Tesla Model 3 Owners Won’t Have Free Access To Supercharger Stations

The nearly 400,000 people that have already put down a deposit with Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) for the forthcoming Model 3 got an unpleasant surprise Tuesday. Chief Executive Elon Musk said at Tesla’s annual shareholders’ meeting that the company would have to charge Model 3 owners for the ability to use its network of Supercharger equipment. He said it will likely be offered as part of a separate package.

During the meeting, held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Musk said, “Free Supercharging fundamentally has a cost. The obvious thing to do is decouple that from the cost of the Model 3. So it will still be very cheap, and far cheaper than gasoline, to drive long-distance with the Model 3, but it will not be free long distance for life unless you purchase that package.” Musk didn’t say how much it might cost Model 3 owners to use Superchargers.

Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations is an important marketing feature for the company. According to the company’s website, the Superchargers deliver 170 miles of range in 30 minutes, more than 10 times the range provided by other chargers. The stations are conveniently located at malls on highways between major cities, creating a cross country network that travelers can rely on. Tesla currently has 632 Supercharging stations around the world.

Tesla has previously expressed concerns that owners were taking advantage of the charging stations and using them out of habit. “The best thing to do is to charge your car where you charge your phone: at home and at work,” said Musk. However, many Tesla owners prefer using the stations because a non-Tesla 240-volt charger commonly found in cities and parking areas could take 10 hours to fully recharge the battery.

Charging car owners to access the Supercharger stations would be a return to a previous practice for the company. When Tesla started selling the Model S sedan in 2012, buyers of the 60-kWh battery pack and the 40-kWh battery pack had to pay $2,500 to access the Superchargers. Customers who own the company’s higher end Model S models or Model X have free access to the charging stations.

To date, the company has taken $1,000 deposits for 373,000 Model 3 electric cars. The cars are advertised as a fully electric car with a range of at least 215 miles with a base price of $35,000. The high numbers of preorders has inspired Musk to proclaim a goal of building 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018, two years earlier than previously planned. Tesla has said that the first Model 3 deliveries will be in late 2017.