On Monday morning, Tesla announced that new electric vehicles ordered after January 1, 2017 will not have unlimited free access to its network of Supercharger stations. The company began rolling out its network of fast-charging stations four years ago, with free unlimited access for Model S and Model X owners (although at one point it was a $2,500 option for the base Model S EV). Earlier this year we learned that those 400,000+ buyers of the new Model 3 EV would not have unfettered access to the Supercharger network. Now it appears that limit will apply to the more expensive vehicles in its range as well.
While the details have not been fully revealed yet, Tesla says that from next year, new vehicles will only get the first 400kWh each year for free—after that point the cost of electricity will be passed on to the owner.
Prices per kWh will vary regionally, but Tesla says it does not intend the Supercharger network to ever become a profit center. At the same time, this move isn’t suddenly going to cause owning a Tesla to become as expensive as owning other $100,000 vehicles. Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ energy prices, at a national average of 14¢ per kWh, we think it unlikely that, even with overheads, a full Supercharge would cost more than $20.
What’s more, the Supercharger network was never intended to be the primary method of recharging one’s Tesla; it has always been about enabling the EV’s perennial whipping boy—long-distance travel. For day-to-day use, regular recharging at home (for those who can) remains the preferred option, something Tesla actively encourages.
It’s believed that each station costs Tesla between $100,000 and $175,000 (with the real estate provided by local partners), and the company already has 715 Supercharger locations worldwide that currently serve a fleet of 160,000 EVs. With aggressive production goals and a new mass-market EV on the way, that user base is set to grow much bigger, making this move a bit of a no-brainer.
Meanwhile, several years after the arrival of the Tesla Model S, long-range battery EVs from other manufacturers are getting ready to hit the roads. Other OEMs have yet to take Tesla up on its offer of licensing the Supercharger standard, but that doesn’t mean no one is paying attention to the problem.
In September we reported on a pair of coastal fast-charging corridors set up by ChargePoint, BMW, and Volkswagen. And last week, the White House announced the creation of 48 electric vehicle charging corridors, covering nearly 25,000 miles across 35 states and the District of Columbia. The White House said that drivers “can expect either existing or planned charging stations within every 50 miles.”