Tesla had already confirmed that Model 3 owners wouldn’t have free unlimited access to its Supercharger network like Model S and Model X owners who bought their vehicles using Tesla’s referral program. They said that Model 3 would fall under its pay-per-use Supercharger model, but it wasn’t clear, at least to us, if the Model 3 would come with free “Supercharger credits.”
The answer is no.
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Earlier this year, Tesla introduced a new ‘Supercharger Credit’ program which resulted in Tesla Model S and Model X owners who bought vehicles without referrals having to pay a fee to charge their vehicles using Tesla’s Superchargers.
At the same time, Tesla started offering 400 kWh worth of annual ‘Supercharger Credits’ with every car under the program.
It means that if you couldn’t get a referral to bypass the pay-per-use model, which is likely used by most Tesla owners at this point (though it could end this year), you would still get 4 to 5 full charges per year before Tesla starts to bill you for using its network.
As we reported at the time, that’s probably enough for the average driver since it represents roughly 1,000 miles of driving. Since the Supercharger network is aimed at enabling long-distance travel, it is basically the equivalent of a long road trip per year.
After that, Tesla starts to charge you, but it still ends up much cheaper than gas.
Now Tesla isn’t offering any referral incentive to Model 3 buyers so they can’t bypass the pay-per-use model, but it wasn’t clear to us if Tesla is giving them Supercharger credits.
An early Tesla Model 3 owner said on Twitter that he didn’t get any credit – showing that he was billed for 43 kWh of energy charged at Tesla’s Harris Ranch Supercharger:
Tesla confirmed to Electrek that they are indeed not giving Supercharger Credit with the Model 3.
It actually goes against what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last year.
Of course, the free Supercharging model was never sustainable in the first place, but it’s clearer than ever now with Model 3, which is expected to hit the streets in higher volume than Model S and Model X.
The idea behind changing the business model of the Supercharger network and offering a few free annual credits per car was to charge/discourage heavy users while still showcasing the fact that Tesla’s vehicles are capable of long-distance travel (even for “free”) – something that is rarely the case with electric vehicles at the moment.
Tesla relied on the fact that most owners would use the network only a few times a year while most of their charging is done at home.
But now Tesla has also introduced “urban Superchargers”, which are expected to also be used for local charging by city dwellers. The model had to evolve. Interestingly, those new Superchargers are limited to a slower charge rate (90 kW) like Model 3 – pictured above via PTFI.
At the end of the day, those 400 kWh Supercharger credits were worth only $80 per year at $0.20 per kWh. It’s not likely going to make a big difference for Model 3 buyers – especially if/once the unlimited free access for new Model S and Model X is gone.