Model 3 May Not Come With Supercharger Privileges Standard

Will Tesla Model 3 owners be entitled to free Supercharger access? That depends, apparently. Right now on the Tesla website, it says rather cryptically that the Model 3 is “capable” of Supercharging. That got Tesla Motors Club member NewCow curious, so he reached out to Tesla and got this response from a press representative. “All Model 3 will have the capability for Supercharging. We haven’t specified (and aren’t right now) whether supercharging will be free.” So if you placed your reservation for a Model 3 thinking that the base price of $35,000 includes unlimited free charging at Tesla’s network of Supercharger locations, you may be disappointed.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla has charted its own course when it comes to how to recharge its electric cars. When the Model S first came out, it was available with 3 battery sizes; 40 kWh, 60 kWh, and 85 kwh. Cars with the largest battery had free Supercharger access built into the price. For customers who selected either of the two smaller batteries, it was a $2,000 option.

During the early years, the company often stated that customers with access to the Supercharger network would get free electricity for the life of their cars. Later, that shifted slightly. During the Q3 earnings call last September, Elon Musk cautioned that Superchargers were only to be used by those travelling away from home. Anyone abusing their privileges and using a Supercharger to charge their cars for free close to home would shortly receive a written warning from the company.

During the past year, some Supercharger locations have experienced delays during peak charging hours. This happens most often at the Supercharger stations near Tesla’s corporate offices. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Tesla owners in that area. But Tesla is now talking about selling 500,000 cars a year soon, causing some current owners to fear that congestion at charging stations will become a regular occurrence.

What does Tesla have in mind for Model 3 owners? The best guess is that every car built will be capable of using the high power Supercharger equipment. But access to the system will probably be an extra cost option, especially for the least expensive cars. It might be included as part of an options package that includes dual motors, a larger battery, air suspension, and premium interior appointments. Tesla could revive the $2,000 option it once offered owners of the Model S 40 and 60. Or Tesla could create an app and a pricing structure that would let Model 3 owners access the network when they are travelling and pay for the electricity they use.

How Tesla will handle this question may be influenced by the enormous number of reservations it has gotten for the Model 3. It expected about 50,000 of them. Instead, more than 300,000 people have gotten in line. The company has promised to double the size of its Supercharger and destination charger networks by the time the Model 3 goes into production. It may have to add even more charging facilities than it planned on.

Tesla is dribbling out details about the Model 3 and will continue to do so for the next 18 months. It is revising the shape of the nose of the car and looking at ways to make the trunk opening larger. Once it makes a decision on what level of access Model 3 owners will have to the Supercharger network, we will pass that information along to you.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.