How to make a cash- and carbon-free road trip from San Diego to Vancouver

Free fuel.
Free fuel.
Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty
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Yesterday we wrote about the emergence of a 21st century Ecotopia as California, Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia signed a climate change pact to forge a Pacific coast economy powered by renewable energy and electric cars. As of this morning, you can now take a carbon-free, 1,750-mile (2,816 kilometers) road trip from one end of Ecotopia to the other, from San Diego to Vancouver for free.

All you’ll need is a Model S, Tesla Motors’ electric luxury sports sedan, which will set you back about $70,000 to $100,000. Today the Silicon Valley automaker opened its West Coast Supercharger Corridor, a series of fast-charging stations located along the major north-south freeways that lets drivers add a 150 miles of range to their cars’ lithium-ion battery pack in 20 minutes.

Tesla’s Supercharger Network
Tesla’s Supercharger Network

Given that most models of the Model S have a range of 200 miles, that means 99% of drivers in California and 87% of Tesla owners in Oregon and Washington are within 200 miles of a Supercharger, the company says. By the end of 2014, Tesla expects the solar-powered Supercharger network will cover 80% of the US as well as parts of Canada.

The Superchargers use supersized versions of the Model S’ battery packs. Exploiting those economies of scale is letting Tesla roll out a coast-to-coast network for around $25 million, according to Tesla chief executive Elon Musk.

US state and federal governments, on the other hand, are spending many multiples more of that figure to install thousands of much slower charging stations in urban and suburban areas to alleviate the range anxiety of drivers who can only go 75 miles on a charge in cars like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric.

In Ernest Callenbach’s 1975 novel Ecotopia, northern California, Oregon and Washington secede from the US and create a Pacific coast paradise—the author apparently wrote off southern California as ecologically unworthy—where citizens drive electric cars, bike, and travel by magnetic levitating train. The climate change pact signed on Oct. 28 has got that covered too. The west coast states and Canadian province pledged not only to ensure that 10% of all vehicle purchases are zero-emission cars by 2016 but also to cooperate on deploying high-speed rail across the new Ecotopia.