Tesla's Contradictory Messages: Is Supercharging Unlimited, Or Not?


Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

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At Tesla’s annual shareholders’ meeting earlier this month, CEO Elon Musk groused about Model S owners who aggressively use the company’s Superchargers for their local driving.

Superchargers, Musk said, were intended for long-distance charging.

For Model S owners fortunate enough to live near the lightning-fast free chargers, it just wasn’t cool to regularly use them for local driving, he said.

DON'T MISS: Life With Tesla Model S: Local Supercharger Joys & Frustrations

As one of those lucky Model S owners, that was news to me.

Since the beginning, Tesla’s website and public statements have touted the Superchargers as “free for life,” with no hint of any such road-trip-only limitations. 

At the same moment Musk was castigating local Supercharger users, in fact, Tesla’s website carried the flat statement “Customers are free to use the (Supercharger) network as much as they like”--in two different places.

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'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Elon Musk arrives in a Tesla Roadster

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But not any more.

A few days after Musk’s pronouncement, that statement disappeared from one of the two Tesla website pages on which it had previously appeared: the one at teslamotors.com/support/supercharging.

As part of a restructuring of the page’s FAQ section, several answers were shaded slightly to emphasize the fact that Superchargers are intended primarily for long-distance travel.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Supercharger Network Growth Surges Over Last 14 Months

A different page, however, at myteslamotors.com/supercharger continued (as of June 22) to say that customers were free to use the Supercharger network as much as they liked.

Meanwhile, Tesla owners’ forums report that e-mails from the company announcing the opening of new Superchargers now include the phrase “free long-distance charging.” 

Ironically, those e-mails are sent to Model S owners in the vicinity of the newly opened chargers—the very same people now being discouraged from using them.

Tesla Supercharger site with photovoltaic solar panels, Rocklin, California, Feb 2015

Tesla Supercharger site with photovoltaic solar panels, Rocklin, California, Feb 2015

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There are also reports of a Tesla “concierge” showing up at the busy Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Local charging at that site has apparently contributed to lines of waiting cars at certain times of the day.

However, we’re not yet aware of any offending local Supercharger users receiving the individualized “friendly reminders” that Musk mentioned at the shareholders’ meeting.

Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015

Enlarge Photo

Clearly, Tesla would be on thin ice legally if it tried to restrict Supercharger use retroactively.

Instead, the company seems to be trying friendly persuasion and peer pressure.

We'll see how it works.

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