When Tesla Motors, the granddaddy of electric cars (EV), opened its Marietta showroom Jan. 19, it sent a strong message that Atlanta, particularly Cobb, would be at the epicenter of the ever-growing electric car movement in the Southeast.
There was chatter in the EV community that the company, started in 2003 by Internet entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk, was seeking a place for an Atlanta vehicle showroom and service center, with areas such as Lenox and Buckhead thrown around as possible landing spots. In the end, Tesla decided on South Marietta Parkway, just off Cobb Parkway.
The decision helps put Cobb at the forefront of the EV movement in the metro area. Driven by a combination of state and private incentives, metro area drivers continue to be among the nation’s biggest consumers of electric cars, with sales reportedly up 52 percent quarter-on-quarter at the end of last year, according to vehicle-charging network ChargePoint. More than 3,000 electric cars were sold to Atlanta area drivers in the fourth quarter 2013, followed by the Washington, D.C. area, Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles. In addition, Georgia ranked fourth in the United States in EV registrations in 2013, according to an Edmunds.com study.
“When Tesla decided to open its showroom here, it was a big deal,” said Dave Ellis, vice president, brokerage, for Ackerman & Co., which represents owners and tenants of commercial office and industrial space in the Cobb area. “I was surprised that there really wasn’t more of a big deal made about it. Of all the places in the state of Georgia, they chose Marietta. It says a lot about what this area offers. It’s all about our ecosystem — the accessibility, the quality of our consumer base.”
Along with Georgia, the sales and service center most likely will service Tesla car owners in Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and northern Florida. Its most popular model to date is the Model S, which has an EPA-rated range of 265 miles and does 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. The car starts at $63,570 and can run up to more than $100,000.
That’s an important fact when you consider Tesla stores are placed in strategic demographic locations, said company spokesperson Alexis Georgeson. “We put the stores based on where we think our current and future customer base live, and where people are informed and interested in technology. Marietta is conveniently located to serve our growing Atlanta market, and we continue to see a number of walk-ins.”
Interestingly, none of the Tesla stores or service centers carry inventory. Every car that comes off its factory line in California is built-to-order, customized to meet each buyer’s specific wants and needs. This sales model helps it maintain a no-pressure environment in its stores.
In a time of environmental and economic consciousness — when green meets green — the call for electric cars is growing locally. For example, Nissan Motors reported Atlanta was the No. 1 market for its Leaf EV in December, with nearly 1,000 models sold. In addition, EVs and hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, Kia Optima Hybrid and Wheego Life, to name a few, are gaining traction among Cobb drivers.
Part of the attraction are the state and federal incentives, which are $5,000 and $7,500, respectively. Passed in 1998 by the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia EV tax credit continues to be more enticing than its neighboring states. For example, Tennessee offers a $2,500 rebate for the first 1,000 vehicles sold; South Carolina has a $1,500 tax credit; while Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina don’t offer any EV tax credits.
The incentives are enticing. Take the Wheego LiFe, an all-electric, two-seat subcompact car with a 115V lithium battery pack that can be charged from a standard 120V outlet, a 240V outlet or on any standard public charging stations.
Led by CEO and former MindSpring entrepreneur Mike McQuary, Wheego Electric Cars has become a leader in the integration of advanced technology components. The Atlanta-based company (the cars are assembled in Ontario, Calif.) is one of the first EV companies to deliver affordable fully capable, street legal, all-electric cars for everyday consumer use.
“We have found that our buyers are typically using our LiFe as a commuter car — meaning, they use it to drive to and from work and for around town driving,” said Susan Nicholson, spokesperson for Wheego, which has a dealership on 1794 Roswell Road in Marietta, as well as ones in Atlanta and Conyers. “It goes 100 miles on a charge, so as long as the round trip to and from work is under that, this is a great car for the job. They need to have a place to plug in the car to recharge it each night. So, typically our driver puts a charging station in their carport or garage.”
Jim Nolan, executive secretary of the Electric Vehicle Club of the South, said the make up of the metro Atlanta area is conducive to the rise in electric car popularity. “People (around here) spend a lot on gasoline for their cars. Now they are taking notice of EVs. They are learning they can save enough money on gas to help pay for the EV lease. The tax credits are a good investment for improving air quality and keeping us in compliance with Clean Air Standards, which helped avoid switching to more costly fuels for the rest of the drivers.”
Nolan said that it is not surprising to see more dealerships dotting the landscape. “Competition among manufacturers is helping to bring down prices. Dealers are getting more enthusiastic about selling them and are maintaining attractive inventories. They were hard to find and more expensive when I got mine in 2011, but now you can’t miss them. And once you drive an EV, you never want to go back.
Did you know?
Every 10 seconds, a driver connects to a ChargePoint station. By plugging in and charging more than 4,000,000 times, ChargePoint drivers already have saved more than 3.5 million gallons of gasoline and avoided 24 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Did you know?
A typical charging can be done overnight — ranging from three to eight hours. The amount of recharge depends how far your battery has depleted. Since nobody runs out of juice, there is very little need to replace all electrons at once. What you must watch is the type of charging you require and the power being delivered to your car by the EVSE based on circuit capacity. Source: Electric Vehicle Club of the South
Inside Georgia’s Electric Car Incentives
Georgia electric car owners get a Federal tax credit of $7,500 for purchase. Some leasing companies will apply that tax credit as money put down for a lease. Georgia has a $5,000 tax credit for either a lease or purchase, which ranks the state one of the best in the country for EV ownership. Many utilities have implemented time-of-use rates that are pro-electric vehicle. For example, Georgia Power has a rate of $0.013 per KWH for charging between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. every night all year long. Source: Electric Vehicle Club of the South
Charge it up
Cobb charging stations you should know
Cobb electric car drivers can find a charge thanks to ChargePoint, which in just a few years has built one of the largest and most open EV charging networks in the world. Just how big are they? Try more than 16,000 places to charge, 2,320 customers and a 70-plus percent share of all networked public charging stations throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Here are some ChargePoint spots across Cobb:
- Marietta Transfer Center, Park and Ride, 800 S. Marietta Parkway, Marietta
- Team Nissan of Marietta, 810 Cobb Parkway S., Marietta
- Walgreens, 23 S. Marietta Parkway SW, Marietta
- Mayer Electric, 1455 Canton Road, Marietta
- ACE Electrical, 1631 Canton Road, Marietta
- Hilton Garden Inn, 3045 Windy Hill Road, Atlanta
- Town Center Nissan, 2310 Barrett Lakes Blvd N., Kennesaw
- Wade Ford, 3860 S. Cobb Drive, Smyrna
- Sears, 1500 Cumberland Mall SE, Atlanta
- Walgreens, 3299 Canton Road, Marietta
- Busbee Park and Ride, 3221 Busbee Drive NW, Kennesaw
- Whole Foods Market, 1311 Johnson Ferry Rd NE, Marietta
- ING — Atlanta, 57800 Powers Ferry Road, Atlanta
- Kohl’s, 1289 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta
- Walgreens, 4360 Bells Ferry Road NW, Kennesaw
- Walgreens, 4075 Cherokee Street, Kennesaw
- Walgreens, 7530 Roswell Road, Atlanta