No more free lunch: Tesla kills free supercharger program for vehicles ordered in 2017

When Tesla announced its free supercharger program, it was trying to fill a need for long-distance vehicle charging and demonstrate that EV’s could be viable alternatives to gasoline vehicles. To that end, the company declared that its Supercharger stations would be free for Tesla owners. When the Model 3 launched, Tesla made it clear that these vehicles wouldn’t have access to the Supercharger network for free, and it’s now applying that policy to the Model X and S as well.

As of January 1, 2017, all new vehicles will receive 400KWh per year for free. That’s at least four charges for the higher-end Model S, so the company is still giving a tiny perk. Here’s how the company described it:

For Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging during travel. Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car. All cars will continue to come standard with the on-board hardware required for Supercharging.

We will release the details of the program later this year, and while prices may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity, our Supercharger Network will never be a profit center.

This move was inevitable. In the beginning, Tesla had few vehicles on the road, and so the cost of supporting their electricity habit was relatively small. The more people buy electric vehicles, the higher the cost of supporting them, especially as Tesla rolls out Superchargers to new locations. The company promises that it doesn’t plan to make a profit off its charging stations, and the average cost of electricity in the US is about 14 cents — dramatically cheaper than gasoline.

One other interesting tidbit to all this is that Tesla can actively track every single vehicle purchased after December 31, 2016 and knows which vehicles qualify for charging and which don’t. This isn’t huge, given that we know Tesla vehicles are pretty heavily linked back to HQ in order to implement features like Autopilot. But it’s still an unsettling reminder of just how much your vehicle manufacturer knows about you.

US-Map

This map shows just how far we have to go when it comes to wiring America for a new transportation and fueling structure. No other manufacturers have taken Tesla up on its offer to license Supercharger technology. It’s not clear how much cross-vehicle compatibility we will have if individual manufacturers keep building their own specialized charge systems.

Tesla maintains that its Superchargers aren’t supposed to be the primary way you fuel its vehicles, but not many homes are wired to provide sufficient power to charge an electric vehicle in a reasonable amount of time. Right now, that’s no issue, since anyone who can afford a $ 100,000 car probably has a home with a garage and can afford to pay for some high-amperage circuit breakers. But the less expensive Model 3 that appeals to mass market consumers may run into issues there. Either way, we’ve seen tremendous progress on nationwide charging — and we’ve got a long way to go before it’s truly ubiquitous across the country.

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