Tesla’s Supercharger network will no longer be free for new Tesla owners

If you’ve been planning on buying a new Tesla next year and enjoying free access to its Supercharger network, you’re not going to like today’s news.

For all Tesla models ordered after January 1, 2017, Supercharger access will no longer be a perpetually free standard feature. Instead, all new models will receive 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits annually, which amounts to about 1,000 miles of all-electric driving. After that, using the fast chargers will incur “a small fee…which will be charged incrementally,” according to Tesla’s blog post.

Since 2012, Tesla has invited its customers to plug into chargers that add 200 to 300 miles of range per hour. Good enough to top up a depleted battery in about 30 minutes, while a driver has a bathroom break and a bite to eat. They approach the convenience of pumping gas into a conventional car, and they’re free for life.

This news might come as a shock to future Model 3 buyers, as well. Supercharging was never promised as a free feature of the low-cost model, but many reservation holders have likely taken for granted that the service would be part of the ownership experience. It’s not clear yet what Tesla plans to do in the future, but given the substantial gulf in cost between Model 3 and Model S, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Model 3 owners face a completely different charging cost structure than owners of other Teslas. For now, the automaker isn’t saying much.

It was a nice program while it lasted but it’s certainly easy to sympathize with Tesla’s position here. With nearly 400,00 Tesla Model 3 reservations in the books, Tesla had no choice but to initiate some sort of economic adjustment to its Supercharger program to prevent outright chaos.

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