Elon Musk: Supercharging will not be free for Tesla Model 3 owners

Elon Musk and JB Straubel held forth for over three hours at Tesla’s 2016 annual shareholder meeting. They recapped the history of the company, and discussed its ambitious plans for the future, before taking questions from the audience.

Mr. Musk answered what is probably the most pressing question among the legions of future Model 3 owners: Will Supercharging be free?

“It will still be very cheap, and far cheaper than gasoline, to drive long-distance with the Model 3,” said Musk, “but it will not be free long distance for life unless you purchase that package. I wish we could [make it free], but in order to achieve the economics, it has to be something like that. It’s not because we want to make things more expensive, it is because we can’t figure out how to make it less expensive.”

So, there it is: there’ll be no free-for-all, but an unlimited charging package will be available as an option (Musk didn’t say how much the package will cost). As many EV pundits have opined (including Charged in an upcoming feature article that went to press just before the meeting), this is the right choice – unlimited free charging would degrade the quality of the charging experience for everyone.

Musk and Straubel also reiterated that the Supercharger network is designed for long-distance travel, not for daily charging. Charging a reasonable fee should help to keep it that way. Many a marketing expert has found that people are so fond of “free” things that they tend to act irrationally, spending hours of their time in order to save a dollar or two.

“So often, it is far more convenient and faster for you overall to charge at home or at work,” said Straubel. “Time and time again, we see people drive to Supercharger stations, wait there for 30 minutes and drive to a different destination. And if they do their math – and they value their time – it makes no sense.”

“Would you really take your phone to a gas station?” asked Musk. “You are getting $5 of electricity while spending half an hour of your time…maybe barely minimum wage.”

 

Source: Tesla via Tesla Updates

  • Zephyr

    It’s just good business. As a potential 3 owner who road trips a lot, I don’t mind paying to reduce competition for the SC network.

    • ned_plimpton

      Totally agree. And I’m sure the surcharges will be very low.

      I’m amazed by all the people calling this a deal-breaker. They definitely don’t currently own EVs. Pick up a calculator! Free supercharging is not worth much money.

      Access to supercharging when you need it can be worth a ton at the time.

  • Robert Cattle

    I,ve been reading the tesla/musk EV giga factory and as a battery man for 40 years I am forevermore convinced that the fuel cell is only a few years behind the major lithium capital investment.
    I forever read Nicola Tesla,s story and his giga project. Sadly 1943 New York hotel should be remembered.
    I write with best hopes for tesla EV,s but battery history prof Andre France, and from Volta to ampere the paths do not run smoothly.
    I DO HOPE tesla still has its eye on the fuel cell.

    • Wade

      What kind of fuel are speaking of to operate this fuel cell? If it’s hydrogen, physics dictate that it is inefficient.

      • Robert Cattle

        Sorry my reply went on top line, trust you can see it

      • Cutric Crituc

        That’s a great diagram. Can you give source it? thanks

        • Wade

          En.wikipedia.org hydrogen economy.

    • Electric Bill

      Robert: you are blinded by your biases. There are potential other power sources that could push EVs into the corner, such as supercapacitors, but if you were truly objective in assessing the long list of problems with fuel cells you would see it is a red herring.

      One big incentive for Toyota and others to push FC tech is that it forces the car buyer to rely on the car maker as has been the case now for about a century… the same reason EVs met such resistance from the oil and fuel industries two decades ago when legacy car makers were foaming at the mouth over having to make 1% of their cars electric, and why they were so desperate to crush the hundreds of EV1s that were perfectly serviceable, and the drivers were just as desperate to hold on to them even though they were far less practical than today’s Teslas, Volts, etc.

      I repeat: your biases blind you. Battery tech is nowhere close to hitting a brick wall…roughly 60 various battery chemistries today are very fresh, but in the lab giving as much as 10 times the energy density of the batteries used today. That means that with a sedan such a Model S getting 300 miles range today, it could be getting 3,000 miles on a single charge. Alternatively, by reducing the battery pack by 80% you could still have a range of about 400 miles since the pack would be far lighter.

      Again, you are blinding yourself by your biases if you think there are no battery chemistries (or battery equivalents, such as supercapacitors that do not rely on conventional chemistry) capable of lasting over 70,000 miles before they would need to be replaced– plenty of Tesla owners would laugh at you, as many have already gotten 150,000 miles or so and are still running strong. Ceramic nanopore batteries being developed at the University of Maryland have the potential of 30,000 charge cycles with negligible loss of energy density; another is nanotitanate cells developed by Altairnano; there are others. FCs will have to bring something to the table far more promising than just something as GOOD as today’s cells, but something BETTER than the cells already being developed in dozens of labs today. Regardless of any other factor, FCs have one drawback you cannot ignore: they have to be fueled at special, EXPENSIVE stations that will require a HUGE and RISKY investment, covering the entire country… likely a trillion. dollars or so… as opposed to EVs which can slurp up generic electrons at any farm house, roadside inn, campground or lone solar panel in the desert. Not even today’s ICE cars have such convenience. I really do not understand why you would try to convince us to want such an awkward, clumsy, needy technology.

      Elon Musk said that before embarking on Tesla, he realized from the beginning that what he, needed to produce was, not simply something that was as GOOD as an ICE car, but far better, or it could never gain a foothold among the competition. If you cannot offer us a REALLY compelling reason to want something that has so many clear disadvantages… something that you can, point to to say, “here! This is why you would be willing to put up with finding a fueling station every day or so,, as opposed to some (very possibly) free electricity elsewhere…” you are delusional that you will ever sway more than a handful of others to your cause.

  • K A CHEAH

    NO WONDER GEORGE HOTZ REJECTED THE MULTI MILLION DOLLARS BONUS CONTRACT FROM TESLA CEO ELON MUSK TO BUILD A SELF DRIVING AUTONOMOUS CAR TECHNOLOGY USING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ADVANCED DEEP LEARNING ALGORITHMS FOR MAKING THE SAID SELF DRIVING TECHNOLOGY TO WORK FOR TESLA, SINCE TESLA WILL WALKBACK ON WHAT THEY HAVE COMMITTED EVEN IN A PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT BY ELON MUSK ON STAGE AT MODEL 3 UNVEILING DAY WHICH IS DISAPPOINTING FOR A REPUTABLE COMPANY LIKE TESLA AND THE LEGEND OF THE MAN LIKE ELON MUSK TO HAVE LOST HIS REPUTATION FOR A MINOR MATTER WHICH IS NOT WORTHY RIGHT???
    CEO ELON MUSK MISLED EVERYBODY TO BELIEVE THAT THE LONG DISTANCE SUPERCHARGING IS FREE AT MODEL 3 UNVEILING DAY??? ALSO EVEN IF SUPER CHARGING IS FREE DOES NOT MEAN ALL MODEL 3 OWNERS WILL MAKE FULL USE BECAUSE NOT MANY MAY USE THIS SERVICE TO DRIVE HUNDREDS OF MILES PER DAY OCCASIONALLY DURING HOLIDAYS SEASON IN EXTREME HEAT OR COLD WITH THE RANGE ANXIETY OF A LIMITED 215 EPA MILES, RATHER, AS MOST WILL FLY MOST LIKELY INSTEAD OK???

    Here’s how Tesla listed the Model 3 features on its website on April 1st, right after the Model 3 unveil event:-

    • Gary

      Musk never came close to saying that supercharging would be free. All he said was that the model 3 would be supercharging capable. That doesn’t mean that it’s free.

      • K A CHEAH

        IF YOU READ THEIR MODEL 3’S WEBSITE POSTING ON APRIL 1ST, IT SAID “SUPERCHARGING-LONG DISTANCE TRAVEL” THEN ON APRIL 8TH CHANGED TO “SUPERCHARGING CAPABLE” AND THEN ON APRIL 11TH AGAIN CHANGED BACK TO ONLY “SUPERCHARGING”

        • Gary

          Where is the word “free” in there? If an oil company says that they have gas stations spread out along a highway to promote “long distance travel”, does this imply that the gas is free?

          • K A CHEAH

            IF TESLA IS NOT GUILTY OF WHAT THEY HAVE COMMITTED AT MODEL 3 UNVEIL DAY TO PROVIDE THE SAID “SUPERCHARGING-LONG DISTANCE TRAVEL” IN THE FIRST PLACE, WHY THEY ATTEMPTED TO CHANGE THEIR WEBSITE POSTING ON 2 DATED OCCASIONS THEREAFTER AND TRYING TO EVADE THAT SAID COMMITMENT FIRST MADE???

          • Brandon

            I think maybe you are trying to hear what you want to hear. Elon said at the Model 3 reveal: “All Model 3’s will come with supercharging, standard.”
            Obviously this means Supercharging comes as standard hardware (ie capable of Supercharging). This is contrasted by GM’s separate additional cost to add CCS fast charging on the Chevy Bolt.

    • Lance Pickup

      Please turn off your caps lock…it’s much easier to read with mixed case versus all caps.

      As @Gary has responded, and even you have confirmed with your followups, Tesla/Elon never said that Supercharging would be free. The words “Supercharging-Long Distance Travel” does not imply free charging. If they changed the wording to “Supercharging Capable”, I can only imagine that it was to either match the words that Elon used during the unveiling, or they somehow think it conveys the capability better. I don’t see any evidence of backtracking or reneging on any promise of free supercharging for Model 3 owners which has never been made.

      And actually if this is a deal breaker for you to purchase a Model 3 (maybe you made a reservation expecting Supercharging to be free), then simply get your deposit back and don’t buy one. Personally I think this is GREAT news as there is already an issue with charging stations (I don’t have personal experience with Superchargers) being tied up with cars that are charging even when they don’t really need a charge (or not charging at all in some cases!) I think a per use/per minute fee for using a Supercharger is the way to go (provided it as Elon has said, cheaper than gas) as this will help ensure that a Supercharger is available for those occasions when you really need it.

  • Robert Cattle

    Wade, if I knew I would be a millionaire….it’s the principle . You must see how plate electrodes batteries have just moved up the periodic table.
    What I know is that every catalytic converter in fossil fuel cars has Platiuim/ palladium and I was always told Pt Pd and Ag could not help fuel cells- cost etc.
    The removal of Pt etc in favour of the lithium battery EV will produce a Pt excess that will aid fuel cells.
    As for the fuel, perhaps a safe version of methanol could be better than hydrogen etc.
    NEVER try to contemplate how nano chemicals will effect fuel cell evolution.
    All I know is that I would bet 20 years on, that fuel cells will replace lithium–X
    That’s just my experience of dealing with almost all battery couples, a list I could provide.
    I close with a nice extreme thought ! that dates from the 1970,s but based on 2016 chemistry materials technology.
    Simply, iron — air!! Terrible specific power, power density etc but super refuellable and based on the most available material.
    Sounds stupid but we nearly did it In1975!

    Rob

    • Lance Pickup

      I hesitate to call to question your expertise (you call yourself a battery man for 40 years), but it seems like you are trying to compare an energy storage medium (a battery) with an energy source/generator (fuel cell).

      The attractiveness of a battery electric solution is that 100% of the power that is used to charge the battery can be easily and efficiently created directly from renewable energy sources.

      You can’t say the same about the fuel that drives your fuel cell, be it hydrogen, methanol or whatever fuel you are thinking about.

      It seems that your main argument is that a surplus of platinum from catalytic converters will make for cheap fuel cells? Possibly, but then again, what about the fuel? I have very serious reservations about fuel cells, particularly hydrogen fuel cells, as the most economic way to produce said hydrogen is from natural gas or as a byproduct of traditional fossil fuel production and really doesn’t get us away from a finite resource that emits greenhouse gasses. The ONLY way to create hydrogen sustainably and without significant greenhouse gases is electrolysis from renewable energy sources, at which point, given the inefficiencies of that process, you really have to ask yourself why bother going through all that when you can just dump the energy directly into the battery?

      At best the most promising application of hydrogen fuel cells would be as range extenders for long distance travel, but by the time a significant network of H2 fueling stations could be built, I have no doubt that we will have affordable 300-350 mile batteries (if not significantly more), at which point the limiting factor is not the fueling time, but rather one’s ability to drive that far without a 30-60 minute stop anyway.

      As for whether Tesla has their eye on fuel cells, rest assured that Elon Musk is vehemently against hydrogen fuel cells. I can guarantee they are not looking at them.

      • Robert Cattle

        I won’t be around to see, but as a ni-cd and lead acid man that rose thru thermal, silver-zinc, metal.- Airs silver-cadmium, lithium – various, and exposed to a further mass at CGE France labs etc all I know is that I have seen it all before, and at no point in say the 1970,s (just 36 years ago) was rechargeable lithium considered seriously.
        The Japanese and in the UK Johnson Mathey have dropped back on fuel cells, whilst the inevitable growth of nanotechnology and new chemistry. (I,m a chemist) will clearly evolve some system that is only a 2016. Twenty one year olds, twinkle in the brain.

        As a true Teslaite (Nicola Tesla) I am sadly drawn to the twin paths of Tesla / Musk and Nicola Tesla .I hope you have read the history..so sad when you view the parallels. I just hope Musk does not meet a Westinghouse/Edison/Marconi type—or book into a New York hotel at some date like 2043!!

        Your mail noted!

        Rob

        • Lance Pickup

          No doubt Li-ion will be supplanted by some future battery tech yet to be determined. Where I think the discussion heads off in the wrong direction, however, is when we start talking fuel cells which are not a storage medium, but rather another way to actually “burn” a fuel, and said “fuel” must be created over and over again, unlike a battery which only needs to be built once (okay, it does have a limited lifetime, so I concede that it does need to be “rebuilt” periodically).

          In the case of a fossil fuel based engine, the process of creating the fuel takes millions of years and releases sequestered carbon into the atmosphere. Biofuel based engines are better in that the fuel creation process takes on the order of weeks to months to create and can be considered somewhat carbon neutral. Fuel cells can be better yet when something like H2 is created (using renewable energy based electrolysis) in a matter of hours. However, if you think about the process of storing energy in some kind of chemical by some means, you have to consider the round trip energy input and output of the processes, which is dependent on the efficiencies of those energy conversions.

          The chemical processes taking place within a Li-ion battery (or really any rechargable battery) are HIGHLY efficient (>99%), and even when you consider the efficiency of the entire system (accounting for electronics, heating/cooling, losses due to IR drop, etc.), a battery based system is between 85-90% efficient.

          Not so for the fuel used in fuel cells. Of course there ARE ways to produce/acquire H2 using fossil fuel based approaches (and possibly this is what Japan is considering) that get you H2 as a by-product, but in my opinion, this is just kicking the can down the road a few years and doesn’t address the greenhouse gas problem at all. So really I only consider the renewable option, which is extremely inefficient (70% according to the info-graphic previously posted, and this is probably about as good as it will ever get as this is a well-understood and simple chemical reaction). Plus a 40% efficiency in the fuel cell itself. That may improve somewhat through better fuel cell design, but as you can see, you will probably never achieve the efficiency of a batter based system, and that assumes that battery technology stands completely still.

          There are only two possible benefits of fuel cell technology over battery technology:

          1) The main one is refueling time. Ultimately you could build out a refueling network similar to what we have for gasoline today and be able to refuel in 5 minutes, if that’s important. But how long would it take to build out that infrastructure and where will batter technology be at that point? If we have vehicles that can travel 500 miles on a single charge by then, is a 5 minute refueling stop really necessary? Most people rarely even travel 500 miles in one contiguous drive (that is over 7 hours of non-stop travel at 70mph). Surely most people would at least stop for a half hour to eat that often! So yes, refueling time is important TODAY. Even in 5 years’ time, however, it is mostly a non-concern, and within 10 years I don’t think it will be a concern at all.

          2) Secondarily, H2 fuel cells offer a way for countries such as Japan that actually PRODUCE H2 as a by-product of industrial processes (mainly oil and gas refining) to take advantage of that extra energy. Again though, this is a short term solution (what happens if most people switch to fuel cells and you aren’t producing those fossil fuels any more?) and doesn’t address the long term issues (scarcity of supply and greenhouse gas emissions).

          If fuel cells have a place, I think it would be as a stationary energy storage device. Consider a home with solar panels that generates power during the day when no one is home to use it. A closed system electrolysis device could use the exess energy to produce H2 and O2 from stored water. At night, the stored H2 and O2 could be recombined in a fuel cell to generate energy to run the household and charge the EV’s battery. The resultant water vapor could be captured and re-used the next day so as not to consume any water.

          But even this best case scenario would have to compete with a battery-based home energy storage system like the Tesla Powerwall or the new system created by Nissan & Eaton, or the one created by Chevy. From an overall efficiency standpoint, fuel cells are light years away from reaching the efficiency of the battery system today. I just don’t see what kind of technical advances with fuel cells could change that. I think if a technology is going to supplant batteries (and it very may well), it’s not going to be fuel cells.

          • Robert Cattle

            Lance I,m with you in many ways except numbers…I mean giga watt hours.
            Li- ion is in effect nuclear (recharge) unless you go fossil fuel at the power stations.
            From the roaring hot deserts to the mass energy of the seas, will either come direct electricity plus nuclear. Which direction you go, you have basically two choices
            1. Recharge electrical basically nuclear if you look at megawatt hours or
            2 conversion of basic material into chemically rechargeable fuel ( non fossil). Able to recharge an EV in a period as quick as you fill your gas tank now.
            As you will see I favour a chemical fuel ( non fossil ) able to be stored in great amounts and locations like petrol today.
            In the past we favoured pyrophoric iron in an iron – air system, refuellable, but times have moved on.
            Yes li- ion for now, but I still hanker after that high energy fuel, man made and refuellable
            For long long journeys and with propulsion life ( engine) far in excess of what the nickel added tesla batteries are to use, at the expense of battery cycles.
            Power versus life.

            Tempus omni revelat. If my Latin is correct??

          • Robert Cattle

            My internal combustion engine has done 70,000 miles with just annual service etc… I will be astounded to see a EV doing half this without an”engine” “battery” being replaced inferring a big industrial backup questioning part of the efficiency.
            As for your efficiency numbers I would love a long dispute.
            But
            I,m off on holiday on a hybrid powered boat!
            May return for further points but just remember that New York hotel in 1943 . From brilliance to poverty but we still have 50/60 cycles power, inverters, alternators, radio ,television etc… Technolgy marches on, even if the giga venture is deconstructed and us humans have limited time.

            Opps! I,d love to get onto “time”

            Cherrio for now

          • Lance Pickup

            I’m at 57,000 now with my LEAF. The only “service” it has required has been approximately 6 tire rotations and one new set of tires (tire rotations are included with the new tires I bought, so I only have paid for 3-4 of the tire rotations). Oh, and I flushed the brake fluid and changed the cabin air filter.

            Granted, usage is taking its toll on my battery. It is at about 70% capacity right now. Still good enough for my daily use. But this is the first generation car without any of the active temp management on the battery. The second generation battery (available in 2013) holds up much better. And cars that have active temperature management on them (Tesla, Volt) fare even better than that. Not only that, but large format batteries allowing 200+ miles on a charge will require fewer than half the charging cycles as my 85 mile LEAF does, which should prolong the life maybe not 2X, but probably pretty close. I would not be surprised to see batteries in the 200-mile class cars to easily last 150K miles.

            As for now, I guess you can be astounded that my car has gone well over your 35,000 mark, and should get me to 80,000 with no major problems (although I was hoping for 100,000). And while you’re right that a new battery does imply a significant amount of manufacturing effort, keep in mind that the old battery is not simply tossed out. It can be used for many additional years as grid or home energy storage, so it’s not really a complete loss.

          • Jouni Saari

            Double battery capacity means half depth of charge-disharge cycle compared to the battery capacity. Usually not half amount of charge cycles.
            Lithium batteries like smaller depth of discharge, so the lifetime likely more than doubled if capacity is doubled and usage about same.

  • Ramon A. Cardona

    I offer a dissenting point: charge a fee or not, if 75% of Model 3 owners near a supercharger station buy the package, the issue is availability. Tesla needs to install more units. A fee will not deter Model 3 owners who may not buy a home charging EVSE, or live in an apartment complex. Besides, if by 2020 Tesla plans to sell 100,000 cars a year, the case stands by itself as to places to charge.

  • Sean Strack

    Musk suggested it, but I wouldn’t say it would be very expensive to add. ($2000) Musk said that he wants people to charge their cars where they charge their phones, not at a gas station. He wants people to value their time.