HOUSTON—The small town of Columbus in Colorado County, which is 74 miles west of Houston, has a rich pioneer history. And if you look in the back parking lot of the Comfort Suites Hotel located off Exit 696 you can see Columbus is strategically located to embrace the future too.
The location is now the 25th Supercharger site for Tesla Motors and its Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sedan. Columbus, the third of five planned supercharger locations in Texas, allows Tesla owners to add 200 miles of battery range in as little as 30 minutes: for free. The location, with its own transformer and high-voltage substation dedicated solely to the supercharger site, allows 6 vehicles to be re-charged at the same time.
Tesla’s first Texas supercharger locations were in San Marcos and Waco completing the I-35 corridor. Two additional locations are planned in Dallas and halfway between Dallas and Houston allowing drivers, in a car with an estimated 300-mile battery range, to make a complete circuit of the Texas triangle connecting Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
“Without reservation, it’s mind-blowing. Absolutely amazing,” said Houston resident and Tesla Model S owner Mark Durante.
“And I never have to buy a tank of gas ever again,” said Craig Yarbrough from Dallas who is awaiting delivery of his pre-ordered Tesla Model X sport utility vehicle. “So I’m very, very happy about it.”
“Our goal, by the end of 2015, certainly is to have most of the U.S. completely covered, so that owners can drive for free anywhere that they need to go,” said Tesla spokesperson Alexis Georgeson of the supercharger locations planned coast to coast.
The Model S, which some owners describe as an electric rocket that can go zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds, is the brainchild of billionaire inventor Elon Musk of PayPal and Space X fame: the first private company to deliver a payload to the International Space Station.
“He started building rocket ships and now he builds our cars and we’re grateful for that,” said Tesla owner Dianne Webb from Austin, who pre-ordered her Model S three years ago and says it was worth the wait.
The car has had it at least one notable problem. A Tesla caught fire recently in Seattle after a piece of road debris pierced the battery that runs the entire length of the bottom of the car. Tesla called it a freak accident that would have been much worse if the car had been powered by gasoline.
“It’s a perfect car. I love it,” said Daryl Mueller a farmer from the small community of Nordheim 75 miles northwest of Victoria. He downplays the recent car fire and says the supercharger stations are a Godsend for him in his “middle of nowhere” location. And even though he has oil wells on his own property he says he became a Tesla devotee in one visit to a Seattle-area showroom and bought the car after just 15 minutes.
“It’s fantastic. It does more than I ever hoped it would do,” said Mueller.
Tesla says there are an estimated 1,000 Tesla vehicles on the road in Texas, despite the fact that you can’t buy one in the state. Tesla lost its first round of negotiations with Texas lawmakers to adjust current regulations that require car makers to have franchises in the state in order to sell the cars here. Currently Tesla is limited to “showrooms” in Texas where prospective buyers can only look at the cars, not discuss price and not purchase them. Today Texas buyers are limited to going out of state or buying the vehicles preordered online.
The Tesla Model S sells for approximately $60,000 to $100,000.