Teslas are still a rare sight in Mississippi. The state’s first and, to date only, Tesla — a Model S — was registered to an owner in Jackson in 2014.
But while Tesla sightings are rare, there is some evidence that Elon Musk’s electric cars have made it through Columbus.
“I think we’ve had four or five,” said Columbus native Andrew Richardson, a Tesla salesperson in San Francisco, who set up a charging station at his father’s vacant storefront in Columbus. “I haven’t personally seen them, since I’m here in San Francisco, but we do know the charging station has been used four or five times.”
The charging station, located in the former Creation Design and Sports Building on Highway 45, is not the only location Tesla owners can charge their batteries for free.
Columbus Nissan also has a charging station that can accommodate Teslas.
“We put in our charging station in 2011, when Nissan came out with its first electric car, the Nissan Leaf,” said Columbus Nissan General Manager Russell Street. “I haven’t seen a Tesla, though, and it’s hard to know if any Tesla owners have used our charger, but I do know it’s listed as a charging station. My understanding is that Teslas have converters that enable them to use the chargers at Nissan dealerships and just about every dealership has a charger.”
Tesla’s first two mass production models, the S and the X, are high performance sports cars with a hefty price tag, up to $140,000. That, along with the low cost of gasoline, has meant a scarcity of not only electric cars, but the more economical Leaf as well.
“Right now, with gas prices being what they are, we’re not seeing a lot of interest,” Street said of the Leaf. “When they first came out, we might sell two or three a month. Now, it may be one a month. It’s just not something that has caught on much in Mississippi.”
Interest in electric cars may soon change when Tesla begins delivery of its latest, more economical Model 3 later this year. The Model 3 lists in the $35,000 range and more than 325,000 Model 3s have been preordered.
To accommodate a boom in the market, Tesla is spending billions on a network of charging stations throughout the U.S., said Richardson.
“That’s absolutely critical,” Richardson said. “Tesla has more than 5,000 charging stations now and probably 300 to 400 supercharging stations, which can charge the battery in 10 to 15 minutes instead of the two or three hours it takes at a regular charging station.”
Mississippi’s first supercharger station was opened in Pearl in April.
Richardson said finding a charging station is easy, thanks to the car’s computer system which used GPS to locate charging stations along the driver’s route.
“You can drive cross-country now, no problem,” Richardson said.
Even on Highway 45 in Columbus.
“My main reason for putting in the station was marketing, letting people know about Tesla because I really believe you’re going to start seeing them regularly within the next few years,” Richardson said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.