If you'd dreamed of ordering yourself a Tesla and driving around the country without paying a cent for electricity, you'd better get your order in quick. With more and more of Tesla's Model S and Model X luxury electric cars appearing in driveways around Australia and around the world, the plucky little start-up from California has a plan to stop its fast-charging network of Superchargers from becoming clogged: it will stop offering free Supercharging to new owners from the start of 2017.
In an update on its blog, Tesla detailed the changes to its Supercharging program for new owners. Any Tesla ordered from the company from January 1 next year will include 400kWh of free Supercharging electricity — approximately 1000 miles or 1600km of travel distance at Tesla's average energy usage rates. Beyond that point, Tesla will charge "a small fee", which will be raised incrementally with the amount of Supercharger energy consumed annually — but that will still cost less than filling up a comparable petrol or diesel car according to the company.
Details on the future cost of Supercharging are still scarce, and will vary regionally. Australia's Supercharger stations use Greenpower-certified grid power coming from renewable sources, but internationally some Superchargers — especially in Tesla's home country of the US, where the network is mature — are supplemented by solar panels. The initial cost of constructing stations themselves, in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars, must be absorbed by the company's ongoing sale of electric cars.
Owners of Tesla's cars have always been encouraged to primarily charge their cars at home, and to only use Superchargers for a quick charge or to replenish power before or during a long distance journey. The cost of a home charger is included in the price of a Model S, but all Tesla cars are shipped with the hardware to support high-speed Supercharging.
Any new Tesla ordered before January 1 next year will avoid the future fees and will retain free and unlimited Supercharging for life, as long as delivery of that vehicle is taken before April. Since the cheaper, mass-market Model 3 won't be produced until well into 2017 — and potentially even 2018, depending on Tesla Time — it won't ever have free access to Superchargers, but that was always going to be an additional cost for prospective owners.
The change, Tesla says, "allows us to reinvest in our network, accelerate its growth and bring all owners, current and future, the best Supercharging experience." It points to the launch of the Model 3 over the next few years as the reason behind this move, saying the update will enable the company to "greatly expand" the Supercharger network and allow for intercity and interstate travel. Australia currently has eight Supercharger installations between Melbourne and Port Macquarie on the country's east cost, with a total of 41 Supercharger stations between them — the largest is an eight-bay station in Goulburn.
Existing Tesla owners around the world, and those that make new orders before the changes come into effect, will still be able to use the Supercharger networks free of charge for the life of their cars. Supercharging is currently a free inclusion on even the cheapest Tesla sold in Australia, but was previously a $3300 extra on the cheapest entry-level 60kWh Model S sold during the car's 2014 debut. [Tesla]