Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Using Supercharger in scenic Vermont, Montreal is hop, skip and jump from N.J.

If you own a Tesla Model S, live in New Jersey and are going to Montreal, one of the benefits of detouring to use a Supercharger in South Burlington, Vt., is driving over lightly traveled two-lane roads through farmland and small towns, with the state's Green Mountains in the distance.

Four Model S luxury hatchbacks stopped for big gulps of free juice on Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, Vt.


MONTREAL -- The opening of a Tesla Supercharger in Plattsburgh, N.Y., this month allows Model S owners in the New Jersey-New York metro area to reach Montreal in two relatively quick stops.

That's two stops without a detour into Vermont, which boasts winding roads through farmland, and Superchargers in the parking lot of a natural foods market.

Our destination was Montreal's International Jazz Festival, which began today and runs through July 9.

On Tuesday, we drove from northern New Jersey to a shopping center in Colonie, N.Y., where we charged our 2015 Tesla Model S 60 for free not far from a Whole Foods Market.

We spent about 40 minutes there, enjoying a bowl of Whole Foods soup and a cup of coffee, and sandwiches we brought from home.

We then set our navigation system for South Burlington, Vt., and the parking lot of Healthy Living, which like Whole Foods sells natural and organic food, and has a cafe offering prepared food, soup and coffee.

After 40 minutes there, we had enough range to easily reach Montreal about 90 miles away.

The French-Canadian island city boasts the biggest Tesla dealer in North America.

Besides Superchargers, the dealer offers Tesla merchandise that apparently costs less because of the U.S. dollar's favorable exchange rate.

Last year, I enjoyed an espresso in the customer lounge while charging my Model S for the trip home. 

Contrast all of this with travel on gasoline -- tearing into a highway service area, racing to the bathroom with a bursting bladder, downing crappy food and running back to the car to set another record for vacation travel.

And traveling to Canada in our Toyota Prius two years ago meant having to stop before the border to fill our tank so we could avoid the high price of gas in Montreal.

That final stop was in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

On Tuesday afternoon, customers were lining up inside Healthy Living Market in South Burlington, Vt., for the privilege of buying Heady Topper Beer, described as an American Double India Pale Ale that gives you "wave after wave of hoppy goodness on your palate."

Four pint cans of Heady Topper Beer were $12.99 plus tax.

One of the prepared dishes available for $9.75 a pound was Duck & White Bean Cassoulet, front.

Healthy Living Market is at 222 Dorset St. in South Burlington, Vt.

Even a veteran of New Jersey and New York City congestion like me found late Tuesday afternoon rush-hour traffic in South Burlington, Vt., a trying experience, despite the politeness shown by other drivers and the absence of angry horn blowing.

That's kilometers, not miles per hour, after we crossed the Canadian boarder.

Two lanes merging into one on a freeway near Montreal.

No waiting for a Tesla Supercharger at the Colonie Center mall in Colonie, N.Y.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What's old is new as Tesla Motors brings back the Model S 60 and cuts price, too

The new version of Model S 60 has a revised nose and grille, and a longer range than the version that was replaced in April 2015 by the Model S 70.

Editor's note: I've revised the ranges of the Model S with 60kWh, 75kWh and 90kWh batteries, having relied on conflicting information from the Tesla Motors website and in an email to owners.


Tesla Motors has brought back the Model S 60 at a lower price that includes free Supercharging, which was a $2,000 option in April 2015.

The base price of $66,000 is $3,900 less than the previous version.

The new base model comes standard with a 60kWh battery and rear-wheel drive, and has a range of 210 miles at 65 mph, compared to 208 miles for the original.

Upgrade to a 75kWh battery with a range of 249 miles for $8,000.

The Model S four-door luxury hatchback also is available with all-wheel drive, as well as bigger 75 kWh and 90kWh batteries with a range of 249 miles and 294 miles, respectively.

The 70kWh and 85kWh batteries have been dropped.

The P90D, an all-wheel-drive performance version, has a range of 270 miles.

In the Model S 60, Autopilot, Autosteer and Summon -- autonomous driving and parking functions -- are a $2,500 option with free over-the-air updates. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

EV owners in N.J. would pay $150 more annually, if governor OKs higher gas tax

How this for tortured reasoning? If New Jersey raises the gas tax about 23 cents a gallon to fund the state's transportation network, owners of the Tesla Model S, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf and other EVs would be hit for an extra $150 each year "to offset lost gas-tax revenue," according to news reports.


New Jersey officials have been sending mixed messages to owners of all-electric cars.

As an incentive, the state waives the 7% sales tax on EV purchases. That's a $5,600 savings on an $80,000 Tesla Model S 60.

And last year, Governor Christie signed a bill that allows Tesla to sell its revolutionary cars directly to consumers.

Now, Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature are trying to convince the governor to approve a higher gas tax to save the Transportation Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of money in about two weeks.

As part of the deal, the legislative leaders have offered to phase out the state's estate tax in three years, and boost to $75,000 the amount a retiree may exclude from income taxes.

$150 fee on EVs

And EV owners would be required to pay $150 extra every time they renew their registrations "to offset lost gas-tax revenue," The Record of Woodland Park reports today.

New Jersey car owners are required to register annually.

There are about 2,500 EVs among the 5.7 million registered vehicles in New Jersey -- far fewer than in New York State (12,000), Massachusetts (5,500) and even Connecticut (3,000).

The $150 penalty doesn't make sense, given how zero-emission EVs benefit the environment.

In unveiling the Model 3 on March 31, Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted record high carbon-dioxide levels, and said 53,000 people are killed every year by auto emissions.

So, maybe the $150 fee should be levied on any car using gasoline -- not on EVs.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Will all those Model 3 owners overwhelm Tesla's nationwide Supercharger network?

I've never had to wait to charge my Tesla Model S at one of the six Superchargers in a Hamilton, N.J., shopping center, above, but what will happen when thousands of Model 3s hit the road and compete for the same charging stations? 


On the day news broke that owners of the affordable Model 3 won't be gulping free juice at Tesla Superchargers, two Model S owners were speculating about the future.

Even if Tesla CEO Elon Musk doubles the number of Superchargers, as he promised at the unveiling of the Model 3, will there be room for owners of both models to charge without waiting?

The Model 3, which Tesla hopes to begin delivering in late 2017, is expected to have a $35,000 base price, compared to $75,000 for the Model S 70D, an all-wheel-drive, four-door luxury hatchback.

The Model S and more expensive Model X SUV now include free use of the company's extensive Supercharging network.

A $2,000 option

Musk said on Thursday Tesla can't afford to include free charging at the $35,000 base price, but that owners could purchase an option or package.

In April 2015, when I took delivery of my Tesla Model S 60, Supercharging was a $2,000 option, and I gladly paid it.

On Friday, at the Tesla showroom in Paramus, N.J., one Model S owner suggested the company could sell Model 3s with an adapter that would allow them to use only some -- but not all of -- the Superchargers at each shopping center or service area.

That would leave other Superchargers exclusively for the smaller number of Model S owners.

When I've used free Superchargers at shopping centers in Hamilton Township, N.J., or outside Albany, N.Y., I've been able to add 100 miles of range in about 15 minutes.