumbersome to take along behind any EV.

  • avatar

    Okay I give up. At first I even defended Ed but now I succumb to the masses. This is needless drivel and shouldn’t be on this site. It sounds like Ed (whom I am increasingly believing is a made up apparition to rile the best and brightest) made an impulse purchase and is desperately trying to sell himself he made a great choice by writing to us.

    Here is the summary of all the articles so far

    1) I don’t know anything about cars but the Tesla is the best there is.
    2) Everything about it is awesome and best. I know this because this 90K car is so much better than my 35K Volvo I had before.
    3) Apart from when you need to use the EV equivalent of a gas station and find there is never one conveniently located when you need one and it takes hours to fill up.
    4) I need to pee, like a lot!!
    5) Now I have buyer’s remorse.

    Tesla is still an interesting car and company and the haters should back off, but I’d have an S7 instead and I kind of wonder whether Ed would have been just as effusive about the Audi if he’d bought that but without the buyers remorse. Why is he so surprised that a 90K is better in every way than his old Volvo?

    • 0 avatar
      Battles

      I agree that it’s not the best feature ever but I think it’s still very interesting and very TTAC.
      I think if one of “us” wrote it we’d be making allowances all over the place and defending some of the odd parts of the buying and owning experience, the same way I do with my collection of 1980s Benzes that are actually not as brilliant as I tell people they are.

      If I had a Tesla, I’d be the world’s biggest Tesla cheerleader and I’d do a lot of journey planning and I’d have a spare car and I’d still love the whole experience of owning one.

      He’s moaning about the deficiencies of Tesla, which isn’t something that many people get to hear, but if he’d bought an S7 that proved unreliable he’d be telling us something we already knew so he wouldn’t be featured.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “It sounds like Ed (whom I am increasingly believing is a made up apparition to rile the best and brightest) made an impulse purchase and is desperately trying to sell himself he made a great choice by writing to us.”

      That sounds like pretty much everyone…..!

      I mean, seriously, the guy who buys a Mustang who really needed an Accent has exactly the same problem.

      Even I have the same problem, with my used car swapping strategy.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s much simpler than that. Ed IM’d me one day telling me that he bought a Tesla. I asked him if he’d like to write about the first 12 months of the ownership experience, and what it was like adjusting to an EV. He agreed.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The point is that charging the car is necessarily part of the ownership experience, and luxury car buyers expect a bit of coddling for their extra money.

      EVs remain a compromise, and that necessarily limits their adoption. This is something EV fans simply refuse to get: as did GM, they keep arguing that the customer is wrong, as if pointing fingers at the people who spend their money was somehow going to help them to stay in business.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        “This is something EV fans simply refuse to get: as did GM, they keep arguing that the customer is wrong”

        +1. Discussing the obvious problems with electric cars is like arguing with a religious fundamentalist.

        • 0 avatar
          Mandalorian

          Say what you will about GM, but the Volt can run on gas.

          Crisis Averted.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Aye, and that’s its problem too; it needs that gas far sooner than it should. Double the range of the electric-only drive and the Volt would be a far better choice than it is.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I’m an EV fan but I go out of my way to avoid cranial-rectal inversion syndrome as best I can.

          A lot of the people who think EV fans are idiotic insist on one car that can do everything. There is no car that can do everything, though my Sienna is close. A petrolhead who insists that EVs are worthless until they are exactly like gas cars is similarly idiotic.

          The right way to skip the BS is to review the person’s needs and pick a machine that does what they need. I find this to be far more interesting than cheerleading for what I want for myself, or what will work in my circumstances – I thought that through long ago.

  • avatar
    dramsey

    Most of us Tesla owners try to scope things out before we head out on trips. If the author had, he’d have seen the Tahoe Joe’s restaurant is right there– easy to overlook since the back of the restaurant faces the superchargers, but close enough to walk to in a minute or so; it’s in the same parking lot.

    This isn’t to say that superchargers shouldn’t be better, but jeez, guy, do a tiny modicum of research first. Hope you enjoyed your vending-machine snacks.

    It also seems odd to complain about the slower charging rate when he admits he parks right next to other cars. Unless he doesn’t know how superchargers work or something.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      “Unless he doesn’t know how superchargers work or something.”

      These articles are from someone for whom not understanding how various things work (and not seeming to have much of a desire to try,) seems a point of pride.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      OK…so let me say as a failing male along with an ever-growing prostrate, I need to plan a little as far as rest stops so I can pee.
      I need to know how much coffee I am drinking and make sure the absorption/salty food is being matched accordingly to slow the stopping.
      Now, if I were to get an EV…I will need to add the charging as well.
      Oh…my.
      This is getting pretty complicated.

      Regarding the gas stations…I remember when they were actually better…and called service stations because sooo much more was required. Tire work and other repairs along the long trip.

      IMO…the gas stations would be more helpful IF they would add a row of chargers along the building side so they can be all things to all cars.

      Perhaps service areas along toll roads can add them.

      I am still confused as to how this whole EV experiment will work with the average consumer. How in hell can I afford to have an EV which is anything more than an inexpensive around town commuter? I cannot afford to have a 100K EV car in the garage for daily stuff and a larger gas powered travel vehicle as well.
      They get the EV to charge very quickly, be small, affordable and fun… or this entire test fails. The EV gets into the 25K or less price range so it can be has as a second car…or it fails.
      Otherwise the small gas engine still wins big.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Reality is that if you can afford a $90K car, you can probably afford to have something else too.

        But to me, it makes WAY more sense to have a $25K Leaf or 500e as a commuter, and have something nice for road trips. Heck, I mostly use my Abarth around town (in nice weather), my BMW rarely does LESS than 100 miles at a time. But my commute is a few times a week to the airport that is <10 minutes from my house.

        And I agree with those who think that the amenities of a Tesla are simply NOT commensurate with the price of the car, and the giant touchscreen should just be illegal.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve65

          “$25K Leaf or 500e as a commuter,”

          I had to read that four times before my brain would let go of the idea that you were proposing a 20 year old factory hot rod Benz as a commuter…

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Considering your apparent age, I would think that planning your trip like that is a return to the ‘good ol’ days.’ Sitting at the cusp of my sixth decade, I still have a 300-mile bladder and enjoy driving on the old 2-lane/4-lane non-Interstate highways. I drive a car that doesn’t get the greatest gas mileage, but that can also go where no conventional car or SUV can travel. My point is that your complaint simply doesn’t make any sense.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    I’ll bet the charging point has been put there because it is noisy and the whine of generator would soon piss most close residents off to the point where vandalism would occur .

  • avatar

    Looks like an entrepreneurial opportunity. Make a deal with the parking lot owner to let you park an RV (so there are rest room facilities) adjacent to the Tesla chargers that’s set up as a combination food truck, lounge, and automotive accessory store.

    You have an almost captive, upscale market. I’m not sure if the landlord will rent you some parking spaces, but how many people are going to make the 5 minute walk to the mall? At least this way the landlord gets some revenue from something that’s normally a cost item.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      Right on. This is a captive, affluent market. How many of these people are going to sit around for 30 minutes without buying something if you put it right in front of them? Free wifi, bathrooms, food truck, cafe, even some treadmills to get the blood flowing a bit…it will all come in time, Elon is just throwing up these stations as fast as possible right now.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Too many potential entreprenurial opportunities to count here.

        1 – Gourmet food truck

        2 – Taxi stand (for those who can’t wait the charge time)

        3 – Chair massage

        4 – Buff & Polish

        5 – Extortion – fill up all of the charging bays with Steve Lang’s slow selling manual transmission vehicles and accept “donation” to switch places

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      There aren’t enough Tesla owners passing through Vacaville at any one time to support such a thing.

  • avatar
    TonyP

    So this this, essentially, a rant about being an early technology adopter and being bored while your $90K car is receiving it’s *free* fuel? Neat.

    • 0 avatar
      piro

      Yeah.

      This article is ridiculous and frankly shouldn’t have been written.

      The same supercharger has a good review on Google: https://plus.google.com/110952056460341546315/about?gl=US&hl=en

      The location itself looks fine.

      I don’t know what’s expected! Plus, it’s FREE. For crying out loud…

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “my willingness to take particularly long drives.”

    You don’t want long drives. They aren’t necessary to impress your cohort and they only take you out to where the morlocks live.

    Tesla doesn’t want you taking long drives. That’s why they punish you with a setup like Vacaville.

  • avatar
    b787

    Solution: build Superchargers near gas stations.

    • 0 avatar
      jbreuckm

      Alternate solution – add superchargers to existing gas stations and charge for the electrons like you would gas. All the profit in gas stations is in the C-store these days, so whatever fuel they’re slinging into cars at a minuscule markup is moot for the station owner, anyways.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    Summary of above comments: “I’m not a hater, but arrgghh snarble garble!!!”

    I think I can answer the question of why this SuperCharger station isn’t some kind of electric car Xanadu — that would have been expensive, and what Tesla needs is to have chargers available today where their customers live and drive. They’ve apparently succeeded at that. They can add the patio and Starbucks later.

  • avatar
    happycamper

    I don’t understand what this guy is expecting? The “strip mall” actually is a high-end outlet mall. Surely he could have found a few stores to wander through while his vehicle is charging…

  • avatar
    hurricanehole

    If I were a passenger with the author, this story or complaining (?) would make sense and at least be entertaining while we were waiting for a charge. And as this hypothetical passenger I’d have to agree with him, when you go to a gas station we’re expecting alot more to be there than gas.

  • avatar
    b72

    Nice article. I’ve been wondering how mature electric car infrastructure is getting, and it sounds like there more than none, but it still has a long way to go.

    There were two parts I found particularly interesting.

    1) The charging systems are proprietary. You won’t see a Leaf or a Volt next to you at the charger. Ostensibly they will need a separate charging infrastructure.

    2) They are using a generator to charge the cars. I assume not all charging stations are like this, but it does erode the car’s green cred.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicholas Weaver

      ARe we sure its a generator? Its probably just the cooling for the big AC->DC converters.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        Sounds more like it. I can’t imagine anybody would build a Supercharger station anywhere they couldn’t get mains power (and likely cheap mains power at that). Hopefully the chargers are reasonably efficient, but even with ~95% efficiency (which would be really good, 80% is more standard), 5% of 6000W gets hot fast (and that’s each car).

  • avatar
    shaker

    Ed’s article is spotlighting how “effortless” travel with a gas car has become, which is why we’re willing to burn 2 gallons of gas to “go get ice cream”. This has a lot of hidden/future costs, which I’ve already elucidated here (ad nauseum).

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    I think this is important for the site: its really a big area where tesla’s promise is failing where the rubber meets the road.

    And it is a problem for Tesla. Gas stations can be S-holse, because they are both everywhere and you are in and out in 5 minutes. But even at 150 range-miles/hr, its an hour+ waiting to get anywhere.

    There is serious danger of a very rapid drop in sales because this process really does suck compared with refueling a gasoline car, and will actually only get worse.

    Also, in this case, Vacaville on Napa to SF means going an extra 20 miles out of the way, to wait an hour to charge. Its NOT on the route (as someone who lives in Napa)! Napa->SF goes either by Sears Pt or through Vallejo, going out by way of Vacaville adds 30-40 minutes depending on traffic.

    Worse, the Tesla is actually designed to support a range-extender: the Frunk is actually sized perfectly to put one in, with a ~4 gallon tank (so it still counts as an EV to the state of california for those emission credits Tesla sells).

    We’ll see if Tesla ever decides to sacrifice purity in this area, just like they did on battery swaps (“No, they are a lame idea” “Oh wait, we built the car to allow them, how you like our battery swap station?”). If they do, I bet there will be a big number of purchases of retrofit kits…

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Taking it one step further (and building on the tow-trailer suggestions), a modular range extender of some sorts would be a truly killer app. Not something you’d swap on a whim, but something more like the hard top on a Wrangler that two healthy adults could install or remove in a few minutes.

      I also think these are very interesting posts, written from a specific viewpoint that many may not share but that probably represents the impressions of several other early premium EV adopters. I enjoy seeing them on TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      vcficus

      You know, the killer app would be to have a car with a small engine just to recharge the battery…

      Oh wait, sorry. Never mind…

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Battery swap stations seem like the “killer app” idea that Tesla can’t debut soon enough. Adding that to the charging stations and building the charging stations like gasoline stations or even contracting out charging stations at truck stops and nicer gas stations seems like a missed opportunity.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Missed, or not yet available? Tesla obviously has to prove the viability of the product before most of the places you described will even give them the time of day.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Napa to San Francisco is about 50 miles one way. A Tesla should be able to knock that round trip out pretty easily, with plenty of range to spare.

      Methinks this was an exercise to try out a supercharger station the author wasn’t familiar with.

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    From Google Earth, all these places are within about 1000 feet of where this picture was taken:

    The entire outlet mall with numerous stores
    In-N-Out Burger
    Applebee’s
    Olive Garden
    Freebirds World Burrito
    Carl’s Jr.
    Popeye’s Chicken
    Original Mel’s
    Baskin Robbins
    Etc., Etc.

    Walmart, Target and other retail/restaurants only a little farther.

    Not sure how having a “gas” station there would let you stretch your legs any more than that.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It’s almost the total opposite of how it was described in the article. Damn near everything within walking distance. I would have headed straight for the Jelly Belly store.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        Um, if you had enough money to burn on a Tesla you might be seeking a bit more an experience that matches your affulence.
        For the people in the cheap seats: rich people don’t want to eat at Karl’s Jr nor would they be caught dead in a WalMart. They want to sit in a first class lounge away from the plebes they’ve worked hard to separate themselves from.
        They don’t want to hang around in the Jelly Belly store watching some fat guy in sweat pants gorging himself on candy.
        That the author turns his nose up at the list of junkfood stores above is no surprise to me at all. I wouldn’t eat at any of those places and I’m poor and drive a freakin 14 year old rusty POS!

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          Wealthy people in normal cars don’t seem to have any problems fueling up with the proles or shopping at the same upscale outlet malls.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “if you had enough money to burn on a Tesla you might be seeking a bit more an experience that matches your affluence.”

          Good point. How close is the nearest watch store?

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> Um, if you had enough money to burn on a Tesla you might be seeking a bit more an experience that matches your affluence.

          I happen to have more than enough to money to burn on a Tesla – and I pay cash.

          Maybe not Karl Jr’s, but certainly In’n Out. I also saw a brew pub close by, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea on a long road trip. There were several restaurants in close walking distance that might have been good.

          I took a look at the list of stores and there seems to be plenty of upscale stores. There’s a Gucci, Cole Haan, Micheal Kors, Coach, Le Creuset ($160 skillets), etc.

          Actually, Walmart for some basics isn’t off the list for the wealthy. I’ve seen a friend of mine coming out of a Walmart in his R.R. Phantom and I’ve seen Teslas as well. You don’t always become wealthy by mindlessly blowing your money. Once you get there, you don’t forget the habits that got you there. My best friend founded a pharmaceutical company and you would not believe how cheap he is.

          Then, there’s the real issue – I can afford to fly. So, the Tesla would have stayed home. If I did drive, I probably would have gone for one of my toys.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            A good burger does not encourage class-envy, but should unite!!

            (Damn, I’m hungry again!! Where’s that Five Guys??!! :-) )

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m in bed when my Leaf is charging at 18 mph in my garage. Bathroom and food are a few steps away. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      And that differs from the Tesla… how? Sure, the Leaf is less expensive, but has half the overall range and significantly less comfort and capacity. And on a 220volt charger it should be good for double the charging rate of your Leaf.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        The real issue in not that there is double the distance. The problem is it is double nothing. If you can’t really get anywhere, why even try to make this car seem like an everyday car. It is in reality city/urban bling.
        It is worth having only to those who can afford to have a 100K car around for local drives.
        That…or if you live in an urban area get a good lower priced hybrid or EV and a larger more comfortable cruiser for the big hall.

        To the rest of us…it is goofy. It means we need an extra car to do our car stuff. Heck…even to visit my kid in school from Stuart, Fl to Orlando and back is not possible…let alone a nice drive across the state.

        No…the best plan right now for us every day folk is to stick with a decent gasoline car. Perhaps one day they will get this whole charging thing done fast. But until then…it is just so much bling.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Please explain to me, TT, how, “The problem is it is double nothing. If you can’t really get anywhere, why even try to make this car seem like an everyday car.” Explain to me what you do in your everyday car that the Tesla, with a 200+ mile range on nothing but electricity, “can’t really get anywhere”? To be quite blunt, with a 200-mile range you have a 400-mile diameter circle you can drive with reasonable comfort if you’re willing to spend some time recharging at your destination–which would be more than the average distance between any two adjacent cities–even in the mid-and south-west–or travel between any two adjacent eastern US cities and return on a single charge. Few are the people who drive 200 miles every day who is not a professional driver. That’s a minimum of 3 hours behind the wheel on top of your 8-12 hour work day.

          I don’t deny that for some a gas-powered car might make more sense–especially with the current price of BEVs. However, as the price of BEVs comes down, those gas-powered cars begin to make less sense for anyone short of a professional driver.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    So you want a scenic view and a convenience store at all the Superchargers?

  • avatar
    dwford

    I’m sure Tesla leases the land these Supercharger stations are on, so perhaps Tesla need to lease space in Starbucks parking lots. If Tesla is giving it’s customers the impression that there is a building of some kind at each Supercharger station where you can get food drink and use the restroom while chatting with other owners and that is not in fact the case, Tesla is over promising and Ed has a right to bitch. Nearby stores across the parking lot wouldn’t meet that expectation in my mind. Perhaps Tesla needs a Netflix app for that giant touchscreen so owners can entertain themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Now that I’ve looked at Tesla’s site, they only say that charging stations are NEAR amenities, not that they offer them directly. So I see no need for the complaints in this article – other than I doubt the photo they show on their site of a space age looking carport with solar panels under which Tesla’s recharge is representative of any of the actual Supercharger stations. In that way I could see reality biting a bit. Kind of like my Big Mac looking nothing like it does on the tv commercial. It’s called puffery.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    It would make the most sense for them to lease space and power juice from existing gas stations. I am sure something precludes them from doing so. Like, money. Or Musk’s quest for world domination.

    But this is absolutely priceless:
    “Next to it is a gigantic, billowing generator (I think) that makes a sound like a jet engine”

    Anyone wants to measure the emissions on that generator? Bwahahaha.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Based on the description, that generator sounds like a turbine-powered GPU similar to what is used to power aircraft on the ground for maintenance and pre-flight checks. It’s well capable of outputting multiple voltage ranges and in itself probably capable of charging two Teslas at a time at full rate, though obviously reaching its limits on a third and slowing down. Still, even a charge rate of 100 miles in an hour isn’t that bad compared to the typical home charger’s 20-40 miles per hour on 220v. I’m betting that particular charger runs on natural gas, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Turbine powered natural gas powered generator? Seriously? That is hilarious.

        Portable generators big enough to power a Tesla Supercharger are all diesel powered. They whine because most of the noise is very well dampened but the turbocharger and some cooling fan noise still gets out. Portable generators use diesel because it is reliable, cheap, and the unit can be quickly swapped out if there is a major mechanical issue.

        Methinks you have drank a little too much Tesla Kool Aide.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Don’t pan it until you’ve tried it. It’s pretty easy to buy military surplus at rock-bottom prices and turbine is far more efficient even than diesel while capable of using a much broader variety of fuels. By no means is such a generator for a recharging station impossible. What we don’t know is the exact sound he referenced and even a properly-muffled turbine can be quieter than a turbo-diesel operating under load. And if they are using a turbine generator, they, too are quickly swapped out since the Air Force models have their own wheels and even a self-propelling capability to move in and out of a shed to hook up to tow vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            TR4

            “turbine is far more efficient even than diesel”

            Nonsense! Stationary gas turbines are around 40% while some marine diesels are better than 50%. For a reference, see:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brake_specific_fuel_consumption

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            What is your specific definition of “some marine diesels”?
            Your referenced data falls short due to its very limited data base. For instance, how efficient is a 400# thrust jet turbine when used for shaft output in a generator How much fuel does it burn vs how much electricity it can generate at max output? As an example, one of those GPUs could run 10 hours or more without refueling a tank that only held about 20 gallons or so.

            Or maybe you forgot about Chrysler’s original Turbine Car from the mid ’60s. While I’ll grant it was a low-horsepower engine, it was well capable of operating on any liquid that could burn. A jet turbine engine from a retired trainer (like the T-37 for instance) could easily be repurposed to serve as a ground power unit for electrical generation. Its specific economy is less important than giving the capability to provide electrical power wherever needed–at less cost than a purpose-built diesel.

            Oh, those marine diesels you’re talking about? How about ten feet tall and twenty feet long with anywhere from six to twelve cylinders? I’m talking engines bigger than the railroad locomotives that run probably right near where you live or work.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The only diesels with that sort of efficiency power oil tankers and container ships and are the size of your house. Gas turbines work VERY well in applications where they can run at full throttle, which is exactly why they are used for power generation. They are also far more reliable than reciprocating engines. Actually given their size and weight vs. power output they are the ideal range-extender motor, they just cost a lot too.

            It would not surprise me a bit that a supercharger station that is capable of extremely fast charging of multiple cars would have its own power generation. Particularly given how expensive electricity is in CA. Natural Gas is probably a ton cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Slow speed 2 stroke diesel is near 60% thermally efficient. not saying that’s what tsla is using, but that combined with basic 1000 kW electrical generators onsite is much more efficient overall than fueling the vehicle directly with diesel. Still a win in my book.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would as soon lick charcoal as drink Starbucks coffee and I know I am not the only one.

    What they need is a local Wi-Fi to stream movies and TV shows while you wait for the charge for those that don’t want to peruse the mall and local eating establishments.

  • avatar
    Clifford Montana

    Commenters on this site amuse me. They make fun of anyone who drives a Chrysler 200, a decent car that can be had for 22k with leather and a V6, but will sit and park and wait for 2 hours so they can drive 3 more hours in their 100K vehicle. I appreciate (and read) everyone’s comments on this site, but I hope they see both sides of the coin. This vehicle is waaaaay easier to make fun of than a 200, Dart, Suburban or whatever vehicle you lefties will hate on today. This vehicle is not the future, I am far too busy to waste my life away at a “supercharger” drinking wimpy lattes and chatting with strangers just because they own the same car.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Well, at least I’m not one of those making fun of the 200–though admittedly I also don’t own one. My arguments here are more to those who claim they can’t even see a practical use for the Tesla and insist that it can NOT do things it has already done. Had they been out 15 years ago AND had I been able to afford one, I would have balanced the cost within about 4 years as I put 160,000 miles on a Camaro during that time–having to fill up 5 times every two weeks just in running back and forth to work, not even considering any extra driving I had to do. At today’s fuel prices (mid grade at $3.80/gallon) that comes out to $21,714.29 or over $5,000/year just in fuel. The Tesla would have been a perfect choice as I could get in two days of driving between charges or charged every night on a 220v connection with no range anxiety at all.

      The Tesla’s biggest advantage is that it well exceeds most commuters’ needs for range while eliminating the need to purchase fuel at all. It’s not the perfect choice for long-distance runs, but a run between Knoxville to Nashville and back would still fall within its rated range without recharging. As that’s not a typical trip for most commuters, it means the Tesla is almost ideal for 99% of average drivers, with the exception of its high up-front cost.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “This vehicle is not the future, I am far too busy to waste my life away at a “supercharger” drinking wimpy lattes and chatting with strangers just because they own the same car.”

      And yet, you had enough time to grace us with this liberal-trolling post.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    In order for the “layman’s perspective” to be of value to an audience which is familiar with a topic, the lay person needs to have some perspective on *something* rather than having only naivete on their side. I’m skipping these for the sake of my blood pressure from here out.

    As many others have pointed out, what was written here borders on made-up. You’re surrounded by every American amenity which exists, food, drink, places to sit, WiFi, new pants, so what exactly is this article about? What are you asking for? For it to all be in one small room rather than requiring you to walk a little? The earlier articles were a bit wide-eyed and some statements were made which shouldn’t have been for lack of reference, but this is just silly.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Most of us who read this site (and others) already know that Musk has a plan out for actually Supercharger Stations that include an automatic battery swap mechanism for those who are in just too much of a rush to wait even 30 minutes for a charge. However, considering the number of cars he’s already sold AND the need to get Superchargers established in an integrated network as quickly as possible, such enhanced stations will be slow in coming until the current network is essentially completed. Odds are the first one or two will be placed where he can keep a close eye on their functioning, so expect Fremont itself taking one of them.

    Meanwhile, at least where I live the Superchargers sit not 50 feet away from a freeway welcome center that includes almost all kinds of roadside amenities for food and relaxation while you wait.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    So Tesla owners want the equivalent of a frequent flyer’s lounge at each charging station. Understandable, but this means Tesla would have to take on an even greater burden of mainaining the fixed costs of what amounts to their own line of gas station lounges. Even if they were to be operated by the dreaded franchisees, Tesla would have a helluva time trying to ensure standards are met.

    Owners like Ed will need to relegate themselves to the fact that charging en route won’t necessarily be fun. It will be boring and unaccomodating at times. Bring a book…or more likely a fully charged iPad

  • avatar
    blarfmarfle

    I like these articles and I hope they continue. I think Ed is being very forthcoming about his experiences, and necessary for a new category of car to consider.

    Let me also defend- or maybe play devil’s advocate?- about the general point Ed is making in this piece, about Tesla’s failing to live up to expectations. As much as Tesla gets compared to Apple, Tesla is falling down in ways that Apple doesn’t- the end to end ownership experience.

    Apple understands that their physical stores are more than just a place to buy and service a product, they are reinforcing the premium character of their brand. Tesla promised, and is failing to provide, similar brand reinforcement by putting their superchargers in strip mall parking lots, when as Ed notes, their marketing showcases idyllic charging stations that meet the expectations of its customers.

    Why do people buy cars from Mercedes or Lexus? The attributes of the cars, for sure, but honestly a lot of it is the dealership experience. From the suits the salespeople wear to the physical design of the stores to the “yes sir no sir” courtesy given by the service staff, all of these things reinforce the brand and justify the amount of money spent on the product to the customer. Social status signaling is as important as the inherent goodness of the product itself, maybe more so. Cadillac’s big problem, frankly, is that it still can’t provide this signaling for its customers, after decades of brand degradation, even if their new product is really, honestly competitive.

    And so Tesla promised attractive supercharging stations, a place where someone who can afford a $90k car wouldn’t mind spending an hour or two on a journey. Maybe a nice little park to stretch your legs or walk the dog, a coffee shop, a lobby where you can read the new issue of Dwell magazine. Instead, you get a strip mall parking lot that, if you were just driving your $30k Ford Fusion, would be perfectly acceptable- pop into Chipotle, gas up at the Shell station. This is more Best Buy than Apple Store, and that is a problem for Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      It’s not reasonable for a Tesla buyer to expect rolling hills at every charging station- convenience was the promise, not beauty, and there’s really no “level of service” provided at a self-service charging station beyond clean, working equipment. A Bugatti fuels at the same gas stations as a Cutlass Ciera, and Bugatti owners don’t seem to complain about this.

      Take 30 seconds to look at Google Maps and Tesla has done a pretty good job providing a spot with many conveniences to charge for an extended period. Ed just didn’t want to walk around.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I would have assumed at least a Starbucks level of service, with the area being attractive for what it is. A nice part of the the city, or whatever.

        Bu, than again, I’m not about to pay $90k for a car, even one as interesting as the Model S. When I buy my $30k Model E, I won’t be expecting red carpet service. A coffee shop would still be nice, though.

        I’ll probably use my anonymous gray minivan for road-trips, though. It’s the ideal road trips, even in a mostly-electric future. And there are advantages to looking like a responsible family of modest means when traveling – you’re less of a target for cops, robbers, and people who just don’t like outsiders.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yes, it’d be really nice if Mercedes owners could fill up at super-premium Mercedes gas stations too.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I’m liking the series. The perspective of a gadget freak who bought the gadget car du jour is a nice break. The angry hornet B&B cloud is informative too. My takeaways today are: Vacaville is hot, so the AC->DC converters cooling is the limiting factor and charging is slowed. This thing was never meant to be an only car. An AC->H converter in a gas station could run when power demand is lower, if it were able to be cycled by the grid operator and there were a lot of them they could be used to load level reducing the percentage of peak power that has to be provided by more expensive/polluting transient capable power sources. A fast filling H tank would walk all over Elon’s empire, I can’t wait. Since it’s only good as a commuter / around town car, I’d rather have a Leaf than an S, even if I win the frigging lottery. The S is a commuter / around town car; a 600 mile road trip in an S would take… 4 more hours than in a gas powered car with a 300+ mile range, worse if it’s hot enough to need AC.

  • avatar
    dramsey

    OK, since there don’t seem to be many Tesla owners here, time for Supercharger 101:

    Superchargers require heavy industrial power– I believe it’s a 750K volt line– to operate. (None of them use generators. Geez. The noise is cooling fans, because, you know, BIG TRANSFORMERS. Generators are not a solution since you’d need a HUGE generator to charge an 85kWh battery in a reasonable period of time.)

    So Tesla can only install them where this level of power is available, which means industrial or business parks, or large shopping areas.

    Superchargers are being built at a dizzying pace. When I took delivery of my car in late September, 2013, there were 35 Superchargers in the country. This morning there are 91. I can drive from San Diego to Vancouver (for free!), or Miami to New York. You can see a map of current Supercharger installations here:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

    I don’t miss gas stations, although with my stable of ICE cars I still visit them regularly. There are some very nice gas stations out there, but most are kinda…grungy…especially the restrooms.

    No, taking long trips in a Mod S isn’t as convenient as taking long trips in an ICE, even if your route is liberally peppered with Superchargers. You stop for longer periods of time and sometimes have to go out of your way for a charge.

    But the S is a very viable road trip car; I drove from Reno to Portland, OR and back a few weeks ago and it was fine. I stopped at the Mt. Shasta Supercharger first, and had lunch at the Black Bear diner, the same as I would have done in my Audi A6, so there was no time lost there. Next stop was the Grant’s Pass supercharger, and I spent about 50 minutes there. Spent the night in Eugene, plugged into the hotel’s measly 110V outlet, which still got me 40+ miles of range. Drove into Portland the next day and left the car plugged into a Blink charger in the hotel’s parking garage. Left two days later, had lunch in Grant’s Pass while the car charged, spent another hour at Mt. Shasta, and back in Reno.

    So total extra time for the trip: a little over two hours compared to an ICE. YMMV. Total cost: $0.00. Total cost in my A6, at 31MPG: about $180.00. So one way of looking at it is that I got paid $90/hour to hang around waiting for my car to charge. Seems fair.

    Sure, I’d like it if each Supercharger station had its own patio, lounge, gift shop, WiFi, and sparkling clean restrooms. But it seems pissy to complain that all they offer is free fuel for life, doesn’t it?

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      Exactly. Hard to believe it took this long for someone to point out the dollar value of the free charge as compared to gas. You need 150 miles out of a supercharger? That’s basically 5 to 8 gallons of gas depending on what, how and where you are driving, or $20 or $35 if you had to buy gas at prevailing prices.

      These articles have been sort of fun reads, I guess, and I have no problem with the site accepting free contributions from readers or the general public, but this one is particularly ridiculous (and whiny).

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      When I drive Reno to PDX I far prefer the 395/139/97 route. It’s shorter, faster, and very much more scenic. The extra hour and a half to “enjoy” I-5 should also be added to your calculation. I also don’t want my dinner location selected by Tesla and make the trip in one day. Your pre purchased fuel is now only paying you back $22 an hour. On your day off. Still seem fair?

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    I have to say I like this series, because it is honest. So many people who write or talk about any car (Tesla, Toyota, Trabant) start out with a point of view and then write so as to reinforce that point of view. If Tesla wants to sell thousands of $100,000 cars to people, it has to know what those people want from the car, and its ownership experience. If some of the customers want a palm tree next to the charger, they have to know that. If others don’t care, they have to know that, too. So this series gives me real insight into a real owner’s perspective, not statements from Tesla fans or Tesla haters, who will either attack the writer or praise him according to their pre-conceived views on Tesla. So I read this for information, not for a chance to start an argument.

    OEMs have to know this stuff. We all know individuals — maybe they are even us! — who didn’t buy car X because the radio was confusing, or who bought car Y because the dealership was closest to their home, etc. From one perspective we can tell these people they are wrong, silly, or stupid, but from another perspective, if we don’t know what makes them buy or not buy, we (if we’re an OEM) can be “right” but out of business despite being right.

    I learn a lot from this series, and I see no profit in attacking the author, versus understanding what makes him tick, and from that trying to better gauge the future potential of Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      I have no bias towards or against Tesla. I think what they’re doing is interesting, and I would actually be interested to read about the ownership experience from someone who’s opinions I feel I could value.

      If I decided to start writing about golf, say, of which I know nothing, and I wrote an article about how I went golfing and the ball was too small so golf is no good, people who like golf would rightfully think I was an idiot.

      Won’t even get into “honesty.” Apparently the dozen restaurants surrounding this desolate Supercharger didn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar

      “OEMs have to know this stuff. We all know individuals — maybe they are even us! — who didn’t buy car X because the radio was confusing, or who bought car Y because the dealership was closest to their home, etc. From one perspective we can tell these people they are wrong, silly, or stupid, but from another perspective, if we don’t know what makes them buy or not buy, we (if we’re an OEM) can be “right” but out of business despite being right.”

      And this is exactly why we accepted Ed’s offer – it’s a POV that is rarely seen in the automotive media. We have somebody willing to give us a detailed account of their ownership experience of a car that was purchased, rather than given as a long-term tester. This is a rare event, and we are happy to have this opportunity.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Do you understand the counterpoint, though? The impression that I’m getting is that Ed’s opinions are out of the blue. Cars are still new to him, much more so than the average car buyer, who isn’t an enthusiast at all but has gone through the process before and is familiar with what to expect from car ownership.

        I’d rather have someone who has reasonable expectations of what owning a car will bring tell me about what makes the Tesla experience different, than someone approaching the situation without context. I don’t believe this represents their average buyer, though maybe I’m wrong.

        Ed is obviously a reasonably smart individual, so I believe consideration of some of these declarative statements isn’t too much to ask. This could be a very interesting series given that. I’m not saying he’s a fool, or that you shouldn’t publish his articles, just that perspective is necessary.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The counterpoint is quite whiny.

          Implicitly, the author makes a good point about EVs: it takes unbridled fanboyism to overlook the flaws.

          The implications of this should be apparent: As the audience for EVs broadens, one would expect it to become increasingly discontent, as those who are less tolerant of the deficiencies join the pool. And those customers are not as likely to come back, and they will complain about them.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I mean, I’ll grant that saying an article I read for free isn’t up to par is pretty whiny, but so’s complaining about the luxury level of your Tesla charging station that’s also free to use, especially when you’re untruthful about (or simply unaware of) the amenities.

            My point was that I can’t trust Ed to recognize the relative deficiencies of this type of car enough to compare, contrast, and provide a meaningful report.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Have you ever bought a new luxury car?

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Nope, my car-buying experiences have been wholly un-luxurious. Free coffee at a dealership is excessive pampering as far as my needs go.

            So I am not a luxury buyer. Do I take your comment to mean that Ed really does represent the typical buyer of a $100k car and that I’m out of touch, or what?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Do I take your comment to mean that Ed really does represent the typical buyer of a $100k car and that I’m out of touch…”

            Pretty much.

            A car company can’t succeed merely on sales made to diehard, cheerleading fanboys. Those people are needed, but there aren’t nearly enough of them to provide a profit.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @pch101: According to anti-Apple zealots, Apple does. So why not Tesla?

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            “Pretty much.”

            Then I guess my problem boils down to not understanding his complaint in this case at all. He knew full well when he bought a Tesla that charging it takes time, and I can’t think of much more that could be provided at this location to make the time any easier to pass.

            But the problem as it’s written seems to be that it takes a long time to charge, and there isn’t enough to do at this Supercharger while you wait. So, people who buy luxury cars are expected to be upset by limitations they’re well aware of?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Then I guess my problem boils down to not understanding his complaint in this case at all.”

            He already explained that it was the lack of the quality of the experience.

            You don’t have to agree, or even understand it. But what you should learn from this is that if Tesla is to have any hope of expanding its operations, then there will be a lot more Eds and relatively few diehard fanboys in its future.

            “According to anti-Apple zealots, Apple does. So why not Tesla?”

            Go figure out the difference between a $500 phone and a $70,000 car, then get back to me.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …Vacaville, California. Population 93,899, as of two years ago. Median income $57,667. A series of stripmalls. A Buffalo Wild Wings. And one of Tesla’s Superchargers – the weirdest Supercharger, the Supercharger that I cannot understand the location of, nor the existence of – unless, of course, you’re driving like I was from Napa to San Francisco, and needed a quick charge…

    My family lives in Vacaville. My sister was a C5-B driver out of Travis and my mother moved there after my step-father died to be closer to family. I spend a fair amount of time in Vacaville and I couldn’t think of a better location for a supercharger. It’s location is actually rather strategic.

    It is sloppily half-way between San Fran and Sacramento. I say sloppily because its about 2/3 of the way to San Fran and about 1/3 is to Sacramento. As you noted, Napa is about an hour drive from there also. But you also leave out that Reno and Tahoe are both about three hours away, The I-5 corridor to the northern California or the valley is also less than an hour away. Vacaville is located on the one ribbon of interstate asphalt that connects all of these areas together. Vacaville itself is definitely meh – but location – one of the best in the regions. It is totally logical that Tesla would put a station there – because one thing you didn’t note, is the very easy on and off access to the freeway.

    As for the location, as others noted, a few seconds on Google would reveal that there is a ton of places in that immediate area. In addition, if you go into the sleepy, historic downtown (admittedly not close to the charging station) Vacaville is a lot more than just strip malls. There are some very good restaurants, a walkable historic area, and a very high level of services for the citizens (outstanding library, senior center, walking trails, pool, green belts). In the summer the hills turn golden and it is rather scenic. Personally I wouldn’t live there, and the area the Supercharger station is located does have about as much soul as an Orlando ‘burb – but there are very nice parts of town.

    If you wanted a marble floor, a wide screen TV, and a fresh latte handed to you with a biscotti with that perfect snap, you could have bought a CPO 7-series and spent lots of time idle in your local BMW service department. ;-)

    With that said – this does highlight one of the fundamental issues of electric cars. You can fill up a gas powered vehicle in a few minutes – and most of those stations have bathrooms (of questionable cleanliness) and coffee, food, and maybe even some bootleg CDs of the greatest hit of the 80s.

    I agree with the poster above that said electric cars are best for commuting duty, not long haul. The problem is more and more Americans can’t even afford one car, let alone a second – and a dedicated electric car, even a base stripper Leaf doesn’t come close in price for say a beater Civic as a commuter (and again, more and more Americans can’t even afford the beater Civic).

    So with that said, I just don’t find a huge amount of empathy here that you stood around in a parking lot by choice, to get free go go juice for your government subsidized car.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Imagine how gas stations would work if the gasoline was free to car owners, but the gas pumps could only pump 3 gallons per hour into your tank? If this was the case, gas stations would need 10 times the number of pumps as today, and way more real estate for the “parked” cars being refueled. This would dramatically increase the start-up and operating costs of the station owners, but since the fuel is free how will they ever get their investment back? Now imagine driving into a gas station with nearly empty tank and finding the last unused pump has just been taken by a car with a nearly empty 15 gallon tank – 1 to 5 hours later it is your turn for “free” gas. This is precisely the situation for the Supercharger network, and to the extent it works today it is only because there are not many Tesla’s on the road to utilize it. Now think about Uncle Sam, he has been getting nearly 50 cents per gallon in tax revenue from gasoline car owners, but now he gets nothing from the “free” Tesla electricity. You think Uncle Sam is not thinking about some ways to get that lost tax money back?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      That whole argument assumes that Tesla will not change things as they move forward, yet they’ve already pointed out that they WILL change things and have multiple steps in place to implement as demand rises. And you can be certain that state and federal agencies will get involved as already California is talking about assessing a mileage tax on every vehicle (which also means that a car with a non-functioning odometer will be fined the maximum possible).

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        Of course Tesla will need to change, but every Tesla owner seems to think that “free” and convenient fuel is some sort of birthright. If the fuel starts getting taxed and Tesla starts charging owners, will the car still be seen as attractive?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Current Tesla buyers have it written in their contracts that they will get free recharges for life at any Tesla Supercharger. As long as they own that vehicle, they WILL get free recharges. This statement can be changed in future contracts eliminating that benefit, but current owners will still have it even when latecomers have to pay. Of course, that doesn’t prevent a state or federal agency from taxing the mileage–they just can’t tax the user for recharging. As far as current users are concerned, it is their “birthright”.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Apparently the “birthright” is in their contracts the owners sign. It’s like a company giving away free satellite radio as part of the purchase price.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    I’m not sure if I would complain about free charging just because the charging station is not as nice as I would hope for. But then again, I am not the type of people that would fork out $90k for a car no matter how nice it is and how much fuel I can potentially save. I love Tesla, Leaf, Prius (2nd gen+), Insight (1st gen only), and other quirky cars just as well.

    The location in Vacaville is likely picked as it is the last place after you get out of the bay area before you go 90 mph toward a long eastward trip. Once you get past Vacaville, I80 is going higher and higher in altitude and you will need more juice than you normally would on flatland.

    Can they pick a more luxurious place on earth with less crime rate and less of a ghetto? Sure, you can put one in Napa, but that’s not an engineering answer is it?

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    As far as the article goes, if the biggest beef with your luxury car is that the free fuel dispensing location for road trips isn’t scenic, you’re doing pretty good.

    As for the superchargers themselves they’re not powered by generators. What you’re hearing are the giant fans in the cabinets with the AC/DC switching hardware.

    They look like this inside:

    http://bit.ly/1fSbNLX

    No generators, diesel, gas turbine, or otherwise.

  • avatar
    Hemi

    Author seems like a typical Apple technology fanboy, who doesn’t know how to use technology. You have one of the most technologically advanced vehicles out there and you don’t know how to look up nearby attractions(coffee, shopping, food)? Wtf? Doesn’t the Tesla have a huge fucking 20inch screen that does all that? My phone can look up that and takes all of 30 seconds. Doesn’t anyone still research long distance travel on a map to figure out optimal stopping locations for gas, food and lodging?

    Also author talks about the charger stations by “scenic” locations, because that’s what is shown on the website. Well I just saw a commercial with Altimas dressed as racecars….. Oh and I have a bridge to sell you…

    I’ve seen a lot of Teslas and tried to speak to some owners. Met only a couple of cool ones who actually knew about the vehicle and shared the pros and cons, the others looked at me dirty for driving a gas guzzling V8. I’m sure they bought the car because it’s “cool”, just like when the Prius was cool.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I can’t read through 110+ posts to see if anyone already said this, but why don’t they put charging stations at gas stations? No need to buy property or worry about associated services. Maybe Tesla doesn’t want to be at the mercy of the oil companies.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Or maybe it’s that the oil companies don’t want to be associated with Tesla. After all, Tesla is trying to run them out of business by their viewpoint.

    • 0 avatar
      dramsey

      Because gas stations won’t have the super heavy duty power coming in that’s needed for a Supercharger, and most won’t have the extra space available for the transformers and parking spaces.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, would the Tesla be my first choice for a cross country trip? No. Then again, how many buyers of cars like this really do the road warrior bit? Not many, I’d surmise.

    But it would appear a Tesla has sufficient range for a jaunt of a couple hundred miles or less, and really, isn’t that the more realistic scenario for this kind of car, or any car?

    And on the other hand, the expectation that Tesla charging stations will be as upscale as the car is completely off base. If I owned a Rolls Royce, I’d be filling the tank at the same gas station as owners of clapped out Hyundais. Yes, it’d be nice to be able to get a good cup of coffee while you wait to have the car charged, but honestly…the charge-ups are toss ins with the car, and people should manage their own expectations accordingly.

  • avatar
    FourWheelPeel

    This location is available for commuters from SF to Sacramento. It’s actually a good location in my opinion. And if memory serves, there are a lot of shops nearby.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Can someone explain to me why there is so much hate for the Tesla as a ” toy) of the rich”, but a Porsche review never elicits such concern?

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Because Tesla can’t help but evoke the entire constellation of greenie conceits and failures that so irk ICE guys.

      And because hate is fun and affordable. Oh, and because Elon.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I dismiss Porsche on that basis.

      I really don’t see why people get so excited about overpriced unreliable sports cars when there are so many other well engineered options.

      I don’t comment on Porsche articles or other “supercar” articles because its better for everyone that way. Nobody asked me what I thought, and there’s no reason to try to spoil their idea fun.

      I’d rather shoot the zero-emissions breeze with the EV folks. Tesla lives in both camps, though, which is why you can see the worlds collide a bit here.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    It’s really hard for me to see Ed’s point here. For starters, I can’t imagine how he ended up in Vacaville driving from SF to Napa. As already pointed out, the Vacaville supercharger is more likely used to recharge before moving on to Sacramento and eventually resorts near lake Tahoe (140 miles from the Vacaville supercharger to Squaw, for example).

    Why does the Tesla need a charge to get to Napa? The round trip from SF to Napa is about 100 miles, give or take a few depending on exactly where you live and where you are going. Isn’t that less than half of a full charge?

    These things aren’t really the point of the story, but they make me question Ed’s credibility. Moving on to what I think is the point – the Vacaville supercharger did not have sufficient amenities or meet expectations set by the pictures and copy on the Tesla website. This doesn’t make sense to me either. The picture I see after clicking the supercharger link on Tesla’s site is a row of 5 chargers in front of a Tesla building in an office park. It sounds like the Vacaville supercharger offers a lot more to do than what’s suggested in Tesla’s picture, and meet or exceeds all of the expectations described in the website copy. So Ed is either blatantly lying in his description of the place, or admitting that as a gadget freak, he could not figure out how to find some way to pass time in the shopping and eating sprawl that is the Vacaville Premium Outlets.

    I get that OEMs need to understand their customers and what makes them tick so they can retain them and earn new customers, but until battery technology allows charges in 10 minutes, what can Tesla really do to make customers like Ed happy about the range situation? His expectations for the supercharger were completely unreasonable, no different than if I bought a dual-rear-wheel F350 and complained that it was difficult to maneuver and park, or a BRZ and complained it’s too noisy for long highway commutes and lacks rear seat room.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The whole EV thing is a work in progress; there will be “birthing pains”. Glad to see that people are willing to make compromises for a better future.
    As to that particular Supercharger location – wear comfortable shoes and pack an umbrella, and you’ll be ready to peruse the shops, no matter the weather.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    OK, the amenities within walking distance is an easy debunk, but any tesla fans want to respond to the meatier complaint? The supercharging station without enough cooling capability to be “super” when 3 or more cars are charging is a real and unanswered complaint. A slow charge is worse than a mild annoyance of some dilettante non car guy, it can ruin all that advance route planning advocated for here.


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