Tesla to charge new buyers for Supercharging after Jan 1


Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open  [photo: David Noland]

Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]

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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.

DON'T MISS: How Tesla may charge Model 3 owners for Supercharger access: credit-card accounts

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]

Solar panels at Supercharger in Barstow, CA, during Tesla Model S road trip [photo: David Noland]

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Full details will come before the end of the year, Tesla said, noting that "prices may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity."

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.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Model 3 owners will pay to use Superchargers, cost TBD

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 2015

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

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It wants to reserve the Supercharger network for long-distance travel, which has created some friction with owners.

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.

MORE: Quick Chek convenience store tests Tesla Superchargers in NY's Hudson Valley

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]

Tesla Supercharger stations at Harris Ranch, California, in April 2013 [photo: TeslaTap.com]

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Prior to that, Musk originally planned to charge a $2,500 upfront fee to owners of the less-expensive Model S 40 and 60 variants.

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.

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