Tesla’s network of Superchargers have so far offered free, unlimited use to drivers of Tesla vehicles, but that was never going to last forever. Tesla announced upcoming changes to the Supercharger program today, which will introduce a fee for owners who purchase their vehicle after January 1, 2017 – but only if they exceed 400 kWh of charging in a year, which translates to roughly 1,000 miles of driving.
Once that threshold is passed, Tesla owners will begin being charged an incremental fee depending on usage, but one that will still undershoot the price of filling up a fuel-based car’s gas tank. As mentioned, orders until January 1, 2017 and existing owners and orders aren’t affected – they still get free Supercharging for the life of their vehicle, provided they take delivery before April 1, 2017.
Tesla says the change is about adjusting the economics of Supercharging in a way that “allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth,” but also notes that while they will begin charging customers after a certain point, the “Supercharger Network will never be a profit center,” which implies all funds generated will go to maintenance and expansion/improvement of the resource for drivers.
The timelines for the changes to come into effect mean that any Model 3 owners will have the capped Supercharging plan, and Tesla isn’t yet revealing the specifics of its usage-based pricing. That effective 1,000 mile cap means that the needs of many, many drivers will be met before they hit that Supercharge limit, however, since this really only impacts those using their cars for trips outside the car’s considerable range when they don’t have time or inclination to stop and charge at a normal rate.
Tesla also says it’ll release further details of how the pricing for charging beyond 400 kWh will work later this year, but also notes that these details may vary over time and by region, depending on the price of electricity and other factors.
We always knew the unlimited free Supercharger program couldn’t last forever. At least legacy Tesla owners will at least be able to find some comfort over not getting hardware needed for self-driving in their cars with the knowledge that they can at least use Superchargers indefinitely.