When Tesla introduced Model S, all EVs were new and unproven products, and many prospective buyers were worried about running out of juice. Free Supercharging for life was a sort of teaser offer that probably closed many a sale, but common sense will tell you that it couldn’t have lasted forever.
Tesla replaced the “free unlimited” policy with a new one that it believes is fair to both existing and future owners – unfortunately, it is necessarily a bit complex. Electrek has made a valiant effort to explain the new deal, but a glance at the long list of comments that the article spawned shows that it is still unclear to many.
There’s no bait-and-switch: owners of vehicles ordered before January 15, 2017 are definitely entitled to free, unlimited Supercharging as long as they own the vehicles. Beyond that, things get trickier.
For vehicles ordered after January 15, owners receive 400 kWh of free Supercharger credit per year. After that, they have to pay. In some cases, Tesla owners will retain free Supercharging privileges as long as they own any Model S or Model X (but not Model 3) – in other words, free Supercharging runs with the owner, not the vehicle.
What about used vehicles? The way Electrek figures it, pre-owned vehicles produced before January 15, 2017, are still entitled to free Supercharging, “but future used Tesla vehicles will not have this advantage even if the original owners will actually have had access to Superchargers for free.” Well…okay.
The referral program also comes into play. Apparently, in some cases, if a new Model S or X buyer uses a referral code, they are entitled to free Supercharging in addition to the $1,000 referral discount.
As one commenter put it, “I don’t think Tesla could have confused people any worse if they had tried.” That’s probably overstating the case, but if you’re considering a purchase, we strongly advise you to speak directly with a Tesla salesperson, and get a written statement of what your Supercharging privileges will be.