FREMONT -- Tesla unveiled the East Bay's only supercharger station at its factory Friday, providing its electric car owners with a more powerful charging option and moving the all-electric company closer to its goal of creating a nationwide network.
Brijesh Jain, a Fremont tech employee, became the first Tesla customer to recharge his Model S automobile for free at one of the station's four stalls, a service that is afforded to each customer for life.
"I was so excited to get the email that the supercharger is over here," said Jain, who was joined by his 12-year-old daughter, Pragya. "We live 10 minutes away and it's so convenient now."
Jain was one of dozens of enthusiastic Tesla car owners who descended on the Warm Springs district compound to be part of local automotive history.
The Fremont station, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is the 18th in Tesla's growing nationwide network, said J.B. Straubel, the company's chief technical officer. The carmaker plans to add two or three new stations throughout the country each week, as part of its plan to establish a route of Tesla superchargers across the nation, from Los Angeles to New York.
"The stations take away the last hurdle that purely electric cars had," he said, moments before a ceremonial ribbon cutting. "It's a game changer for us and the whole industry; it shows that this is not a passing fad."
Most Tesla auto owners charge their cars at home, but at a much slower rate than superchargers, which offer 120 kilowatts of power and about 150 miles of driving in about 20 minutes.
Superchargers are being strategically placed in less-populated areas, but along major routes, to help Tesla customers travel to major cities and tourist destinations on long trips, Straubel said.
Fremont is one of the few larger cities to host a supercharger station; Hawthorne, near Los Angeles, is the other. "It's helpful for people if they mess up their planning," Straubel said.
The Fremont factory is the Bay Area's second supercharger station; the first was installed in Gilroy. Folsom, which is about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento, is Northern California's only other one.
That likely will change soon, as Tesla is looking at possible North Bay sites, including Vacaville and Santa Rosa, said Straubel.
The company's plans are ambitious, but few can blame the all-electric carmaker for thinking big, as it continues to enjoy a strong year.
In May, Tesla announced it repaid a $465 million federal loan nine years early. Its stock share value has risen steadily throughout the year, closing Friday with its price at $142. That's five times more valuable than it was 10 months ago and nearly 16 percent higher than four weeks ago.
Tesla is headquartered in Palo Alto, but it continues to lay down roots in Fremont, where its cars are assembled at the 5.5-million-square-foot facility formerly known as NUMMI.
Mayor Bill Harrison said the new supercharger station solidifies Tesla's commitment to Fremont and bolsters the city's presence in Silicon Valley. Harrison also noted that Tesla recently bought a 35-acre site near the Fremont factory, which it plans to use as a vehicle test track.
"It will help us attract future businesses in that sector, as well as individuals interested in those kinds of technologies," he said. "The fact that they chose Fremont is very exciting for the entire city."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.