One of the most-hyped aspects of Tesla electric car ownership is the free, worldwide use of Supercharger stations. The Tesla-owned charging spots can fill up a Model S or Model X battery to 80-percent in as little as a half hour, which Tesla believes can nearly alleviate the range anxiety that owners of traditional fossil fuel-powered cars haven't faced in a century.
Unfortunately, Model 3 owners won't be invited to the free-charging-for-all party— during a long-winded shareholder's meeting keynote yesterday evening, buyers of the upcoming $35,000 Tesla family sedan will have to pay extra for Supercharger access.
"The obvious thing to do is decouple [free Supercharging] from cost of Model 3," of the shareholder's meeting. "It will still be cheap, and far cheaper than gasoline, but it won't be free unless you buy [an optional charging] package."
J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, , "it's far more convenient and efficient to recharge at home or work. If you do the math and value of time, it doesn't make sense [to use a Supercharger]."
While Tesla's global network of Supercharger stations has steadily increased, the automaker has run into problems of overcrowding. Every Model S and Model X offers "free long distance travel on Tesla's expanding Supercharger network," but the automaker has begun emphasizing that the charging stations aren't meant to be used in lieu charging at home. In August of 2015, Tesla sent stern letters to some Supercharger users, discouraging them from abusing Supercharger access. Recipients :
As a frequent user of local Superchargers, we ask that you decrease your local Supercharging and promptly move your Model S once charging is complete. Doing so ensures a better experience for the whole Tesla ownership community and allows Supercharger resources to be available for those who need them most.
At the shareholder's meeting, Musk tried to discourage too-frequent Supercharger use by breaking it down in a time-vs.-money manner. "Driving to a Supercharger, and spending half an hour standing around [charging] for $5 worth of electricity is barely minimum wage," the CEO said—by which he seems to mean that spending 30 minutes travel time to get a $5 battery charge can't hardly be worth it to owners of a $100,000 electric car.
When Road & Track attended the unveiling of the Model 3 in April, we got the impression that free Supercharger use would be a no-cost option for owners of the $35,000 sedan, though the wording may have been purposefully vague. It's unclear how much Tesla will charge to allow Model 3s to sidle up to the Supercharger bar; we've asked Tesla to comment, and will update this post if we hear an answer.