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.”