Tesla charging station proposed in Ashland

·4 min read

Jul. 28—A proposed Tesla charging station would work only for Teslas

The public can weigh in on a proposed Tesla Supercharger station in Ashland near Interstate 5's Exit 14.

The station, proposed for a vacant lot near Clover Lane, could serve up to 24 vehicles — if they're Teslas, a distinction that has drawn criticism from Ashland Mayor Julie Akins. Public comments will be accepted through Aug. 1.

Seeking a variance, the proposal doesn't require approval from Ashland City Council or a review by the Planning Commission, according to Brandon Goldman, planning manager for the Ashland Community Development Department.

Goldman has fielded concerns from Akins, however, over the station's utility and location.

"It would only work for Teslas, because their plug is set up a certain way," Goldman said. "When the vehicle plugs in, it takes information from the vehicle. It's designed to charge and bill the customer at the same time."

The charging station, he explained, would have to include a special adapter for other vehicles to plug in, as well as some alternate pay mechanism. The station could include the necessary infrastructure, and Tesla has indicated, Goldman said, that by the end of this year it intends to develop an adapter and app for non-Tesla customers.

"I'm hoping that having the infrastructure in place will open the door for that. There are a lot of EV (electric vehicle) drivers out there. I'm one of them," Goldman said, acknowledging he couldn't be completely confident Tesla would produce the adapter and app on its stated timeline.

A representative for Tesla and the Ashland application could not immediately be reached for comment.

The project will be approved or denied by Planning Department staff, with public comments and an appeals process as possible factors.

"I'm concerned," Akins said, explaining that while she supports and has an interest in electric vehicles as part of a response to climate change, she doesn't feel the current proposal would be "doing it right."

"I think we need them (charging stations), but not everyone drives a Tesla; not everyone can afford to drive one," she said.

"I'd like to get it right at the beginning," Akins said, referencing the hefty cost of constructing 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 one universal high-speed charging station in Ashland, next to The Wild Goose Cafe & Bar, he said, but it serves only one car at a time.

A Tesla Supercharger station can charge a car for up to 200 miles in 15 to 20 minutes. Conventional chargers often 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 she sent to Goldman, the Planning Commission, City Council and the city manager, asking that approval be withheld unless universal chargers could be included.

Akins also stated concern about the location of the charging station largely catering to tourists. If it were in the center of town, visitors might be more encouraged to eat in a restaurant, go shopping or even stay the night. While businesses on Clover Lane are important, she said, tourists in the center of town will have more options and a better picture 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, Councilor 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 might certainly benefit," Seffinger said.

"Where they're proposing it, on Clover Lane, it's the last stop before Siskiyou Pass," Goldman said, noting the street has a number of hotels and restaurants. Goldman said public feedback so far has been in favor, with some concern over possible traffic congestion.

A back and forth between Seffinger and Akins indicated the councilor'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 stated in her email and over the phone that Tesla Supercharger stations in Europe have adapters for other electric vehicles, and Elon Musk has said the company is working to bring this technology to the United States.

Those who want to comment can find more information on the Ashland Community Development Department website, www.ashland.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=422.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.