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Tesla owners finally get to charge up in Buffalo

Even before it was officially open, the new Transit Road Tesla Supercharger station was ready and working.

And, within one hour on Thursday afternoon, three owners of the luxury all-electric vehicles plugged in their gleaming Model S cars by Key Bank in the parking lot at the Eastern Hills Mall.

They stood in the sunshine, chatting about the novelty of cars with electric motors, batteries under the car and “frunks” – extra trunk space – under the hood.

With the Buffalo area now an official stop on the growing network of stations, the Western New York chapter of the unofficial Tesla fraternity felt official, too.

“We’ll probably stay here, get a few more electrons and grab some lunch,” said Tom Prout, who was driving home to Michigan from Boston with his wife, Nan, and dog, Boomer. “My wife and I think this is the future. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing with fossil fuels. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned.”

Although a Tesla spokesman said the Supercharger would not be working full time until this weekend, the Prouts were glad to be on hand when workers turned it on Thursday.

In meant they could skip a stop at the slow charger in Niagara Falls and get home faster.

The Supercharger stations, specially designed for the California-made cars, can fill a battery with enough power for 170 miles of range in 30 minutes.

“In 10 minutes, we added more than 60 miles,” Prout said proudly.

The Tesla Model S, which starts at $75,000 and goes 270 miles per full charge, comes with the promise of free electricity at the roughly 200 Superchargers in the national network. Owners map out driving routes according to charging station locations, and have been eager for Buffalo, a key pit stop for East Coast travel, to come on line.

“Now that this network is expanding, I’ll be able to take this wherever I want to go,” said Bhaskar Gopalakrishnan, as his red Model S sat connected to the slim white Tesla charger.

The Amherst anesthesiologist peered into his car. His dashboard touch screen said the battery was at 76 percent. He’d added 12 percent in about 15 minutes. To get that much charge from his home charger, it takes closer to two hours.

“The best thing about this is the torque,” said Gopalakrishnan. “It’s all usable power, all the time.”