Life With Tesla Model S: Local Supercharger Joys & Frustrations


Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

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As an early Tesla Model S owner, I’m accustomed to waiting.

After putting down a $5,000 deposit in April 2009, I waited nearly four years to take delivery of the car.

And then I waited another 18 months for the vast barren Northeast Supercharger Desert to bloom, finally unleashing the car’s long-distance potential.

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Then, recently, came the most lingering, tantalizing, frustrating wait of all: for a long-promised Supercharger just minutes away from my home.

It would be the site that would allow me to enjoy fast, free charging for life.

It's not the money

Sure, free is good. But for me, the main attraction of a neighborhood Supercharger is not saving $40 a month in electricity.

I happen to be engaged in a long-running war with my electric company. And a local Supercharger is a tactical nuke in my arsenal.

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2013 Tesla Model S [photo: David Noland]

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I live in New York’s Hudson Valley, on six acres of woods with a creek. Four years ago, I built a small hydroelectric generator on the creek.

With a peak output of 2200 watts at full flow, it generated enough power during the first two years to run my house and recharge a Chevy Volt (now departed).

Over those first few seasons, my net electric meter--calibrated to run backwards when the hydro generated excess power--fluctuated back and forth between positive and negative territory, depending on the creek flow.

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At the end of each of the first two years, the meter was slightly below zero. As a result, instead of a bill from Central Hudson, I received a check.

Let me tell you: there are few things in life more satisfying than getting a check from your local electric company--even if it’s only for $13.57.

Drought and freeze

Unfortunately, though, a combination of dry autumns and frigid winters over the last two years has forced me to shut down the hydro system for extended periods.

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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The result: my electric meter has been climbing, slowly but inexorably. It now stands at a horrifying 13,595 kilowatt-hours into the red.

I’m losing the war. Badly.

And about one-third of those kilowatt-hours have gone into the Tesla.

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A Supercharger nearby would allow me to cut my electricity usage by a third, reverse the meter’s long-term climb, and eventually return to my ultimate goal: negative territory.

Great expectations

The idea of a Supercharger in in the nearby town of Newburgh, New York, has been percolating in my fevered brain for a very long time.

It’s an obvious site for a Supercharger: 60 miles north of New York City on the New York State Thruway (I-87) where it intersects Interstate 84.

Tesla Supercharger locations in the United States, March 2015

Tesla Supercharger locations in the United States, March 2015

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More than two years ago, Tesla’s Supercharger map showed a dot in the Newburgh area promised for “Fall 2013.”

But in late Fall 2013, with no sign of any Supercharger, the label was changed to “Coming Soon." It remained that way for the next 18 months.

A neighbor in the commercial real estate business, also a Model S owner, briefly talked to Tesla about installing a Supercharger at one of his Newburgh properties.

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It didn’t happen, but in December he alerted me that Tesla had finally chosen a location: Cosimo’s, an upscale brick-oven pizza parlor and “ristorante" a mile or so from the Interstate interchange, just 8 miles from my house.

For four agonizing months, nothing happened.

Then, in early April, I drove by the restaurant and saw three guys with hard hats standing in the parking lot looking at the ground. After a screeching U-turn, I pulled into the lot.

They saw me coming, recognized the car, and gave me a thumbs-up even before I’d come to a stop.

Construction of the Newburgh Supercharger was officially underway!


 
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