Tesla Motors continues its aggressive growth with the opening of its first store in the Coachella Valley.
In a space once occupied by a VW dealer, this new Tesla store looks like a traditional car dealer – a novel concept for Tesla. It’s not the small format gallery-like storefronts I’ve encountered in shopping malls like the Century City Shopping Center or Topanga Plaza. The space is sleek, clean, smartly-styled and freshly painted, but it’s definitely a hybrid format marrying the mall gallery with a brick-and-mortar dealership.
Located at 68080 Perez Rd in the Cathedral City Auto Mall, Tesla steps into the sunshine of the Southern California low desert.
The Coachella Valley is a natural fit for an electric car with its abundance of wind and solar energy. It wouldn’t be hard for a homeowner to put enough solar panels on his or her roof to power both the house and charge the car. It’s kind of the Holy Grail of the EV world to be able to charge batteries with pure solar power, eliminating the carbon emissions associated with coal or natural gas power plants.
Quite a few of the cars on display had manufacturer plates; however a few had window stickers implying that they were for sale and that if you had $100,000 burning a hole in your checkbook, you could have driven off in one of these beauties.
The sheer size of this store allowed Tesla to show off things like the chassis, motor and battery pack. This skeleton (below) shows just how “simple” this car is. It has the 85 kWh battery pack – that large flat rectangular module that creates the floor – and optional air suspension struts that look very odd in the rear because there is nothing to hold them down.
These cutaways also show that the entire frame of the Model S is made from lightweight aluminum. Weight is the enemy of fuel economy and battery life. Even with all the aluminum, the Model S weights over 4,600 pounds – that battery alone is nearly 1,000 pounds. Still, that expensive aluminum sled is good for around 250 miles – all but eliminating the dreaded “range anxiety” associated with lesser EVs like the Nissan Leaf or the BMW i3 EV. Even the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, with a Tesla powertrain and battery is only good for 85 miles, not nearly enough for an LA –> PS run.
Like other Tesla stores, you can see and feel the colors and explore the options available. A large touch-screen lets you configure and place your order online.
I’ve been following the Tesla resale market in LA. With a very limited supply, the residuals hovers in the 85%-90% range. Unless you have to have a Model S immediately, I think it’s better to just order a new one and take advantage of the $7,500 federal and $2,500 California tax credits yourself.
The most important option is the $10,000 85 kWh battery pack which increases estimated range to 265 miles from the 208 miles offered by the base 60 kWh battery. Your range WILL vary depending on driving style, weather condition and how much energy you use for comforts like HVAC. I have a feeling that my range would be more rapidly depleted by high speeds on the highway and my habit of leaving the climate control on 68 all the time.
The other must-have option is the $3750 Tech Package with all the goodies you’d expect to be standard like onboard maps and navigation, automatic keyless entry, GPS-enabled HomeLink, power liftgate, memory seats and mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, LED daytime running lights, etc.
One of the most fascinating and attractive features of owning a Tesla is having access to the company’s ever-growing network of Superchargers. A properly-equipped Model S can charge for free at any Supercharger forever. Tesla estimates that in 2014, Superchargers will cover around 80% of the most commonly-traveled corridors in the U.S. and Canada. And by the end of 2015, Tesla projects nearly 98% coverage.
The Cathedral City store does NOT have a Supercharger. However, the store is equipped with a few high power wall connectors (HPWCs), each juiced with 240v and 100 amps. That’s a lot of electricity, considering my entire Palm Springs condo runs on 100 amps. My electrician in LA told me that he could put a 240 volt plug in my garage to charge an EV. However, where you need 30 or 40 amps for a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, Tesla specifics at least 50 amps. I can do it; but many older homes wouldn’t be able to deliver sufficient power.
You can stop by the Cathedral City Tesla store anytime and plug in your Model S for free at one of its three outdoor HPWCs. Walk up Perez Road to the 7-11 on the southwestern corner of Highway 111 and Perez and get the rare Dr. Pepper Slurpee while you wait for your Model S to charge. Or go inside to the customer lounge in the back of the store, enjoy free beverages, snacks and videos of Elon Musk waxing about the virtues of Tesla and pure electric vehicles.
The Supercharger is a 480 volt proprietary DC rapid-charging station that provides almost 100 kW of power, giving the 85 kWh version of the Model S an additional 150 miles of range in about 30 minutes. I asked one of the Tesla reps about Superchargers. He told me that one would be coming online in the next few weeks in Indio, on the I-10. It’s located in the Indio Towne Center at Avenue 42 and Jackson Street.
With the addition of the new Cathedral City store, the Coachella Valley becomes even more accessible to Tesla Model S owners in Los Angeles and San Diego. I don’t have to invest in a charger at my vacation home/condo, I can recharge at the store. For full-time residents of the Valley, having local sales, service and support sends a clear message that Tesla is present, accounted for and ready to make your transition to a gasoline-free future a reality today.