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Sonoma gets its first Tesla superchargers

Local Tesla electric car owners are cheering the imminent arrival of Sonoma Valley’s first supercharging stations. Eight new Tesla-specific superchargers will go live at the Sonoma Community Center before the end of July, as well as two universal chargers available to all electric-vehicle (EV) owners.

“I’m delighted,” said Telsa owner Constance Grizell of Sonoma, who has watched fuel prices increase and said she feels great about not having to go to the gas station. “This should be an added impetus to those thinking of going electric – they are also so much fun to drive.”

There is currently one Tesla supercharging site in Santa Rosa, one in Petaluma, and two in Napa; now it is Sonoma’s turn.

Tesla representatives first reached out to city officials in 2020, who identified the Community Center parking lot as a potential location.

“We were having a hard time finding an appropriate place for Tesla to install a supercharging center on City property,” said City of Sonoma Sustainability Manager Travis Wagner. “We’re thankful the Community Center stepped up.”

No money changed hands between Tesla and the Community Center but SCC Executive Director Charlotte Hajer feels having a charging station available on their property is a win for the nonprofit.

“The chargers will literally bring people right to the doors of the community center and we hope they will stop in to learn more about what we offer,” said Hajer. “We’re also pleased to be providing a service to the community and to support City’s efforts in sustainable energy.”

Drive down East Napa Street and they are hard to miss. There is bright white and red Tesla signage adorning the eight high-speed chargers. Tesla paid for their installation and pays for the electricity used.

Tesla has also installed two universal L2 chargers are referred to as “top off chargers” and they are compatible with all electric cars, and free to use.

Electric cars are a popular new car choice in Sonoma Valley, according to City of Sonoma Sustainability Manager Travis Wagner. He pulled data for the Index-Tribune showing 579 electric vehicles sold to residents of Sonoma (zip 95476) as of April 2021).

“I believe this will make it even more appealing for locals to purchase an electric car as this kind of infrastructure and ready access to charging eliminates the ‘range anxiety’ barrier,” he said.

Teslas come with different size batteries, depending on the model. Their range varies from about 230 miles to 360 miles on one charge. The company’s superchargers are fast - typically around 15 minutes to provide 100-200 mile charge, depending on the car model, exponentially faster than a home charger.

AJ Peterson rents in Sonoma and doesn’t have access to a charger at her house.

“Like lots of other Tesla owners here who aren’t home owners, I’ve had to be creative. I go to Napa or Petaluma to charge or to wait in long lines for a slow charge at the chargers here behind the Best Western,” she said.

Aware that it can be frustrating to arrive at a station only to discover fully charged cars occupying spaces, Tesla now charges an idle fee. When a Tesla owner plugs in, their credit card on file is charged automatically — no swiping needed. The idle fee kicks in automatically if a car is left plugged in after charging is complete.

Peterson said Sonoma’s new charging station will be “life changing” for her and Wagner also expects it to also be a warmly embraced by tourists as well as EV owners who commute to Sonoma.

‘There is no more welcome site than a supercharging station.’ Kristine Batten

“Tourism is a critical component of the city economy and we are served primarily by car here as there is little public transportation,” he said. “The charging center will support visitors as well as workers who commute to town from other locations.”

“There are so many Teslas on our roads these days and for out-of-towners, there is no more welcome site than a supercharging station,” said Kristine Batten of Sonoma.

Peterson said she has eagerly awaited the arrival of superchargers in Sonoma since buying her Tesla in 2018.

“When you bought an early Tesla, there was a promise of a charging infrastructure and that owning and driving a Tesla would get easier over time,” she said. "Part of what these chargers are is the company making good on those promises.“

A community discussion of Sonoma’s new charging station on Nextdoor drew mixed reactions.

“The balance of Tesla (8) to universal (2) chargers is crazy and exclusionary,” Jess Miz commented.

“(It’s) good news for Tesla owners but not inclusive enough yet,” added Mari-Lynne Earls.

“Tesla pays all the costs associated with installation and maintenance so it is natural that they reap the benefit,” countered Gary VanderMolen.

Several posters noted that the arrival of more chargers is long overdue.

“It’s kind of unbelievable that our town, and what it stands for, has become years behind in the planning for electric vehicles,” said new Tesla owner Lani Squires. “It’s shameful really.”

Despite the concerns that more universal chargers are still needed, the broad consensus was in favor of more options.

“We need more EV chargers that service all EVs but as a Tesla owner who drives a lot, I am so thrilled to get a supercharger in Sonoma,” said Courtney Geissinger.

A brief history of Tesla

Tesla was founded in Palo Alto in 2003 and it is currently led by CEO Elon Musk. The electric vehicle and clean energy company currently sells four models of car as well as battery energy storage and solar panels.

Tesla sold its first cars in 2009. In 2020, the company sold 509,000 vehicles.

According to MotorTrend Magazine, the Model S starts at $70,000, the Model 3 starts at $40,000, the Model X starts at $81,000 and the Model Y starts at $52,000. It is in production to offer a Roadster priced at $200,000, a Cybertruck expected to start at $39,000 and a semi truck that will start at $150,000.

In 2020, Telsa had 23 percent of the (entirely) electric car market in the U.S, not including hybrids.

Slow-charge stations in Sonoma

Bank of America

Favero Vineyards

Sonoma Valley Inn

El Pueblo Inn

Sonoma Fairmont Mission Inn

13547 Arnold Drive

Olea Hotel

La Rochelle Winery

(Source: afdc.energy.gov)

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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