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New technology gives locals a jolt

6/15/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

Son of Dell Kenwright

The company leading the charge for electric cars has thrown down the gauntlet in the top oil-producing county in Kansas.

Tesla Motors unveiled six charging stations Friday for its vehicles in the parking lot of Applebee's in Hays at 4101 Vine. The charging units, resembling the gas pumps Tesla seeks to render obsolete,  stand waiting for the technology to spread among drivers.

Stephen Martinique, manager of the Tesla store in Denver, said Hays is the farthest location east on Interstate 70 for the company's charging stations. The company already has covered Interstate 80 from coast to coast.

Martinique likened the dawn of electric cars to another generation's milestone.

"This is kind of reminiscent of my grandparents used to talk about when we built the actual interstate highway," Martinique said. "For us, this is sort of the new interstate highway, although it's an electric one."

Although the car's acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds was the highlight for many who rode in test drives Friday, the vehicle's high-tech specs offer a glimpse into the future of driving.

The American-made cars have no transmission, do not need oil changes, have an eight-year warranty on the battery, include Internet access for four years and can travel approximately 250 miles on a single charge. Tesla's charging stations only need 30 minutes to recharge the car, and owners can plug their cars into any outlet with an adaptor. An overnight recharge is recommended.

The company envisions a new era of sustainable travel across the nation.

"That's the big picture. In a couple of years, this will be the new interstate highway of our generation, and there'll be mass market electric cars just kind of whizzing across the country with no need for oil, no pollution, none of that noise," he said.

The base price for the Tesla Model S is $69,900, but the company expects to build a battery plant in America and release a $35,000 model by the end of 2017.  

Jim Stevens, owner of the restaurant, said he visited from Wichita to attend the ribbon cutting Friday. He hailed Tesla as "revolutionary."

"I think it's the car of the future, totally electric," Stevens said. "They can charge it at the station in 30 minutes. It's almost like the Ford automobile."

Hays City Commissioner Ron Mellick attended the program and said he expects more people will stop in the city to charge as the vehicles more popular. Tesla choosing Hays reflects on the draw of area attractions, he said.

"They're in Hays because we have a lot to offer besides just Applebee's," Mellick said. "Like (Martinique) said, he wants to stop someplace that's a nice place where people got other things to do other than just charge their car."

Tammy Wellbrock, executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, said building the charging stations will encourage more drivers to buy the new vehicles. The "eco-friendly" decision to install the stations provides more choices for transportation and makes Hays more attractive as a city to visit, she said.

"They are purposefully selecting their targets, and so Hays was a destination point that they knew people are already using," Wellbrock said. "And so to me I think this is a great partnership not just with Applebee's, but a business owner seeing this opportunity to be able to continue to invest."

For more information on the vehicles, visit www.teslamotors.com.