The new rest stop on Interstate 95 in Darien is the second in the tri-state area and 12th in the country to feature a Tesla Motor Supercharging station, allowing Model S drivers to charge for free.

"The Darien location was built to support the I-95 corridor," said Alexis Georgeson, a Tesla Motors spokesman.

Other Supercharging locations along the route are in Milford, Conn., and Newark, Del.

In 20 to 30 minutes, a Tesla Model S with an 85 kwh battery driver can give the car half a charge. On a full charge, the Model S can travel 300 miles.

By summer 2015, Model S drivers will be able to travel across the country for free, charging their cars from one Supercharging station to the next, which is included as a standard option.

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The plan, Georgeson said, is the build more stations along the I-95 corridor and support the East Coast more by building more charging stations down to Florida.

Each charging station, which includes multiple bays, costs $150,000 to construct, according to Georgeson.

"It's a great relationship we have with the rest stops owners," Georgeson said. "It's great for the business owners, and it's great for the Model S users. They're able to grab lunch or shop a little at the rest stops."

The Darien plaza is the latest highway rest facility renovated as part of a $230 million investment by Project Service LLC to overhaul 23 on I-95, the Merritt Parkway and Interstate 395.

In 2010, Project Service, a partnership between Milford-based Doctor's Associates, owner of the Subway sandwich chain, and the Carlyle Group, was awarded a 35-year contract to operate the state's highway rest plazas.

Tesla Motors decided to place the supercharging stations along the most popular routes in the country, Georgeson said.

The charging stations pump 120 kWh into the battery. Drivers have the option to instead do a "battery swap" for $60 to $80. The empty battery is removed and a fully charged one is put in its place. Tesla has done demonstrations that show that in the time that it takes to fill the gas tank of an Audi sedan, two Tesla batteries can be replaced. On average, it takes 90 seconds to replace the battery.

A recent U.S. Department of Energy study shows that the cost of operating an electric vehicle in Connecticut is around the equivalent of having access to gasoline that costs $1.7 per gallon, according to a release from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The starting price for a Model S Tesla is $72,400, according to its website.

On July 9, Commissioner Daniel C. Esty of the Connecticut DEEP and Commissioner James P. Redeker of the Connecticut Department of Transportation announced the new EVConnecticut Incentives program, the goal of which is to more than double the already available 81 electronic vehicle charging stations in the state to 200 by the end of 2013, according to a release.

"Encouraging the use of alternative vehicles and alternative fuels is a key element of Governor Malloy's energy strategy," said Esty at the Electronic Vehicle Expo, which took place in Middlesex Community College on July 9. "Electric vehicles run cleaner and are less harmful to the environment, and they are also more energy efficient and on average cheaper to operate than conventional fuel vehicles. Expanding the number of charging stations available to the public will help decrease motorists' concerns about running out of power in their electric vehicles (`range anxiety') and result in increasing sales of EVs."

Esty and Redeker said $200,000 in funding for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations will be awarded to proposals that provide the most matching funding from the project host site, are most accessible to the general public, and deploy charging stations in geographically diverse areas, according to a release from the DEEP.

mspicer@bcnnew.com;203-330-6583;@Meg_DarienNews