Tesla’s high powered DC EV Superchargers are still virtually “free” to use, but now costly to abuse. That’s what Tesla changed today with its new credit program for the Supercharger network of fast-charging stations. I’m using the word “free” loosely here since of course, it’s included in the price of the car and not actually free, but I think that’s clear.
You will read a lot of “no more free charging for Tesla” headlines today and that’s mostly not true. Or at least no more true than it was before the announcement.
Nothing changes for current Model S and X owners (or anyone ordering until Jan 1, 2017), but it also doesn’t change much for anyone ordering after the date since Tesla is including 400 kWh in Supercharger credits annually with the vehicles.
That’s more than what most owners will use on an annual basis since significantly more than 90% of charging is done at home or at work. 400 kWh represent roughly 4 to 6 full charges depending on the model and as Tesla estimates, it will enable roughly 1,000 miles of driving.
That will cover most people’s needs for annual road trips, which was the initial purpose of the Supercharger network.
What Tesla has done today by putting what could be described as a 400 kWh cap on “free Supercharging” is get rid of the abuse of the network. It was intended for long distance travel therefore, frequent local supercharging was frowned upon – though generally tolerated. That contributed to wait times at some Supercharger stations where the practice was more common.
Tesla’s new Supercharger credit scheme solves the issue going forward. As mentioned in my article about the announcement, another issue that the credit program solves is the use of Superchargers by taxis or transport service fleets. It became a problem in places like Amsterdam or Southern California, where Tesla vehicles are becoming more popular for transport service companies.
Those vehicles will work through their 400 kWh in credits a lot quicker and will have to pay for the use of the chargers, which will help finance more Supercharger stalls and reduce the wait, or they will use other means of charging which will ultimately have the same result.
Some are speculating that the announcement today will spark a surge in sales for Tesla ahead of the January 1st deadline and they might be right. There is a huge psychological component to having unlimited charging for life even if those results don’t mean much on paper.
For now (until Tesla announces all the details), it will not affect most users. Though fleet managers that were looking into buying Tesla vehicles now have one more incentive to place an order before January 1st, which could help Tesla’s sales for the fourth quarter 2016 and help deliveries during the first quarter 2017 (vehicles need to be delivered before April 1st to be eligible to the current “free” Supercharging scheme).
The bigger question is whether or not Model 3 owners will also get 400 kWh of Supercharger credits with the purchase of their car. We asked Tesla, but we couldn’t get an answer yet. We will update if it changes.