03 October 2015
by Matthew Smith
Tesla's electric car highway on the road to Gundagai
Futuristic-looking Tesla "superchargers", the electric car recharging stations, have landed in semi-outback highway towns Goulburn and Wadonga.
They have come from the mind of Elon Musk, the futurist and founder of Tesla, via the Tesla factory in Fremont in California where the heavily-hyped car company produces its vehicles.
Tesla this week opened an eight-bay supercharger station off the Hume Highway in Goulburn and a six-bay station in the centre of Wadonga City on the Victoria border side. The new stations are the first regional stations outside of Sydney and Melbourne that Tesla has installed in Australia, making it possible for drivers of Tesla's Model S cars to drive between the two cities without worrying about running out of juice.
The supercharger stations are capable of pumping 120 kilowatts (kW) of direct current power into the Tesla on-board battery, which delivers up to 270 kilometres worth of charge within 30 minutes.
This will satisfy the first buyers of the Tesla Model S in Australia that features 60kW batteries which in perfect conditions boast a travelling range of 390 kms but are known to travel as little as 250 kms between charges. When you buy a Telsa, however, 'filling up' is free.
Think about the implications of this for a moment: if you've got the time, why not drive between Sydney and Melbourne for free rather than fork out for a flight? The possibilities of an electric car future could minimise the cost of a family road trip to vehicle depreciation and truck stop food stops.
"We are taking road trips back to a nostalgia era where you take a detour off the main highway and visit a small town to recharge before continuing on your way," says Heath Walker, a Tesla spokesperson.
The shiny silver, white and red-trimmed structures look like intergalactic transporters for alien life, standing incongruously against the normal suburban backdrop of a back-street car park, glistening in the blinding country NSW spring sunlight.
Not everyone is on board with Elon Musk's electric vision.
Fairfax Media-owned The Border Mail, Wodonga's local newspaper, reports the futuristic Tesla charging stations are blocking car parking access to the Wodonga Senior Citizens Club. Six all-day parking bays in the club's car park have also been taken away by the Tesla recharging units.
Wodonga Senior Citizens Club treasurer Ross Deery describes the disappearance of car spots to accommodate the Tesla recharging units a "big inconvenience", particularly when the club holds events such as dancing and bingo all-day and parking is at a premium.
Senior citizens elsewhere look out. Tesla plans to open two more supercharger stations in regional towns in the popular Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra area – next locations on the map include Euroa in Victoria's north-east and the iconic town of Gundagai, behind the Kosciuszko ranges near Wagga Wagga.
Tesla's business model is to roll out charging stations at the same time as it builds demand for car sales, meaning the company isn't intending to wait for a certain number of cars to be on the road before investing in the infrastructure, Walker says.
Whether the supercharger stations feature more as a talking point for locals than they are used by Tesla drivers in this early stage of the vehicle's rollout remains to be seen.