Published: Jul 18, 2013 2:05 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 18, 2013 6:06 AM EDT

ESTERO, Fla. - One way people are saving money on rising gas prices is by avoiding the gas station altogether. They're driving electric cars. And now, there's a new option to charge up for free at Gulf Coast Town Center.

You may have noticed the special parking spots under construction on the side of Dick's Sporting Goods. The eight Tesla Superchargers are definitely drumming up some curiosity.

"It looks like a telephone or it looks like something where you park and you pay," one driver guessed.

It's one of the first stations in Florida and in the nation. It's where Erol Brenes is looking forward to parking her Tesla Model S.

"You back into one of the spaces," Brenes explained. "Then, you open up the little port in the back tail light, you connect the charger to it and it does it on its own.
It's a half charge in 20 to 30 minutes. If you're traveling from Miami, you can stop here, have lunch, get charged in less than an hour and head on to Tampa or anywhere else."

It's all free. While these are only for Tesla drivers, electric car chargers are popping up around southwest Florida at FGCU and in downtown Fort Myers.

Profit was not the main motivation when Lee County installed them last year. They estimate they've made under $50 dollars. But, officials say drivers are plugging in more than they expected.

"Its cool seeing something like that because we're taking steps toward the future," Angel Hernandez said.

"I think it's pretty cool," Nicholas Rosa said. "It's a step toward a new beginning I guess. But, I could see how people could have different opinions on it, that it's kind of pushy to push everybody to an electric car."

The Energy Department compared the cost of fueling with electricity versus gasoline. They found a typical electric vehicle in Florida could travel as far on $1.10 worth of electricity as a similar vehicle could travel on a gallon of gas.
Fuel prices were big motivator for Brenes to make the switch.

"Not having to stop by the gas station, not having to worry about the gas prices anymore," Brenes said. "All I have to do is plug in and I'm ready."

Tesla is building a network of Supercharging stations that will allow Tesla drivers to travel coast to coast in their vehicles. Workers expect the Superchargers at Gulf Coast Town Center to be ready to use by the end of next week.