Tesla rolling out superchargers in Rolling Meadows
Sometime soon, "charging" at the Rolling Meadows Meijer store will mean something far different from handing the cashier your Visa.
That's because Tesla is setting up a Supercharger station outside the store as part of a plan to roll out new charging spots for the masses -- or thousands -- of its owners.
The Supercharger station in Rolling Meadows is set to go live by the end of 2017. The site, off Golf and Algonquin roads, was chosen because of Tesla's relationship with Meijer, plus the store's ample parking and access to restaurants and shops, officials said.
Although Tesla is famous for luxury electric cars costing up to $200,000 or so that spurt from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds, the automaker started selling its new affordable Model 3 this summer for $35,000 with a $7,500 federal tax credit if you qualify.
It's a coming of age for the iconoclastic company that transformed electrics from nerdy to sexy, creating an environmentally friendly sports car beloved by stars such as Will Smith and Cameron Diaz.
Teslas now have ranges from 200 to 300 miles, depending on the model, and many people charge their vehicles at home. But to increase convenience for customers, the manufacturer is installing Supercharger stations along popular driving routes and easy-to-reach locations such as shopping malls across the U.S.
You can power your Tesla up at sites in Bolingbrook, North Aurora, Country Club Hills and Highland Park. Another is underway in Chicago.
Steven Coberly, a high school physics teacher from Oak Park, powers up his beloved Tesla Model S overnight at his home using a heavy-duty outlet he had installed.
The Supercharger stations open up the market to people, such as apartment dwellers, who covet Teslas but can't change their electrical systems for higher-powered chargers, Coberly said.
Every time Coberly rents a car or uses his wife's nonelectric, he misses his Tesla. "It's like, 'oh, back to those gas things,'" he said.
Contrary to criticisms that Tesla owners suffer range anxiety, "every night I plug it in and in the morning it's like a full tank," he said. "I never worry I'll run out of gas on the way to work."
The Supercharger stations are equipped to deliver a "rapid" 72 kilowatts of power to cars; the average charging time is up to 45 minutes in urban centers.
"It lets you make a brief stop, charge your car very quickly and be on your way," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a video announcement in 2013. "Something unique about the Supercharger is that it's not just free now, it's free forever."
The free charging pledge, however, was fleeting. Tesla owners who ordered cars after Jan. 1, 2017, will receive 400 kilowatts' worth of free charges a year, which equals about 1,000 miles. After that, charging costs 15 cents per kilowatt in Illinois.
Typically, charging stations have 10 stalls.
The new Model 3 is a game-changer for Tesla, thinks green-car expert John Walton of Wheaton. "Tesla is marketing itself to compete against much cheaper vehicles," said Walton, chairman of Chicago Clean Cities, an alternative fuel and vehicle education group.
One more thing
Looking for a generic charging station for your Volt, Leaf or Tesla? Chicago Clean Cities can help you find one nearby at chicagocleancities.org/resources. MidwestEvolve, a partner with seven Clean Cities organizations including Chicago, also offers a charging station finder plus everything you'd want to know about electric cars. To learn, more go to midwestevolve.org.
Steve Baldastri, a regular Metra Union Pacific Northwest rider from Palatine, is not on board with a proposed fare increase of up to 12.6 percent.
"At one point I was understanding of the fare increases," he wrote. "Metra was supposed to acquire new equipment -- engines, cars, automatic braking, etc. Instead we get rebuilt cars, rebuilt engines and the new cars are a joke -- half the car rides backward, what's that all about? It seems to me European and Japan rail service far exceeds U.S. service and comfort."
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One more thing
The dramatic crash in Sioux City, Iowa, of United Airlines Flight 232 while en route to O'Hare International Airport in July 1989 is forever etched in the memories of area residents. The House Theater of Chicago is bringing back the play "United Flight 232" after an award-winning run in 2016. The show runs through Oct. 21; for information, call (773) 769-3832 or go to thehousetheatre.com.
Sorry, Des Plaines commuters. Graceland Avenue at the CN railway tracks by Oakwood Avenue will close Friday through Sept. 28 for repairs to the crossing. Detours will be posted.
More than 1,300 crashes, including five fatal ones, occurred in the I-55 and Route 59 area in Will County between 2012 and 2014. Most were rear-ends. IDOT is working on a plan to fix the problem and is seeking public input. To learn more or comment, go to i55atil59accessproject.org.