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(Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)
(Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

Electric Road Trip

On the road: How long before we can leave gas stations behind for good? Add to ...

Globe Drive's Peter Cheney is driving from San Diego, California to Whistler, B.C. in a Tesla Model S, which is powered only by electricity. This is the third day of his journey.

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All charged up: Pumping electricity at the Supercharger station

Leaving the world of gasoline behind feels good. But could I do it forever? My trip up the west coast in the Tesla Model S electric car has me wondering.

I’m travelling from San Diego to Whistler in the Model S. I’ve done about 800 kilometres so far. My fuel costs? Zero. When you get a Model S, you also get a lifetime energy supply – Tesla lets you fill up your battery at their Supercharger stations for free.

Peter Cheney

The only problem is that there are only 105 Supercharger stations in North America. Most of them are along the east and west coasts, where you’ll find the highest concentrations of electric car buyers.

For the electric car industry, infrastructure is a chicken and egg conundrum: if there were more electric cars, the industry could afford to build more charge stations. And if there were more charge stations, more people would buy electric cars.

Peter Cheney

Yesterday, I drove from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. I stopped twice at Superchargers to top up the Tesla’s battery. Although it was quick and easy, I wished there were more Superchargers - travelling in a Tesla means I need to think about where I can charge next.

That aside, driving the Model S has convinced me that electric power is superior to internal combustion. There are some caveats – batteries need to improve, for example. But the rest of the car blows traditional technology away.

The Model S has no transmission, no exhaust system, no radiator, and no fuel delivery apparatus. The motor resembles an oversized coffee can - it’s nestled in the tail end. There’s no oil to change, and no reciprocating parts to wear out. The Model S is great to drive, with instant torque and smooth, silent acceleration.

There’s also real joy in driving a car that produces zero emissions. Clean is good. Even though a lot of electricity is produced with carbon fuels, the electric car still represents a net gain – and clean power generation can change everything.

Many of Tesla’s Supercharger stations are connected to a solar power grid (Tesla CEO Elon Musk has invested $10-billion in a solar company called SolarCity.) As I charged the Model S yesterday, I thought about this – the sun beating down on the California coast was providing at least part of the power that’s carrying me north on my long trip to B.C.

Peter Cheney

That was a good feeling. After a lifetime defined by oil sheikhs, the Exxon Valdez spill and tailpipe emissions, I’m enjoying clean power. If there were a few thousand more Supercharger stations, I’d be ready to leave gasoline behind forever. The future is going to be interesting.

Follow on Twitter: @cheneydrive

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