A New Charge for the Electric Car

New plug-in stations pop up

By Scott Budman
|  Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009  |  Updated 12:02 PM PDT
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From the Bay Area to LA -- With No Gas Stops

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Charging up your electric car just got easier.

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There's something about being in a Tesla.  I've written about this before, and it never gets old, really.  People look at you differently, like you're cooler, have more money and are more important that you were before you got into the car.  And, let's be honest, you feel  cool driving one.  It's a sportscar, for one thing, it's really fast, and did I mention that you get a lot of looks?

OK, but here's a problem: Tesla and the other electric cars (soon to follow) have limited ranges because they run on batteries.  So, while getting to work or the store is fine, what about getting from, say, the Bay Area to Los Angeles? People do it all the time, but not in electric cars.  Not until now, that is.

Solar City, a Silicon Valley neighbor of Tesla, has installed a whole corridor full of charging stations between the Bay Area and LA.  Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo all come with charging stations, so you can park, charge up and be on your way. The "hose," as it were, is easy to install.  Plug it in, see the cool light come on and you're charging up.

The downside?  Like all new technology, it's not perfect.  It takes about 2 1/2 hours to charge up a full battery. That adds a lot of extra time to your California cruise.

Solar City says things will improve, and within two years, the charge time should get closer to 45 minutes. That's a lot better -- but still, it's a wait.  At least with 45 minutes, you could have lunch while you charge.  At 2 1/2 hours, I'd want to see the charging stations next to movie theatres playing Scorcese films. That's quite a time commitment to help the environment.

But eventually, like most new technology, it will make a difference. It's a real commitment to get from SF to LA now, but by the time electric cars become consumer items that more of us can afford, the time commitment should be much less.  And you'll be able to go from north to south, without a drop of gas.

 Scott posted some "you are there" video from the Tesla cockpit at www.qik.com/budman

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