Tesla is sending engineers to Supercharger sites to check seat belts while owners wait.

Tesla To Impose 400 kWh Supercharger Limit to All New Tesla Customers From Jan 1, Will Charge Beyond This Point

Alongside the legendary customer service, fresh buying experience, best-in-class range and outstanding performance, Tesla’s global network of free-to-use DC Supercharger stations have to date been one of the strongest selling points of buying a Tesla Model S or Model X.

Capable of adding more than 170 miles of range to a Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X battery pack in just 30 minutes, Tesla’s proprietary supercharger network also happens to be the most reliable electric vehicle charging network out there too, thanks to its modular design and multiple-stall policy at each Supercharger location.

Superchargers make it possible to drive huge distances without worrying about range anxiety.

Superchargers make it possible to drive huge distances without worrying about range anxiety.

It’s also a victim of its own success, with some Tesla Supercharger sites witnessing massive queues during peak demand periods around popular holidays like July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas as Tesla customers take advantage of the free-at-point-of-use charging network to make massively long road trips that were completely impractical before the advent of the Supercharger network. Additionally, while most Tesla customers use the Supercharger network responsibly, charging at home or their destination most of the time and only relying on the Supercharger network for long-distance trips, some owners abuse the ‘free’ network, using it almost exclusively as their own personal charging station in place of charging at home.

Tesla will switch to the Supercharger Credit system for new customers on January 1st.

Tesla will switch to the Supercharger Credit system for new customers on January 1st.

To date, Tesla has funded the Supercharger network and its free, unlimited (within reason) use policy by placing a premium on all new Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X cars. But As it prepares to bring its mass-market Model 3 to market — and continues to bust its own sales records with more and more sales per quarter — its Supercharger network is starting to feel the strain.

Which is why, we’d wager, Tesla has announced today that from the start of next year it will place a cap on its free Supercharger use for customers who order a Tesla electric car after January 1st, 2017. Instead, it will give customers an annual allocation of 400 kilowatt-hours of Supercharger credits that can be used to provide approximately 1,000 miles of free Supercharger use across its network. Once customers have used that allocation up, they will need to buy Supercharger credits in order to charge their cars at a Supercharger station.

We’ve known about the idea of Supercharger credits for a while: back when Tesla unveiled its Model 3 electric car in March, it explained that customers buying a Model 3 would have to pay in order to access the Supercharger network, purchasing Supercharger credits as needed in order to make use of the Supercharger network. But up until today, it was assumed that new Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X customers would continue to be granted access to the Supercharger network in the same unlimited, free-for-life form that existing owners have enjoyed for four years.

Tesla hasn’t yet released details of how much Supercharging credits will cost once customers have used up their free 400 kWh of electricity, but it’s worth mentioning here that charging customers to make use of the Supercharger Network will likely incur something of a backlash from the Tesla faithful.

After all, at the moment it’s possible to make a trip from Los Angeles to New York without spending a dime on power. As of next year, anyone buying a new Tesla will only be able to make it a third of the way across the U.S. before having to pay up. Of course, not everyone makes these kinds of trips, but we’d wager those who live along the popular U.S. west-coast and eastern sea board commuting corridors will feel the burden of the new policy the most, since a return trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco would eat up a customer’s annual allocation in a single go.

The new policy should help prevent long queues. Photo: Russell Wong (used with permission)

The new policy should help prevent long queues in peak periods Photo: Russell Wong (used with permission)

How much will Tesla charge for Supercharger Credits beyond this free limit? That’s up for debate but we’re predicting a price of between 15 and 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for the U.S. should be expected as an absolute minimum. At the moment, the average cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity in the U.S. is 12 cents. We think charging less than 15 cents per kilowatt-hour would make it difficult for Tesla’s Supercharger Credit system to be financially worthwhile. Charging more than 30 cents per kWh would place Tesla’s Supercharger network on par with lower-speed networks from companies like Blink and EvGo

Will it cause a mass exodus among Tesla owners, furious Tesla is taking away its unlimited access for new customers? It’s unlikely. The fact remains that at the moment, the Supercharger network undeniably the best electric car charging network in the world. To date, customers have been given access to it at what we suspect is a loss for Tesla.  And even though we’re expecting a backlash from the minority who will state they feel Supercharger access should remain free for all, we think most customers will be more than happy to pay for electricity beyond the 400 kWh free being offered them by Tesla for all new purchases made after January 1.

After all, Even at 30 cents per kWh (a price we’re sure Tesla will be far below when it announces its pricing in the coming months), driving 100 miles is still going to several dollars less in a Tesla Model S P100D than it would in a comparable car like a 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan. At 15 cents per kWh (a price we’re expecting Tesla to charge), the cost of taking a Model S would be half that of taking the Benz.

Do you think Tesla is right to start charging for Supercharger access? Is its 400 kWh credits enough for most customers? And what do you expect its price per kilowatt-hour to be?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • Assuming ~3 miles per kWh, 400 kWh gives ~1200 miles per year.
    Note: driving more efficiently on supercharged energy will enable more annual free miles traveled.

    Some analysts I did of Tesla Supercharger usage and Tesla Model S fleet miles over last couple of years suggested the ‘average’ Tesla Midel S received ~6-8% of miles (charged) via the Supercharger network. This suggest an annual Model S usage of 15,000 to 20,000 miles.
    (1200/0.08 = 15000).

    My takeaway is Tesla is giving a free supercharger allotments based on ‘average’ US highway driving pattern. For those Tesla drivers doing above average highway travel, will see an added drive-fee; no longer drive-free.

  • It will be interesting to see if the Dec 31, 2016 deadline will cause a bump in Model S/X sales for Q4 2016?

    Clever incentive to potential new owners to help Tesla remain profitable in H2. Also, a bonus for any CPO models. 😉

  • Martin Lacey

    Whilst I agree with this new policy, which everyone has kind of being expecting, I think Tesla have got their timing slightly wrong. They have been churning out S/X as fast as possible to help fund Model 3. This announcement will no doubt boost orders before January, but could have a kick down after the cut off date. It would have been better in my humble opinion to time this to coincide with model 3 launch to continue to encourage S/X up take.

  • Rob Andrews

    As one who does 200-300 mile trips many time a year, it would be better if this number were a monthly number (I.e 200 miles every weekend).

    How about all Day One model 3 orders get free charging for life! 🙂

  • BenBrownEA

    Around 0.15 cents to 0.19 cents sounds about right… I’m wondering about time of use rates as well…

  • JJS AZ

    Actually, I think it’s incredibly stupid. In fact, it’s the dumbest thing Musk has done yet. I was in the market for a new vehicle around June. I won’t speed up my plans to replace my S550 and a P100D was my preferred choice despite the low range, slow refueling time, and non existent back seat.

    Now I’m just going to get a new S550 instead. He should have just upped the price of the supercharger option. I would have gladly paid another $2K (maybe more) to know that cross country driving was unlimited (yes, I know it’s six of one…. not the point). I would have gladly accepted charging limits in my hometown. Stopping for 30 minutes every 150 mikes is a pain in the ass, but free made the pain seem livable. My S550 goes 4-500 miles on a tank, the new ones are better. I refill in ten minutes or less. Why put up with the hassle on a $140K car with limited space and comfort? Free makes the sacrifice SEEM worth it and what SEEMS worth it is what a luxury car is all about. No luxury car is actually worth it. If cost was my object, I’d get a Honda Civic.

    My plans were so close that I installed solar at my home and office to avoid using a local supercharger (they are drastically out of my way), now I’ll just reap free electricity at home and a lower office bill. Free super chargers were the key to electric acceptability. He blew it. Hell, I convinced friends who only trek between LA and AZ to buy Teslas based on that free deal. No more. Now it’s, “They used to be free! The Mercedes is a hell of a lot nicer!” Oh and here come electric cars from Corvette. Jaguar, Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Porsche. Very stupid Elon. Give away your competitive advantage. Those cars will drive better and won’t have ridiculously large screens as well.

    The worst part is that I waited to buy one, assuming the supercharger network would eventually allow a direct drive between my homes in Scottsdale and Tahoe, and now that they finally do (just), the best part of a Tesla is gone, unless I accelerate my plans to bulk up their 2016 year end profits. Bullshit.

  • Jean-Marie Foret

    Tesla should have done this differently and allow free charging for cars refueling away from their home base and make the drivers pay when they charge close to their home. This would have reduced the number of people using the SC as their own personal charging station in place of charging at home. And would have kept the main purpose of the SC, i.e. allow free charging when travelling long distances.

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