Tesla makes inroads in Virginia

A new charging station for its Model S electric car opened in RVA after the carmaker moved closer to opening a Virginia dealership.

Last month, Tesla Motors opened a Superchager station in Glen Allen, the first Supercharger station in Virginia for its Model S electric sedan. The station opened soon after the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles permitted Tesla to apply for a license to operate a dealership in Northern Virginia.

The two developments mark an auspicious start to the relationship between Tesla and the Commonwealth.

Supercharge me

Located at 9860 Brook Road,1 the new Supercharger station accommodates eight vehicles simultaneously and provides free, 24/7 charging of the Model S, a $70,000 – $120,000 vehicle touted by Tesla as the world’s first premium electric sedan.

Superchargers output up to 120 kilowatts of power, able to replenish a half-charge in under 30 minutes.2 Tesla representative Patrick Jones said there are roughly 30 Superchargers across the US, with more scheduled to open by year’s end. Tesla is installing the stations so that Model S owners can travel long distances.

“By the end of the year, we’ll have enabled people to drive on three main routes using only Superchargers,” Jones said. “You’ll actually be able to go from New York to Los Angeles.”

He said the new Glen Allen station is key to the Supercharger system because it helps people travel a corridor stretching from D.C. to Raleigh. The station also connects a larger corridor stretching from Boston to Miami.

Jones said the location for the new Glen Allen Supercharger was ideal for two reasons. “One thing you won’t typically see is a Supercharger in a major city center,” he said. That’s because most Model S owners charge their cars at home and prefer Superchargers easily accessed off a highway to power long-distance travel. The Glen Allen location also provides adjacent restaurants and shops for drivers to visit while their vehicles charge.

According to Jones, roughly 30 Model S owners attended the Glen Allen Supercharger ribbon cutting ceremony. “It’s really encouraging for us how Virginians are really latching on to Tesla,” he said.

Let’s make a dealership

It will be easier for Virginians to latch on to Tesla if the automaker opens a dealership in Northern Virginia, as Tesla founder Elon Musk says he’d like to do.

Tesla currently operates a gallery in Tysons Corner. The gallery doesn’t sell cars, merely shows off the Model S and its technology.

The reason Tesla was restricted from opening a dealership stems from a Virginia law requiring automakers to sell vehicles through franchised dealerships.3 Tesla had applied for an exemption to that requirement but was denied by the DMV. Tesla sued.

The DMV reversed its decision last month and has allowed Tesla to apply for a single license with the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board. It’s unknown when a Tesla dealership will open.

Patrick Jones said that Tesla doesn’t track Model S ownership by region, so he has no way of knowing how many of cars are likely driving on Virginia roads. But he said the automaker hopes to produce and sell 21,000 cars4 by year’s end. The automaker won’t stop there. “We hope to double that by next year,” Jones said.

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  1. In the parking lot between Chili’s and Men’s Warehouse. 
  2. A full charge yields between 230 – 300 miles, depending upon the battery. Here’s a good explainer from Tesla about their electric batteries. 
  3. Planet Money has an excellent program on legal protections afforded to dealerships
  4. All cars are made-to-order at a Tesla factory in Fremont, California. 

photo by Al Abut

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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