Tesla wants to have the fastest, widest network of electric car chargers in the world.
But even as the California-based luxury car maker plans upgrades, local drivers say Charleston has been left out of the equation.
Superchargers are Tesla's fastest and most convenient fueling stations. The company announced plans in 2012 to build the network to drive car sales and enable travelers to stop, juice up quickly and hit the road again. Tesla owners in Charleston worry the lack of a charger in the area keeps Tesla-owning tourists away.
Chris Marquez, a North Charleston resident who owns two Teslas, said he would rarely use a Supercharger even if one was in Charleston. Most people install hardware and recharge their vehicles at home. Marquez and his wife charge their cars overnight. But he wonders whether people without a plug of their own — apartment or condominium dwellers, for instance — would be able to charge their Teslas reliably.
Travelers passing through Charleston also face an inconvenience without a Supercharger present, Marquez said. Stopping to recharge takes hours rather than minutes.
"I keep waiting to see," Marquez said. "The cars seem to be coming before the infrastructure."
Tesla includes Charleston in its plan to expand its Supercharger network. But it appears to have stalled.
The company has five other Superchargers in South Carolina. Two are positioned along the Interstate 95 corridor, in Santee and Florence. Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Greenville have one each. More than 600 of the chargers are open in the United States.
A spokeswoman for Tesla would only say information about upcoming locations could be found at www.tesla.com/supercharger. No update on the Charleston Supercharger was available last week.
The end of 2017 was one target date. Now, it's sometime in 2019, according to the Tesla website.
Tesla appears not to have submitted a permit application with the City of Charleston, according to online property records. A spokeswoman with the town of Summerville said there are no plans in place there, either.
Meanwhile, Tesla announced Wednesday it is amping up its Supercharger network. The extra power will allow customers to cut their charging time by 50 percent on average, the company said.
Kacey Green, a Summerville resident, has been an electric vehicle enthusiast for years. He was finally able to buy a Tesla Model S in 2017. He traded it out a year later for the Model X.
Green is so dedicated, he has made YouTube videos rating Supercharger stations for their layout and efficiency. He gave the Santee station a five out of 10 rating. Green plugs in his car at home most often, however. He usually charges to 80 percent capacity.
"It's like having three-quarters of a tank of gas, always," Green said.
Despite his own charging habits, Green thinks having a Supercharger in town would bring more Tesla drivers to the Lowcountry. The network of chargers in place around town today take an impractical amount of time for visitors.
The electric vehicle market is in flux as manufacturers aim to make battery-powered cars more accessible. Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, announced March 3 his company will manufacture an SUV crossover.
And a few days earlier, a blog post on the Tesla website announced a drop in price for the standard Model 3 sedan to $35,000. The lowest price a customer could get before was $42,900. Volvo released a rival to Tesla's Model 3 in late February. Volkswagen says it will release its own model at a base price below $34,000 in 2020.
Tesla will also close many of its showrooms, the company said, hoping to push more customers to order their cars online.
The electric vehicle startup's net income has been deep in a financial pit for years. The company finished 2018 at $976.1 million in the hole, albeit a $985.3 million improvement from the year before.
The company told investors they expect to be profitable in the second quarter of 2019.
Tesla owners Marquez and Green are both hooked. Marquez said he barely notices the increase on his home electric bill, and traveling long distances comes with built-in opportunities to stretch his legs at the power station, rather than standing at a gas pump.
Going back to a gas-powered engine would be like using a flip phone again, he said.