On November 4, I received an e-mail message from my friend Bruce Mah, who I’ve known since we started middle school in 1981. (Wow.) As the owner of a 2015 Tesla Model S 85D, Mah got word from Tesla that there is a new Tesla Supercharger station in the Jackson municipal parking lot behind Mel and Faye’s Diner.
The day after Mah e-mailed me, I drove to the parking lot and found a row of eight Supercharger stations as well as a separate, single Supercharger station. Since Mah is a longtime Tesla owner, I picked his brain about the new Supercharger station in Jackson and the differences between the Supercharger and other electric car charging stations in Amador County.
Those stations include a Tesla Destination Charger station in Sutter Creek, a ChargePoint station at the Holiday Inn Express in Jackson, and a charging station in the parking lot under the Jackson Civic Center. So what’s the difference between all these stations?
Tesla Owners, Charge Here
“The Tesla Destination Charger is only for Teslas in that the connector only fits the Tesla charge port,” Mah explained. “Tesla has this Destination Charger program whereby they help businesses install these chargers; usually Tesla pays for the hardware and install, and the business pays for the electricity. They’re the same as a Tesla wall connector that you might have in your garage.”
The difference between a Supercharger and Destination Charger is simple: more power. “These particular units in Jackson are the latest, third-generation Superchargers, sometimes called V3 for short,” Mah said. “Each stall can deliver a maximum of 250 kW (kilowatts) of power, although the actual power delivered depends on many factors such as the battery charge level, vehicle model, and temperature.”
“The Destination Charger in Sutter Creek seems to max out at 16 kW, which is one of the fastest stations I’ve seen,” he added. “For comparison, home charging stations for Teslas or other EVs usually don’t go above 10 kW.”
All Makes and Models
ChargePoint, which is based in Campbell southwest of San Jose, boasts on its website that it’s the world’s largest network of electric vehicle charging stations. The station in Jackson has two stations that use the J1772 connectors, which didn’t impress Mah. “That’s slower than I can charge at home…if you had an electric dryer outlet, you could probably pull about this much.”
The single EV station at the Jackson Civic Center was made by the joint partnership of ClipperCreek in Auburn and Liberty Access Technologies in Santa Barbara. This station also uses a J1772 connector so all types of electric vehicles can use them, though Mah said that Tesla EVs and some other electric vehicles require an adapter to use them.
The Civic Center station requires you to pay for the service by using your smartphone to scan the QR code printed on the station unit. The unit itself doesn’t state the exact charging speed but, Mah said, “it’s not likely to be any faster than the Destination Charger.”
The new Tesla Supercharger is the fastest type of charging station Tesla has produced to date. These Supercharger stations are designed specifically to provide the fastest charging times for Tesla vehicles, and each station can generate up to 250 kW of power. Eight of the stations are in a row along the south side of the parking lot, and one is separate. Mah said this layout was fairly common for providing handicapped access and/or when the physical layout requires stations to be split up.
Bruce’s Buyer’s Guide
Mah lives in Lafayette with his wife and teenage son, and he works as a software engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley. In 2015, he switched from a Toyota Prius to a Tesla Model S 85D, which is the second model vehicle Tesla produced. This model has an 85 kWh (kilowatt-hour) battery that translates into about 270 miles of range on a single charge, though the actual range goes down over time.
Mah considers himself to be a Tesla enthusiast and he described owning a Tesla as “really like driving a car from the future.” What’s more, Teslas are somewhat like large computers in that their hardware and software undergo constant upgrades. “Most of the time, these are improvements,” Mah laughed.
As an example, he noted the Autopilot driving assistant, which he has on his Model S, recently had a major upgrade that he said “greatly improves its capacities driving on surface streets.” Other updates that make Tesla vehicles seem more like the ones in the movies Demolition Man and Minority Report are planned for current and future models, so once you buy a Tesla you will enjoy more capabilities over time.
But, Mah cautioned, “you should buy the car for what it can do today, not what’s been promised for the future.” If you think a Tesla will serve your needs now and you want to take a test drive from the closest Tesla dealer in Rocklin, he has some counterintuitive advice: “Don’t take a test drive unless you’re ready to buy one! It sounds funny, but it’s been true for so many people.”
He knows many fellow Tesla owners because he’s one of the online forum moderators for the Tesla Motors Club (TMC), which is the independent online Tesla community. If you buy one, Mah added, “find a nearby owners’ group — it’s fun hanging out with other owners and you get to do fun activities like group drives, meet-ups, and even track days.”
Having a strong owners’ network is also vital, Mah said, because “Tesla is still a pretty young company. They’re still figuring how to be a good business, improve their technology, and scale up their business at the same time.”
When to Supercharge
Mah said that using a charging station isn’t ideal when you drive around fairly close to home. “For local usage, the best place to charge your Tesla (or any other electric vehicle) is at home,” he said. “This isn’t practical for everyone, but there’s not much that can beat the convenience of plugging in my car when I come home in the evening and waking up in the morning with a ‘full tank.’”
“Where the Supercharger network really shines,” Mah added, “is for long-distance travel. This is what makes it possible to do road trips in a Tesla.” Tesla’s four 2020 vehicles — Models 3, S, X, and Y — range between 260 and 400 miles, which is comparable to the ranges in many gasoline engines.
As with non-electric vehicles, you need to stop to “refuel” at charging stations when you take a road trip. Supercharger stations are now plentiful enough that you can easily drive coast-to-coast in a Tesla.
Tourists Have Teslas
A Tesla Supercharger station gives tourists even more reason to come to Amador County and stay here, and the station will be one key to the county’s resurgence in tourism once the state lifts the public health emergency. Mah said Jackson needs to take advantage now by promoting the Supercharger station, Mel and Faye’s Diner, and the shops on Main Street to Tesla owners.
“You’ve got a lovely downtown area within walking distance of these new Superchargers,” he said. “When Tesla owners charge their cars, it often takes a little longer than a typical fill-up at a gas station. I usually use that time to get a drink or a snack somewhere, or explore the area.” And, he noted, “people traveling with kids or pets often will want to get out and walk around.”
Electric vehicles will only become more plentiful over time, especially with Governor Newsom’s mandate to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. Though the new Supercharger station in Jackson and the other stations in Jackson and Sutter Creek are a good foundation, Mah thinks more hotels in the area need to plan for electric vehicles now. “For people staying in Jackson, lodging establishments might want to think about adding EV chargers for guests and advertise that as an amenity,” he said. “When I’m on the road, I definitely prefer hotels where I can charge my car overnight.”
Mah added that he thinks Jackson businesses should prepare for more business in the coming months and years. “I’ve already seen forum posts from Bay Area residents eager to use the Superchargers in Jackson on their way to and from Kirkwood.”
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