Tesla officially announced the end of free Supercharging today and confirmed the previously rumored ‘Supercharging credit program’, which will start in 2017. The automaker presents this change in the fast-charging network’s economic structure as a way “to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth and bring all owners, current and future, the best Supercharging experience.”

The company is not releasing all the details of the program, but it confirmed that starting after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits per year will be given with new Tesla orders and “a small fee” will be charged for Supercharging after the credits are used. That’s about 1000 miles of range.

Tesla made it clear that this change doesn’t impact current owners and that the free Supercharging (or rather priced in the car) promise still stands for them.

The new system should help with a growing problem at Supercharger stations where taxi companies or other transport services operate fleets of Tesla vehicles. They are known to take up a lot of the demand at certain Superchargers, which can create long wait times. If the electricity is not free anymore, it will probably push some of them to find other charging alternatives.

Tesla is also addressing this issue in a more direct way by selling private Supercharger stations to some fleet operators: Tesla to deliver its largest privately-owned Supercharger station to a taxi fleet in Montreal

In the blog post (see in full below), Tesla said that the network will “never be a profit center” and that all revenue will be reinvested to expand the number of stations and improve the charging technology.

The Tesla Supercharger is currently ‘The World’s Fastest Charging Station’, a title that was recently challenged before the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, but that Tesla successfully defended. The charger has a capacity of 145 kW, but even Tesla’s vehicles are currently not able to take the full power of the Supercharger. They are capped at 120 kW and no other electric vehicle is capable of charging at a power level anything close to it. Most electric vehicles capable of DC fast-charging are capped at 50 kW.

The implementation of the new program could end up being somewhat more difficult in certain markets where the sale of electricity is controlled by state-owned or approved utilities and prohibited by other companies. The credit system of selling blocks of kilowatt-hours could help circumvent those regulations.

Tesla warned that the price of those blocks “may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity”. More details will be released in the coming months before the start of the program.

Plenty of questions remain and we’re pinging Tesla for answers to the more obscure questions.

Here’s Tesla’s announcement in full:

An Update to Our Supercharging Program

Four years ago, Tesla introduced the Supercharger Network – the world’s fastest charging solution – to enable convenient long distance travel. Today, more than 4,600 Superchargers allow over 160,000 Tesla owners to drive across the continental U.S., from the Arctic Circle to the south of Spain, and across all of the population centers in China and Japan, among many other places. Supercharging has even helped owners drive their Teslas around the world.

We’ve designed our network so that all customers have access to a seamless and convenient charging experience when they’re away from home, as our intention has always been for Supercharging to enable long distance travel. That’s why today we’re announcing a change to the economics of Supercharging – one that allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth and bring all owners, current and future, the best Supercharging experience.

Ensuring Use for Long-Distance Travel 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.

The Road Ahead Just as you would charge your cell phone, we believe the best way to charge your car is either at home or at work, during the hours you’re not using it. For travelers, the Supercharger Network has become a powerful, unique benefit of Tesla ownership. As we approach the launch of Model 3, this update will enable us to greatly expand our Supercharger Network, providing customers with the best possible user experience and bringing sustainable transport to even more people.

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