Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]Enlarge Photo
A major perk for Tesla Model S and Model X owners has been free access to the carmaker's network of Supercharger DC fast-charging stations.
But after January 1, new Tesla buyers won't get that free access.
Tesla will charge anyone who buys one of its cars after that point for use of Supercharger stations, a move it says is meant to emphasize use of the network for long-distance travel.
Customers who order cars after January 1 will get annual credits for 400 kilowatt-hours of free charging, a Tesla blog post said.
Tesla claims that is equivalent to about 1,000 miles of driving, although it is unclear whether the credits roll over into the next year.
After the credits are exhausted, Tesla will charge a "small fee" that will still cost "less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car," according to the company.
Solar panels at Supercharger in Barstow, CA, during Tesla Model S road trip [photo: David Noland]Enlarge Photo
Despite the plan to charge owners for access to Supercharger stations, Tesla said the network will never be a "profit center."
Tesla also noted that it will continue installing Supercharger hardware in all cars as standard equipment.
The new policy does not include current Tesla owners, or customers who order cars before January 1, and take delivery before April 1.
Institution of Supercharger fees has been predicted for some time, as Tesla seeks to both grow the network and accommodate an increasing amount of customers.
In its blog post announcing the fees, Tesla said that it believes the best way to charge an electric car is "either at home or at work, during the hours you're not using it."
Tesla Supercharger site in Newburgh, New York, up and running - June 2015Enlarge Photo
Last summer, it sent a letter to owners asking them to curtail Supercharger use for local driving, so that drivers on longer trips could more easily access stations.
But that letter has met with hostility by owners.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously said that free Supercharger use would not be extended to buyers of the Model 3, the 215-mile, $35,000 electric car that already has over 400,000 reservations.
Tesla Supercharger stations at Harris Ranch, California, in April 2013 [photo: TeslaTap.com]Enlarge Photo
But consumer interest in those models was minimal, so Tesla launched the Supercharger network with completely free access.
The institution of fees likely won't dampen Tesla owners' enthusiasm for the Supercharger network.
Most will likely pay the fees in order to maintain access to what is, today, by far the most pervasive network of DC fast-charging stations.