Our article about the new Tesla Supercharger station in Jackson elicited more than a few comments in Amador County Facebook groups about the station and how it came about. So, I talked to the Jackson City Manager, Yvonne Kimball, about the process for securing the Supercharger station and plans for more Level 3, or fast charging, stations in the city.
The process began in May 2018, when Kimball said that a Jackson city councilmember brought the opportunity of having a Tesla Supercharger station to her attention. The City Council decided the station was consistent with the city’s economic development and tourism efforts, and so they directed Kimball to pursue the Supercharger station.
Kimball contacted the county and learned that other places in the county were also vying for the Supercharger station, and the Tesla site selection team met with Jackson city staff in August 2018. “Although this was a county-wide search, County officials were very helpful and some even openly supported the site being in Jackson,” she said.
Jackson is Awarded
The August 2018 meeting was the only contact the city had with Tesla for over a year, which Kimball said was not surprising because she knew the competition was fierce and Tesla would take its time to decide. In October 2019, Tesla informed her that they chose the Jackson location for their new Supercharger station. The City Council approved a five-year agreement in March 2020.
Though construction was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the station was operational on November 5. The station is the third electric vehicle charging station in the city. The other two are located at the Holiday Inn Express on the corner of Highway 49 and Clinton Road, as well as in the lower-level parking lot at the Civic Center. Unlike these other two stations, the Supercharger station is only available for Tesla vehicles.
The city parking lot was the logical choice for the Supercharger station, Kimball noted. “The parking lot is the largest public parking facility the city has. It is rarely full and has always been free parking for anyone who uses the lot, Tesla customers or otherwise,” she said.
Though the city parking lot is large, the city owns only the back half of it, and that back half leads to the city sewer treatment facility. The forward half is owned and operated by Mel and Faye’s Diner, though when the diner is busy, their customers park in the city portion of the lot. “We have a sensible relationship and there is never a problem,” Kimball said. “In fact, Mel and Faye’s Diner welcomes Tesla’s project.”
Before the Tesla Supercharger was installed, Kimball said that there were some problems in that location. “Its quiet and relatively remote location, coupled with lack of streetlights, had generated concerns from local businesses,” she said. “The City’s sewer plant was broken into a few times before Tesla’s Supercharging station project, and homelessness had also been observed at that location.”
But Wait, There’s More
The new Supercharger station is not just beneficial for the environment and for tourism. Tesla also agreed to pay for several improvements in the city’s portion of the parking lot. Three groups of motion sensor lights are not only bright and energy-efficient, Kimball said, “there have not been any break-ins yet since the project was completed.” Tesla also paid $20,000 to add a layer of crack seal and striping.
Tesla installed a solar battery megapack next to the stations soon after they installed the stations. This megapack looks like the size of a shipping container and is covered by plastic. “The megapack is a solar battery backup to use during power outages and the PG&E Power Safety Power Shutoffs that we have been experiencing,” Kimball said.
She also noted that even though the Supercharger station has taken up a few spaces, there are still over 30 parking spaces available, which is 85 percent of the total lot. “If, at some point, parking spaces become an issue,” Kimball added, “the city can certainly consider partnering with Mel’s Diner and other nearby businesses to see about additional parking.”
More to Come
Jackson is not done upgrading its electric vehicle charging capacity. Kimball said the city has obtained grants to upgrade the charging stations in the lower level parking lot at the Civic Center. These grants came from the Amador County Transportation Commission and the Amador County Air District.
The charging stations will be upgraded from the current Level 2 stations provided by ClipperCreek of Auburn to Level 3 stations. Because ClipperCreek does not provide Level 3 stations, the current stations will be replaced by those from another manufacturer. The upgrade is planned for completion sometime in 2021.
All these efforts, Kimball said, not only helps boost the local economy but also supports the city’s green energy initiatives. “This is one of the small acts that the City can do to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
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