A proposed Tesla charging station would only work for Tesla
The public can weigh in on a proposed Tesla Supercharger station in Ashland near Interstate 5 exit 14.
The station, proposed for a vacant lot near Clover Lane, could serve up to 24 vehicles, if they are Teslas, a distinction that has drawn criticism from Ashland Mayor Julie Akins. Public comments will be accepted until August 1.
To seek a variance, the proposal does not require approval by the Ashland City Council or review by the Planning Commission, according to Brandon Goldman, planning manager for the Ashland Community Development Department.
Goldman has voiced Akins’ concerns, however, about the utility and location of the station.
“It would only work for Teslas, because their plug is set up a certain way,” Goldman said. “When the vehicle connects, it takes information from the vehicle. It’s designed to charge and bill the customer at the same time.”
The charging station, he explained, should include a special adapter to connect other vehicles, as well as some alternative payment mechanism. The station could include the necessary infrastructure, and Tesla has indicated, Goldman said, that it intends to develop an adapter and app for non-Tesla customers later this year.
“I hope that having the infrastructure in place will open the door to that. There are a lot of electric vehicle (EV) drivers out there. I’m one of them,” Goldman said, acknowledging that he couldn’t be completely sure Tesla would produce the adapter and application in its indicated timeline.
A representative for Tesla and the Ashland app could not immediately be reached for comment.
The project will be approved or denied by Planning Department staff, with public comment and an appeals process as possible factors.
“I’m concerned,” Akins said, explaining that while he supports and has an interest in electric vehicles as part of a response to climate change, he doesn’t think the current proposal is “getting it right.”
“I think we need them (charging stations), but not everyone drives a Tesla; not everyone can afford to drive one,” he said.
“I’d like to get it right at the beginning,” Akins said, referring to the high cost of building charging stations.
The universal electric vehicle charging station in the public parking lot on Pioneer Street in Ashland is free and slow, Goldman said. There is a universal high-speed charging station in Ashland next to The Wild Goose Cafe & Bar, he said, but it only serves one car at a time.
A Tesla Supercharger station can charge a car up to 200 miles in 15 to 20 minutes. Conventional chargers typically take hours for a similar charge, he said.
Akins spoke out against the proposal in a July 22 email obtained by the Mail Tribune that he sent to Goldman, the Planning Commission, the City Council and the city manager, asking that approval be withheld unless universal chargers could be included.
Akins also expressed concern about the location of the charging station, which is largely aimed at tourists. If it were in the city center, visitors would be more encouraged to eat in a restaurant, go shopping or even spend the night. While the businesses on Clover Lane are important, he said, downtown tourists will have more options and a better image of Ashland.
“We hope they’ll stay a while and get to know us,” Akins said.
In an email responding to Akins’ letter of concern, Councilwoman Stefani Seffinger said she believed the station would be a boon to Ashland in its proposed form.
“My position as a citizen would be that there are several hotels and restaurants in this area that could certainly benefit,” Seffinger said.
“Where they’re proposing it, on Clover Lane, is the last stop before Siskiyou Pass,” Goldman said, noting that the street has several hotels and restaurants. Goldman said public feedback so far has been favorable, with some concern about potential traffic congestion.
A back-and-forth between Seffinger and Akins indicated the alderman’s concern that the mayor’s letter could be interpreted as a statement from the city. Akins responded that the statement was her own as a citizen.
Akins also said in his email and phone that Tesla Supercharger stations in Europe have adapters for other electric vehicles, and Elon Musk has said the company is working to bring that technology to the United States.
Those wishing to comment can find more information on the Ashland Community Development Department’s website, www.ashland.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=422.
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at email@example.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.