Representatives from Tesla, the company made famous by popularizing the electric car and other forms of capturing renewable energy, pitched the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday on the construction of a Tesla supercharger station in a town-owned parking lot at the gateway of Montauk.
Edwin Xiao, a senior project developer with Tesla and William Watts, the market lead for charging infrastructure in the tristate area, proposed a station with as many as ten spaces for Tesla charging in the Kirk Park Beach parking lot off Montauk Highway. The concept is pitched as one of a handful of public-private partnerships between Tesla and municipalities in New York State. It is the first project of its kind proposed in Suffolk County. The company installed a supercharger station capable of charging up to eight vehicles between 30 to 40 minutes, in the parking lot at Café Crust on County Road 39 in Southampton in 2016.
According to Mr. Watts, as the Tesla customer base has grown, that charging station often gets congested, especially in the summer months. The new station in Montauk, Mr. Watts said, is an effort to satisfy current and future customer demand for drivers within a 150-mile radius who need to charge their vehicles while visiting or staying on the East End.
The project would cost Tesla $500,000 to complete. According to Kim Shaw, environmental protection director with the town’s Natural Resources Department, the town was already looking to install charging stations at “at least six locations” through a Clean Communities Award grant. If the town partners with Tesla, Ms. Shaw said it could “repurpose that money from the state and do other energy initiatives throughout the Town of East Hampton.” Working with Mr. Xiao and Mr. Watts, Ms. Shaw said Kirk Park Beach was the first site the group chose to pursue.
While there are three levels of charging, this proposal looks specifically at developing level three or “supercharger” stations in various locations throughout the state. Mr. Xiao says the supercharger station provides Tesla vehicles an 80-percent charge in about 40 minutes. “We have hit the milestone recently of 10,000 level three chargers and we are looking to invest in townships like East Hampton and Montauk where we feel there are synergies and we are practically able to provide level three charging and, at the same time, work with townships to create some sort of infrastructure plan.”
“The Hamptons is a prime demographic for us,” said Mr. Watts. “We have a number of cars out here already.”
While most town board members agreed there is an environmental advantage to providing infrastructure for fossil fuel-reducing technologies like electric vehicles, there were also reservations. Understanding the supercharger stations can only charge Tesla vehicles — Mr. Watts said other electric car companies have similar but not compatible technology — Councilperson David Lys asked if infrastructure would be available to support other vehicles. Mr. Watts said while the level three charging station could not support other models, Tesla could explore installing a level two charger that provides power at a slower rate of speed for other models.
Mr. Lys said he was also concerned about losing valuable parking space at the popular beach lot. He suggested instead, the town and Tesla explore the feasibility of using parking lots near the soccer fields off South Edgemere Street — a location still close to Montauk’s downtown, but less heavily used by beachgoers during the summer season.
Councilperson Sylvia Overby said both the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee and the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee had a lot of questions about the proposal, first being how necessary it is. “How many are out here,” she asked. “How many people are looking for Tesla charging stations here?”
“Our sales have increased 50 percent year over year and we are the best-selling car in every class we compete in, so I would truly expect to see a large number of our cars on the road moving forward,” said Mr. Watts.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and Mr. Lys also expressed concern about the company’s branding on the chargers at the stations, and the illumination of the facility.
“Another concern by the CAC is this is a public parking lot,” said Ms. Overby, noting Kirk Park Beach parking is located at the entrance to Montauk’s downtown area. “I understand why you would want it, but not necessarily the people that live in Montauk want it. Part of what they are saying is you put this on public property and you start to begin the corporatization of public areas.”
Mr. Watts said the company was open to moving the location, provided it remained near the downtown area so that drivers have the ability to walk around, shop and dine while they wait the 40 minutes for their vehicle to recharge. He added he believes the station could provide a boost for local businesses. “Around here I would expect thousands of people charging a month,” he said.
“Frankly, for us, the visibility is not a positive — it is a negative — so being more discreet with the charging station is preferable,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc.
“Our main concern is proximity to the amenities I discussed, proximity to power, which frankly anywhere out here is going to be challenging, and proximity to a quick on and off from the main roads so you are not driving 20 minutes out of your way to charge,” said Mr. Watts.
Mr. Lys said he liked the idea, but wanted to make sure it could serve as many residents as possible and that a better location than Kirk Park Beach should be explored.
“The discussion comes down to finding an acceptable location the community will embrace, the town board will embrace, and moving forward we will have to discuss that,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc.