It was bound to happen. Four years ago, when Tesla introduced the Supercharger Network, EVs were unfamiliar to most consumers, and their limited range made them a tough sell. Offering unlimited free charging was a great way to nip that particular objection right in the bud, and it surely closed many a sale.
However, today there are over 160,000 Teslas on the road, and the company hopes to be selling half a million a year by 2020. At some point, offering unlimited free charging to all would begin to look like an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. Not only would it eventually sink the company, it would be a bad deal for Tesla owners, as we discussed in detail back in June, when the company announced that Supercharging would not be free for Model 3 buyers.
This is no bait-and-switch move – current owners will continue to enjoy free charging for the life of the vehicle, as agreed. In fact, you have until January 1, 2017 to order a Tesla and get in on the lifetime gravy train.
The company explains the new policy in a blog post:
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 onboard 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.
These changes will not impact current owners or any new Teslas ordered before January 1, 2017, as long as delivery is taken before April 1, 2017.
Besides keeping the Supercharging experience convenient for drivers, charging a fee will enable Tesla to invest more money in the network. There are currently 4,605 charging points at 734 locations worldwide, and the company has big plans to expand. More capital will allow it to build not only more stations, but better ones, with higher charging levels, solar panels and battery storage.