Tesla Supercharger stations at Harris Ranch, California, in April 2013 [photo: TeslaTap.com]Enlarge Photo
We already know that Tesla Model 3 owners may not get to use the company's network of Supercharger DC fast-charging stations for free.
Unlike the pricier Model S and Model X, CEO Elon Musk has indicated that owners of the $35,000, 200-mile Model 3 will have to pay for use of the stations.
But current Supercharger stations have no embedded payment mechanism—drivers simply pull up, plug in, recharge, and drive away.
So how exactly will Tesla charge Model 3 owners for Supercharger access?
One possibility is that it will initiate a system of prepaid Supercharger access through owners' MyTesla pages, according to EV.network.
Some Tesla owners recently noted that a credit-card payment section recently appeared on their pages, with no indication what it was for.
Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016Enlarge Photo
Inspecting the page code, they located items for "section-supercharger-payment" and a box showing Supercharger credits measured in kilowatt-hours.
So it's possible that Model 3 owners will pay for their Supercharger access entirely through Tesla's website, then just pull up to a station and charge.
The website gives no indication of how much charging will cost, but at Tesla's annual meeting in June, Musk said it would "still be very cheap, especially in comparison to gasoline."
At that same meeting, Musk said "obvious thing to do is to decouple" the cost of using the Supercharger network "from the cost of the Model 3."
"it will not be free long-distance for life unless you purchase that option," Musk said at the time.
Historically, Musk apparently never intended for the Supercharger network to be free to all Tesla owners.
Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015Enlarge Photo
Tesla Motors originally planned to charge a $2,500 upfront fee to owners of the less-expensive Model S 40 and 60 variants.
But demand for those versions was low, and Tesla ultimately offered free Supercharger access to all Model S owners.
In contrast, Tesla plans to build the Model 3 in large volumes, and the car has already attracted considerable interest from consumers.
Most of those potential buyers will likely pay the fee for Supercharger access.
That will give them the benefits of what is, today, by far the most pervasive network of DC fast-charging stations to make long road trips in electric cars possible.
[hat tip: Max Looker]