Tesla Motors to begin charging drivers for access to Superchargers

US EV maker Tesla has revealed changes to the company’s Supercharger network, which, starting next year, will cost new Tesla EV drivers a “small fee” to use, having been – until now – completely free.

According to the blog, Teslas ordered after January 1 2017, will be given 400kWh of free Supercharging credits per annum – which for some Model S drivers will amount to just one free (full) recharge a year. Current Tesla owners and those who order before January 2017 and take delivery before April 2017 are exempt from the changes.

Beyond that, Tesla says it will cost new customers “a small fee” to use the Superchargers – which can top up a nearly empty battery in around 30 minutes – and that fee “will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable (petrol) car.”

As Wired magazine has noted, on the face of it, this may seem like a fairly unsexy update; here was a service that approached the convenience of putting petrol into a conventional car, and was free for life! And they’re taking it away?

“But this isn’t Tesla giving up on its promises or Elon turning Ebenezer,” writes Wired’s Jack Stewart. “This is Tesla growing up – along with the American electric vehicle industry.”

Indeed, Elon says as much in the company blog post, describing the change as “one that allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth and bring all owners, current and future, the best Supercharging experience.”

This means more Superchargers, but it also encourages Tesla owners to do their day-to-day charging at home, instead of using and abusing the superchargers – something the company has expressed frustration with before. And now, with the company’s markedly cheaper home battery storage and solar roofs, customers might be more inclined to plug in at home.

But the change is also a sign of Elon’s new emphasis on cost cutting and turning a profit. After all, superchargers are expensive.

“Having a supercharger turn on is like putting five to 10 US homes on the grid,” said Paul Mutolo, an energy storage chemist at Cornell University, quoted on Wired. “(Tesla’s) demand charges have got to be quite hefty,” he said.

Tesla says the costs and other details of the re-jigged Supercharger program will be released later this year, and notes that while prices may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity, its Supercharger Network “will never be a profit center.”

Image Via: Sam Felder via Flickr

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