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Published on August 13th, 2015 | by Zachary Shahan


Tesla Letter To “Frequent” Supercharger Users Ruffles Feathers & Raises Several Questions

August 13th, 2015 by  

I just spent a few hours going through a thread on the Tesla Motors Club forum that is slightly more than one day old but already has over 300 posts. The thing that sparked the thread was a letter to “frequent” users of “local Superchargers,” but it seems there were some fundamental problems with the letter (or, to be specific, who received it), and it also raises some rather big questions.

Before I dive in, let me be up front about a few things before I am attacked and people start accusing me of shorting TSLA: 1) I’m long TSLA (and have no intention of changing that position any time soon), and 2) I’m criticized for being a Tesla fanboi far too frequently for my taste, even though I will happily admit that I am indeed a Tesla fanboi. Got that?

As a little more historical context on Tesla’s side, though, let me also direct you to the statement starting at 8 minutes and 11 seconds into a 2011 video interview with Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s director of battery technology from 2006 to the present day. (By the way, Kurt does a pretty dang good job staying out of the limelight while holding a critical role at Tesla for nearly a decade, doesn’t he?!) The full interview is embedded at the bottom of this article if you want to watch the whole thing, but this is the line: “You often hear about this chicken-and-egg syndrome where ‘we can’t really have the EVs out there until we get the charging infrastructure in place,’ but we don’t believe that at all because our customers I mentioned earlier, they’re charging at home. We don’t need a charging infrastructure throughout the country. The only place we need that infrastructure is probably on major corridors, say between LA and San Francisco — you want some charging stations there — but, in general, our customers are happy charging at home, they have their charger in their garage, and it works very smoothly.”

I imagine this statement has surprised many of you, and it surprised me when I heard it earlier this year. I’ve been planning to write a piece just about the statement and its implications ever since, but looks like I’m doing so here instead. One of Tesla’s huge competitive advantages is its Supercharger network. The way that it has been discussed in recent years by Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and most of us EV revolutionaries (as the network has grown by leaps and bounds to become a charging behemoth) is that it is a critical piece of the EV revolution that enables relatively fast and convenient long-distance travel when you need that, and that it also enables EV ownership for some of us living in apartments, condos, or other places where we cannot charge at home.

But the statement by Kurt was made before the Model S was even out, let alone any Superchargers. So, my take is that one of two things were at play there: 1) since there wasn’t Supercharging available, Tesla downplayed its importance, or 2) Tesla didn’t really think it was that important, and has since changed its stance…. Or perhaps it was a mixture.

I believe Elon has said that Superchargers were initially a test, and that they turned out to be more popular than he had expected. And that may well be the heart of the matter Tesla is facing today. The thing is, as Kurt discussed for a few minutes, electric cars are generally much more convenient than gasmobiles. You plug in when you get home, you unplug when you leave. It’s one of the biggest advantages of electric cars, as you hear over and over again from owners — they don’t have to waste time going to smelly gas stations. Even if you have to park on the street, places like Amsterdam are rolling out on-street charging stations on demand so that you can do the same. (Granted, we need a lot more places to be doing that.) So, to keep the accounting and technology simple, while being able to sell the Tesla Model S more effectively and with a feel-good feeling in their hearts, Tesla promoted free use of Superchargers for life. (Note, though, that some had to specifically fork over $2,000 for this, while it was fairly well known that it was “rolled into” the cost of cars where that wasn’t the case.)

Free Supercharging has enabled super convenient long-distance travel for people wanting to go on a road trip, visit grandma, take a vacation, etc. However, the assumption seemed to be that people would basically just use it for such purposes, and continue their even-more-convenient home charging for the large majority of charging. The assumption seemed to be that owners of high-end performance sedans wouldn’t abuse “free” charging. Sure, Homer Simpson might overindulge at the local all-you-can-eat buffet, but what upper-middle-class suburbanite is going to spend extra time charging in public to save a few bucks?

Well, as we have learned in recent months, some people have been abusing the system and charging more than Tesla would like (and many observers of human nature have predicted this would happen since Day 1). Elon noted in a conference call this year that some letters would go out reminding people that Superchargers are not meant for regular charging but for long-distance trips just to help you get to your next destination. That seemed simple enough, but something went wrong.

First of all, here’s a screenshot of one of the letters so you can read it in full and monitor your own initial reaction:

Tesla letter

Seems simple enough. The problem is that users who Supercharge very infrequently and/or don’t even use “local” Superchargers have gotten the letter. For one of the recipients, for example, the nearest Supercharger was ~60 miles away. Some recipients of the letter hadn’t used a Supercharger in months. One of the recipients had only used the local Supercharger once. It’s not yet clear how many non-abusers got the letter. A handful of such people (presuming they are representing the situation accurately, of course), noted so in the forum. If the net was cast just slightly too wide, I guess it wouldn’t seem like that big of an issue, but given the charging activity of those people who had been singled out and chimed in to express their unhappiness over the matter, the implication is that it was cast far too wide for the language used in the letter.

There’s plenty of speculation regarding what went wrong, as well as what’s wrong in the accusatory tone of the letter, but my final guess is that it comes down to 1) somebody screwed up the underlying user segmentation or algorithm that was supposed to pick out abusers of the system, and/or 2) the people who worked on the algorithm didn’t communicate clearly to the people writing the letter that the net was cast very wide, and thus that the letter shouldn’t make recipients feel nervous about their warranted usage.

Clearly, many users are now feeling nervous. (Spend a few hours reading through the thread if you don’t believe me.) I won’t ramble down the path of the various theories about where things go from here, but as a TSLA investor and one of the most well known proponents of the EV revolution (which is clearly being driven by Tesla more than any other company), I will pick out a few issues that I think need to be addressed.

First of all, if Tesla’s accounting for Supercharging costs was off and something needs to be adjusted to curtail or pay for the charging, then I think Tesla needs to be a little more upfront about the matter, and needs to implement a clear transition in Supercharger communication and policy. Salespeople have apparently changed how they discuss Supercharging with new buyers (emphasizing that it is for long trips), but perhaps it is time to say that free Supercharging for life has run its course and a new policy going forward will put a more appropriate price on the service (with current owners or reservation holders will be grandfathered/grandmothered in, of course).

If there isn’t actually a big underlying problem, and it was mostly a communications error (or even a simple mistake in the user segmentation or algorithm), given the responses so far, I still think Tesla needs to explicitly detail the issue it is facing (with solid numbers on cost, overuse of certain stations, abuse by Uber/taxi/commercial drivers, or whatever the matter is). Clearly, Tesla needs to deal with the communications error, wherever it stemmed, that led normal users of the system to feel attacked and singled out.

If this instance is part of a broader communication problem that really goes back to hyping of “free” Supercharging for life, then perhaps a deeper look at how things are presented and hyped is in order. For that matter, perhaps a deeper look at implementation of overly ambitious policies is also in order.Aside from this Supercharging issue, one owner messaged me that I should include discussion of the ranger and valet service that seems to have been quietly pulled/changed after initial promotion and fanfare. I think this person’s summary is better than my own would be:

In a nutshell, until recently Tesla had been touting the ranger service as the means for people who don’t live close to any service center to get service. (Many people had asked about this before purchasing.) The policy had been that ranger service would cost $100 maximum, and I believe that it would be provided for free if the issue was a warranty issue. (That’s what I had been told, and some others as well, but perhaps not everyone was told that it would be free under those circumstances.) Additionally, if the service could not be taken care of on site, the car would be trucked to the nearest service center, and trucked back, also at no charge, and with a loaner car provided, if needed.

For many people who live in areas a great distance from service centers, knowing we could get service, when needed, for at most a $100 fee, which at times would also include a loaner car, was the selling point that eased our minds enough to purchase a six-figure car, with no service available for hundreds of miles. Now Tesla has officially changed their policy, and is attempting to charge us $3.00 per mile one-way to valet our cars, or send a ranger. For me that would be over $600 every time I need something–including warranty work–done on my car, and of course it is more for others.

There is still a blog post, from Elon Musk, on the Tesla Motors website that promises the free valet service.

Of course, I wrote about that exciting service when Elon announced it (back in early 2013). I hadn’t heard much about it until this note, and I didn’t realize Tesla had slowly started charging a fee for the service. If Tesla realized it needed to start charging for this, it certainly seems like buyers up to the time of the change should have been grandfathered/grandmothered in, and that there should have been an explicit policy change.

Taking one step even further back, this is my broader take: Tesla is one of the best companies in the world, and that is largely because the people running the show (and many in the choir) have huge ambitions to improve the world. This, on the whole, is a big +. Combined with excellent knowledge, intelligence, empathy, social awareness, scientific methodology, cash, flexibility, vertical integration, and momentum, I don’t see anyone competing in this disruptive industry in the next few years at least, but probably a lot longer. This is why I am a big believer in Tesla, a big fan of Tesla, and a long-term investor in Tesla. However, the drive for outside-the-box and ambitious transformation also seems to come with a tendency to get too hopeful and too idealistic, and to promise too much. We perhaps see that most keenly when it comes to timelines, but I think also in some services, like the free Supercharging that assumes people won’t abuse the privilege.

Elon, JB, and I’m sure many others on the Tesla team are great at modifying and tweaking to improve technologies and systems, but Tesla is at a scale where these kinds of things need to be presented very openly, and it may also be at a scale where utopian services like not-so-cheap “free” Supercharging need to go. Of course, Tesla needs to grandfather/grandmother in the early adopters beforehand.

There’s a lot more to say, but maybe that’s enough for now. I’m sure others will usefully expand the conversation below.

Oh yeah, here’s that 2011 interview with Kurt Kelty:

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • gorgenjrsf9458

    My electricity costs here at my condo are 31 cents a kilowatt hour here, going up to 53 cents if I go over my baseline of 231kWh. If I had any electric car I would not charge it at these rates, and you have to be a homeowner to charge at home. running a business where I am out in the field serving clients all over the bay area I sometimes drive over 160 miles a day. If I paid 5 bucks to supercharge my car once a day I would be very happy. If I had a home and charged it here it would cost me close to 55 dollars! even if they change the business structure of supercharging, it does not address the issue of batteries burning up by frequent rapid charges! batteries are still too temperamental and schizophrenic! the fact is plain and simple, Tesla is a great company, but the only people who are will be privileged enough to buy its cars are going to be upper middle class professionals who commute 35 to 40 miles to work each day and use the car leisurely on the weekends, they are going to be homeowners who trickle charge overnight and pay the huge over baseline rates for electricity here in California. If I made 300,000 a year like my sister does, and she has a tesla, I wouldnt want to be paying the 1600+ a month electric bill she gets every month now. since I am a such a low life who doesn’t own a home in the bay area, the only car I am going to be able to drive is good old fashond GAS! and guess what, I am paying alot less in car payments insurance and gas than my sisters electric bill is.

    • Bob_Wallace

      PG&E has a TOU plan where late night rates are 9 cents per kWh. 160 miles of driving would cost you less than $4.50.

      Battery damage by frequent rapid charging does not seem to be an issue.

      Here’s an article about a rural mail deliverer who uses a Tesla S to go from mailbox to mailbox. IIRC something in the 170 miles per day range.


      If you’re driving 160 miles a day in a 30 MPG car five days a week, 50 weeks a year and filling up with $3/gallon gas then you’re spending $4,000 dollars a year on gas plus oil and maintenance costs. Over five years that’s $20,000. Add $20k to what you pay for a car now and see if that gets you close to the $50k which would buy you a nice used Tesla S.

      Or how about a $35k ($28,500 after federal subsidy or probably $26,000 after the state subsidy) for a Tesla 3? At the full $35k it would pay for itself in less than ten years. At $26k it would take than seven.

      Not owning a house or living in an apartment with charging facilities makes it harder or perhaps impossible for you right now. But over time there will be more places to plug in where you park.

  • Martinkauai

    The tone of the letter was not “accusatory”, it was a reasonable way of dealing with abusers of the system. Based on some of the comments I’ve been reading, solutions to this problem should be relatively easy.

  • peter904

    Mr. Shahan. I have owned our Tesla for almost 3 years and I have been following Tesla news for about six years. I agree with your take, supercharging was primarily designed for distance travelling and not local charging. It was always my understanding that the charge ($2,000) was to allow your Tesla to access the supercharging network (SC), much like Sirius or internet radio. Tesla never promised me free ‘daily use’ for life.

    I use the SC when I travel from Ventura – San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs but I always charge at home for 95%+ of my daily charging needs. My complaint about locals charging is more a lack of consideration that their entitlement has created. On several occasions I have had to wait for a charging spot to be free (SJC, Oxnard, Hawthorne) but I accept that. The secondary problem of full SC is it slows down the charging time. Granted this overcrowding is limited to the busier SC and not the overall SC.

    Tesla has the technology to pinpoint the abusers and their letter should have been specifically directed to them. Tesla’s letter should have been a generalized statement to all owners to discourage daily charging and overstaying their parking time at superchargers.

    I firmly believe Tesla should restrict the placement of SC to the corridors and develop “pay to use” charging network in the cities. Teaming up with ChargePoint, Blink, NRG, and others may be helpful. Large urban shopping centers with extensive parking are ideal.

  • Bart Lubbers

    Well, if there was a supercharger in my neighborhood where I could charge my Tesla in 20 minutes in stead of 14 hours at home, I would be most happy to pay for a few dollars for this convenience.

  • These days it seems too many are too easily offended.

  • Bart Lubbers

    Of course I should have said: I agree with Josh Mirone !!

  • Bart Lubbers

    Tesla leads the way with supercharging. I wouldn’t have a problem to pay $ 100 per month for supercharging at a Supercharger Station between home and work. It’s 40x faster than charging at home. So it’s a fair deal to me. Please Elon, let me pay for Supercharging !

    • Thanks. I agree that this needs to transition to a paid system, but that it will still be insanely awesome and a critical piece of the EV revolution.

      • Bart Lubbers

        Thanks Zach, Paying for convenience charging will decrease the purchase price of the car with $ 2.000 – $ 5000. Because that is what you pay extra for free-charging. This is certainly interesting for the middle class ev-cars around a $ 35.000 purchase price. Furthermore convenience charging is a neccesity for (European and Chinese) drivers that cannot charge at home. e.g. In the Netherlands 70% of the house holds do not have their own carport.

        • Definitely. Makes sense as an option than some who need/want will pay.

          Also, I think as plenty of others have pointed out, it’s a bad idea to pretend something has no value by pricing it as “free.” Leads to problems. Tesla got a lot of good price and I think made a smart move by initially have free Supercharging, but I think it’s time to mature a little bit and change it to something that actually reflects the cost better.

          Also, we need Fastned in more countries! 😀

          • neroden

            I have to point out yet again that it’s not worth metering the electricity. If any price is to be charged, it should be priced like *parking*, by the hour, not a price for electricity.

            And, like parking, there’s many places (Utica, NY comes to mind) where there’s zero congestion and it’s not worth charging any money at all for it. It would make sense to have most Superchargers be completely free, but to have the *congested* Superchargers charge a parking fee to deter excessive usage.

            This is probably actually totally legit with “free Supercharging for life”. Call the ones which charge parking fees “premium Superchargers” or something.

  • Jacob

    How come all Android phones can be recharged using micro USB?

    There are not 14 competing Supercharging standards.

    But Tesla alone has 2.

    1 for USA and 1 for Europe.

    Hello Tesla, just have a 200kW plug for the whole world. Thanks.

  • Ryan

    I own one of the first 3k cars off the assembly and to date no degradation of my battery pack but I know degradation is going to happen. It’s on the calendar but now it’s just about prolonging life like taking good care of your body (although I’m not the best at that). Supercharging and full charging all of the time will shorten your life of your battery. I personally charge half the pack unless I know I’m going to drive far and limit supercharging use. I think battery health is one of the most over looks factors with owners today and best practices on preserving the health of your battery should be taught.

  • Josh Mirone

    I paid for the supercharging option, and I will use the supercharging option as I deem necessary.

    Has anyone considered that Tesla should stop building Super Chargers? There are enough now to fit their recently altered end state on providing long-distance charging options. What if Tesla started building a secondary charging system, and called it “Convenience Chargers,” where you can pay for an equally fast charge?

    If you restrict the number of times a person can use the Super Charger, i.e. once a month, then it would force the “abusers” or the cheap-asses, to either charge at home or pay for convenience. By default, it would also settle Tesla’s potential legal headache in having to answer to all the early adopters who were promised free-charging, and paid for that option (Tesla wouldn’t be taking away the free option, they are simply restricting the number of times you can use it, and giving you a second option at cost, if you still do not wish to charge at home).

    They could also simply institute a reservation policy. Much like going to a popular restuarant, if you want to use the Super Charger, open an app, reserve your spot, and based on the distance relationship between your home of residence and the Super Charger in which you are trying to reserve, you are assigned a priority number. Those who live farther away from thee Super Charger will be given a higher priority than those who live near-by.

    Lots of options out there. Tesla doesn’t hire idiots – I am sure they will figure it out.

    • neroden

      There are CERTAINLY NOT enough Superchargers now to provide long-distance charging options.

      What’s missing includes Erie, PA; Jefferson City, MO; the entirety of Arkansas; all of Sakaskatchewan, Manitoba, and North Dakota; the “southern border” route in Texas; etc etc etc.

      Tesla needs to stop locating Superchargers in major cities. They should be in small towns along the highway, where there is NO problem with congestion.

      (I used the Utica, NY Supercharger twice for a trip recently. Saw precisely zero other people with Teslas. That’s the sort of Supercharger location which Tesla should be building.)

  • purrpullberra

    I think there is an easy solution to the Supercharger ‘abuse’ issue.
    The cars/Tesla know where the cars are, current range and where the owner lives. Just freeze out local use except in cases where it’s obvious that the car needs some charge to get home. And in that case the car shouldn’t get much more than enough to get them home. Only allow unlimited Supercharging when there is a road trip happening.
    If destinations are programmed in this becomes super easy. It just requires the will to do it and anger a small % of current owners.
    It actually seems quite simple. And it is still “unlimited free Supercharging for long distance driving”. They didn’t promise *just* “free” or “unlimited” Supercharging. The entire statement has a meaning all its own and it can’t be parsed up.
    And just because people have gotten away with “abusing” the system up to now I don’t see any reason to grandfather in any unintended use just to placate some current owners. There’s nothing wrong with turning off a wasteful feature once it’s recognized, the waste doesn’t get grandfathered in when the faucet leaks does it?
    I think the change in philosophy happened when Tesla realized Europeans would likely live close enough to SC’s to use them exclusively and I think that was even spoken about in that way once. And the incredible SC density Tesla started building out made this issue inevitable.
    Tesla should clearly delineate the ‘new’ rules and get as strict as I’ve indicated, disallowing SC’ing locally unless it’s necessary to get home. The cars screens should show the SC as not available if the driver isn’t in the right circumstance. All the bad PR and bad press will go away so they need to rip the bandage off quickly and ASAP.
    Have the rules and structure worked out long before Model3 makes it to market.
    The ranger charge situation is one that I actually find troubling.

  • UL

    Dear Zachary

    you are dam boring .. Not to worry, you are removed from my clicking table

    Yours (-)

    • jeffhre

      Zach, you are boring for dam foundations now? Cool!

      • Haha. I have no idea what this person’s issue is, but just as well. 😀

    • Ken

      Dear UL

      You do not even know how to spell ‘damn’. You are removed from any intelligent conversation.

  • Re

    The truth is that Tesla, once start selling the Model 3, will charge for the use of the SUPERCHARGES. This is the new plan to finance the expansion and mantain its use. The upper scale models will have an unlimited (under more strict rules) right of use and model 3 owners will have a cheap (USD 5 to 8 fee, they have not decided yet). The abusers (model S or X owners) and people who leaves the car in the parking spot and vanishes will receive suspensions of free service for 1 week, 1 month and 1 semester depending on the fault.

  • sranger

    I got one and it pissed me off…

    I have used the two local supercharges here in Atlanta a TOTAL of four times in the last year and 1/2….

    So, charging four times locally in about 18 months is too much?

    (I also had good reason to do the 4 local chargers)…

    • Mike333

      I’d just throw the letter away, and ignore it.
      You’re clearly not the “target”.

      Of course, it’s within the bounds of the “understanding” that you be allowed to charge locally a few times a year.

  • Joe Ozegovich

    Wow, so sad to see the dream of what Tesla has proposed, coming to this squabble. If, Tesla becomes the number one selling car, regardless of being electric, what were they planning? 10 Supercharger stations in the NY metropolitan area? Even with a fee for use, we are still going to be at stage one with too many cars not enough Superchargers, regardless of the local use. How many people then, with a Tesla visit NY? So let’s stop being unreasonable. It won’t be long when the lines to charge will be long with long distance drivers tapping into the network. So the next question is what does it matter then if the person lives 20 miles away or 120? The inconvenience of waiting long periods of time waiting just to charge will drive people back to their homes, if local. 1st come, 1st served logic. How does someone spend this kind of money and not have the capability to charge at home. One thing Tesla might want to look at is making sure people have a capability to charge at home. I find it odd, owning a Tesla, with a range of 265 miles, hearing these issues, and having had a Nissan Leaf in the past, with a range of about 85 miles, my issues are the same, no capability to fast charge. I made the change to Tesla when the Supercharger announcement and the Ranger service were announced. Now, the very reason I made the change is in jeopardy. It was my understanding we were paying for this through the increase in of the car’s price, and no Government incentives. So disappointing to hear this.

  • Mike333

    No it’s just a SQL error:

    Bad Query:
    Select User_ID, Total_usage
    from charger_table
    order by Total_Usage

    Someone forgot to sort in DESCENDING order, and a LIMIT clause.

    Select User_ID, Total_usage
    from charger_table
    where (( Charger_Location – User_Location ) < 50 miles )
    order by Total_Usage DESC
    LIMIT 100

    • Mike333

      See, getting that distance correct could be tricky.

      • eveee

        I think some people were thinking an infinite loop was a good idea.
        GO TO ….

  • Spencerforhire

    I think blaming Tesla for being strict to save two bucks on local charging is silly and NOT the issue.

    I’m thinking that frequent Super Charging will cost Tesla and their owners on Battery life.

    It would be sad if a “Cheap Skate” screwed his or her own battery then asks the Nanny State at Tesla for a new battery.

    Full disclosure , I’m also a Tesla Fanboi but I drive a Smart ED (Tesla motor and battery) not a Tesla.

    • It’s not really about being strict, but about sending this email to the wrong people. Someone who used a Supercharger once is a “frequent” user?

  • StefanoR99

    That supercharger might be 60 miles away but if someone was doing that regularly then that’s probably why they got flagged.

    A reasonable assumption is that they probably went through the database looking for charges < 100 miles distance and with a frequency of X and a starting range of Y.

    If someone was doing that say twice a week because their commute 60 miles away, you could see how that goes against the spirit of supercharging (which has been set up for road trips rather than commutes). If your range is 240 miles then you shouldn't have to supercharge after a 60 mile journey or even 120 mile there and back.

    If your frequency was much less, say once or twice a month then they definitely set the bar too high and it's a screw up on their part.

    To be fair their email is a "don't spoil it for everyone" rather than "we're going to start charging you" so it's not worth getting into such a twist over.

    Believe it or not the people who are loaded are exactly the type of people who would take advantage of a freebie to save $6/week. People who are loaded are also very tight which is why they are loaded in the first place.

    • Someone who used a Supercharger once is a “frequent” user? Something clearly went wrong in the analysis before the email was sent.

      • StefanoR99

        Maybe Zach, but if the user had enough power to get home and was charging it for the sake of it you can see why it might have resulted in being flagged. Or they set the parameters just too tight – the frequency of X for example. However it could be the usual bunch of complainers who are abusing the system and then lying about it after. Like I said, the richest people I know are also the tightest and definitely would pull a stunt like that.

        • If that is the case, I think the letter was worded wrongly. But my hunch is that the input parameters simply didn’t match the aim.

  • My reading of the letter suggests that some users may be parking their car at the supercharger for too long after it’s charged. It would not violate the spirit of the original “free charging” promise to levy a very high parking fee starting, say, five minutes after charging is complete.

    • neroden

      That’s a good point. It would indeed not violate the spirit.

      I think the taxi companies are also causing problems, though; there has to be some sort of exclusion to prevent them from using the Superchargers twice a day every day. They ought to be getting their own overnight chargers. Restricting them to Supercharging an average of once a day would probably do the trick.

  • Jfake Hname

    simple all future owners may still charge for free for life with the stipulation of a minimum range like say not for free within a 50 mile radius of their home.

    p.s. is there anyway to get rid of the facebook/twitter/google/pinterest/linkedin flags that block the left part of any article im trying to read. love this site but if no way to remove, i will no longer struggle with a mouse wheel to sus every sentence.

    • Hmm, i changed the buttons recently and they should disappear on mobile. I recently saw an issue with Internet Explorer (switch to Chrome or Firefox!), so implemented an option to close the sharing bar (at the top).

  • Joseph Kool

    The free ride is almost over for Tesla

    • Benjamin Nead

      I wouldn’t say the free ride is almost over. But growing pains for a company that has been phenomenally successful in recent years was inevitable, even if true believers thought it could never happen.

      When I first heard about the “free charging for life” claim a few years ago I assumed that it could never sustain itself forever. It’s pretty much a given that Model 3 owners will have to encounter a pay as you go system for Supercharger access, or buy into a plan that will be a clearly stated premium beyond the base purchase price of the car.

      It’s fairly easy to bury what is estimated to be a $2K cost of lifetime into the price of a $90K EV without ever being noticed by the affluent buyer. With lower profit margins on a $30K product, not so much.

      • Jacob

        If Tesla does 3 miles per kWh.

        $2000 / .12 = 16,666 kWh.

        16,666 kWh x 3 = 50,000 miles.

        But a Tesla should be able to do 500,000 miles.

        • Benjamin Nead

          Yeah, I came up with that $2K figure from Bob Wallace’s math. And your math shows it to be 10 times more expensive for them? Hmmm . . .

          My main point is that it wasn’t realistic for Tesla to assume that they would ever be able to carry on with their “free charging for life” policy in perpetuity. The lesson here for
          them is don’t promise the world to early adopters and then have to renege later when you really start moving product. Corporate success comes with it’s own set of problems.

          It’s also funny that so many currently Tesla owners are now fainting in the isles like Victorian era debutantes, all because they received a form email they think shouldn’t apply to them. Folks . . . all it takes for a restaurant to rethink its “all you can eat” policy is for a glutinous customer or two to bring a trash bag during lunch hour to clean out the salad bar a few times.

          • Jacob

            There are lessons for jurisdictions where Tesla cars are not sold yet.

            Eg, in some provinces of China and all states of India.

            Imagine someone there having a $70k Tesla being able to recharge for “free” while millions of others use kerosene lamps for light.

            It would not take long for this rumour to start: “government is giving free electricity for luxury cars”.

            Or if that rumour does not start, then “if Tesla can give away electricity, our government should too”.

            Governments should ban free recharging.

          • neroden

            As you point out, it’s not the “free charging for life” which is the problem, it’s the “UNLIMITED” free charging for life.

            It is quite sustainable for Tesla to permit free charging for life, with charging allowed at any one Supercharger for, say (random example) up to 5 times a week for up to 1 hour each time. It’s the “unlimited” which is getting abused.

      • Joseph Kool

        How are they succesful? They’ve never made a profit and probably never will. They sell less cars in one year than most car companies sell in a day. People like yourself need to snap out of the reality distortion field.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You really don’t understand Tesla’s success?

          You really can’t see where the company is headed?

          Take off the blacked-out glasses, Mr. Kool.

        • Benjamin Nead

          If anyone wants to REALLY check out what a “reality distortion field” is, all they have to do is check out your Disqus comment feed . . .


          Oh, and Lynyrd Skynyrd? Don’t get me started!

          • Joseph Kool

            I don’t hold back my punches and I speak the truth.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That would be the truth as presented by the creative minds of Fox News?

          • Joseph Kool

            I don’t watch cable news and you shouldn’t either. I also don’t let the MSM manipulate me like the black and liberal population does. If you want to criticize me for having an open mind then go ahead I don’t care. It’s better than being a sheep taking marching orders from msnbc and the huffington post.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m criticising you for making a stupid claim.

          • Joseph Kool

            Skynyrd Rules! Who do you listen too Adam Lambert lol?

  • Joseph Kool

    First time I’ve ever heard anyone say charging an EV is more convenient than filling up at a smelly gas station. THat’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I can fill up my car in 5 minutes and drive to Atlanta from Detroit on one tank. Lets see you nerds try that in your crappy EV’s. It’s not going to happen.

    • wildisreal

      Yes, plugging in at your garage is more convenient than going to a gas station. It is a 5 second process vs. a 5 minute process. There, you heard it again.

  • Donna Hansen Love

    Wah, Wah, Wah. I find it very disheartening to constantly listen to Tesla owners complain about the smallest little things. If I had received this email I would have thought – good for them – scold the little babies for thinking they, as TESLA owners, could abuse the Supercharger network and ruin it for everyone else.
    We bought our Tesla a year before there was even a Supercharger in our state. The nearest one was 223 miles away. Naturally we purchased a charger, signed up for Plug Share, did not charge people for using ours and learned how to charge at RV parks and hotels with 110. There are now four in our state but they are just a bonus if we need them.
    The thing that really bothers me is that I think we all want Tesla to succeed. Any potential buyer can look at all the whining and say maybe buying one is not such a good idea. You all behave, for the most part, like people I would never want to meet.
    I for one am going to stop reading any Tesla articles or forums and continue on spreading the word about what an awesome automobile it is. I have already removed myself from the Facebook Tesla groups as it is only endless pictures of cars at Superchargers and whining. If you have a complaint just call Tesla as they have the solution and the best information. If I in the future have to pay to charge at a Supercharger it will be fine. I personally will do everything I can to promote the car, the company and the reasons behind Tesla. It is going to be pretty bad if you, as Tesla owners or wannabes, ruin the company.

  • Marcel

    They didn’t mention in the letter the fact that frequent supercharging is bad for the battery… that argument would have been more convincing for me -> make my battery last longer.

    • Joe Viocoe

      It turns out that frequent fast charging doesn’t cause a noticeable degradation as people feared.

  • Jenny Sommer

    It’s just a letter. They are still free. What are they going to do if people just keep up their habit what they will probably do anyways.

    I just saw my first Tesla Taxi yesterday. They got a supercharger on their lot and also charge for free. Without the free charging and charging infrastructure the Tesla would make no sense for the company…it hardly pays for the extra cost with it.
    If Nissan can indeed double their range in the coming years the eNV200 would be the better Taxi hands down.

  • mike_dyke

    As I see it, one of the main problems is (apparently) people not moving on once charged and freeing the space for the next car.

    The wireless charging road http://cleantechnica.com/2015/08/13/wireless-electric-highway-to-be-tested-in-uk/ could be a solution to that because EVs charge at, say, 50 mph and have no choice but to leave when the charging part of the road runs out. You’d get a really good throughput of cars that way. If you needed an extra boost – go round again.

  • Simple Indian

    I have a view that TESLA should charge something atleast $5 for every full charge. THERE IS NOTHING CALLED AS FREE DINNER or LUNCH or BATTERY CHARGE.

    If TESLA invests more by charging $5 for full charge, they can roll out more superchargers or buy renewable energy on our behalf or build renewable energy projects (solar, wind and everything on all sides).

    • valakos

      some small fee may be warranted to root out the abusers imo as well $5 is not to high…. even at $2.50 they still almost recover most of the cost of the electricity and people would think twice before unnecessarily using supercharges when they can charge at home

      • Simple Indian

        Those in need will do it, others will go home to their SolarCity PV panels.

  • Matteo

    Zach great article. I would love to see another article about whether free supercharging was a mistake. I believe the free part was a mistake. Building them in cities was a bigger mistake. What happens when you provide free supercharging close to where people live is, people living around there buy Model S cars to make use of free supercharging. As used car prices come down, this problem gets worse.

    Supercharging is meant to support long distance travel but instead it attracts locals who like the idea of free especially if they drive a lot because of their job. Over time the situation is going to get worse because some people might move their house to be close to a supercharger. If a house buyer who drives an EV has an option between this or that house, they might select the house closer to the supercharger. Somebody else might decide to start a taxi business because there is a supercharger. These will take time but things will get only worse over time.

    • Jacob

      Is the free part not the biggest mistake?

      Not everyone has a garage and those people have to use the network.

      And homes without a garage are more likely to be in an urban area rather than a rural area.

      Superchargers in the cities is crucial.

    • I think free was a good idea from a marketing standpoint up to a certain level of sales, but I think that level has been passed (or, at least, is will be passed shortly). Hope Tesla changes course — thus the article.

      • neroden

        Free isn’t really the issue, “free *and unlimited*” is the issue.

        Some form of rationing will do the trick (perhaps a penalty fee for staying for significantly more than the amount of time it takes to charge to full), though a parking meter would probably be ideal.

  • Ken

    It does seem that the letter went out to too many people. But I don’t think Tesla has any issue with free charging. The problem has clearly been with demand. Travelers are waiting for a charger because some locals are selfishly using it to get free electricity instead of charging at home.

    I am also quite suspicious of the person claiming that Tesla is trying to charge him $600 to drive out for warranty work. That sounds like a false post. Musk has clearly said he is not interested in making a profit on service.

    • I think the issue in the latter case is simply that free valet/ranger service was an important buying point for him, but then it just changed to being not at all free.

      • Ken

        Is there proof that Tesla is actually charging $600 just to drive out for warranty work? I haven’t seen any.

        • I’m trusting this Model S owner, who seems to be an honest and trustworthy guy… from what I can gather.

          • Ken

            To me one claim is not proof. I’ve seen too many false claims against Tesla to just take one at face value. If this were true, wouldn’t there be lots of people complaining?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Seems like Tesla might greatly benefit from having a public ombudsman/person.

            Someone who had web site that handled issues of concern such as this one.

            In some cases even a response like “Tesla is aware of this issue and is working on a solution/response” would be helpful.

            (Got a contact, Zach?)

            BTW, I saw something yesterday to the effect that the Mod3 ‘first showing’ has been moved up to early 2016.

            That would be so, so sweet.

          • Ken

            That’s exciting news!

          • Just saw another claim today that it has changed to $3/mile. They had to use it and thought it was still a small flat fee.

          • neroden

            There are plenty of people complaining. You’ve got to remember that this issue mostly affects people who live more than 200 miles from a service center.

            There aren’t a huge number of Tesla owners at that range from a service center. Dozens, probably not hundreds.

          • Ken

            Saying there are many people complaining without proof is a bit odd.

            Especially if there are only dozens at a great distance.

            It would be interesting for Zach to ask Tesla directly about this.

            It seems it shouldn’t be the policy to charge milage and may not be after that other owner got his warranty work for free.

            A warranty is a warranty. It is not the owner’s fault that they live far away.

          • neroden

            There aren’t a lot of people who are affected, but it seems like out of those who are affected, a large percentage are complaining. Does that make it clear what I was trying to say?

          • Ken

            How many complaints are you actually seeing?

            I am just curious.

        • neroden

          Tesla Service Center in Montreal tried to charge a Newfoundland owner that much, yes. (Montreal is the closest service center to Newfoundland.)

          After multiple rounds escalating his complaints to Tesla’s central office, he eventually got his warranty work done for free… but they still wouldn’t promise to do it for free next time.

  • Logical Thinker

    Tesla could resolve this by linking supercharging capacity to long distance navigation routing, billing the user for supercharging sessions IF a long distance route (greater than say 0.7 total battery capacity round trip) were not taken. Otherwise, if the round trip route taken were greater than 0.7 total battery capacity, the supercharging would remain free.

    • Joe Viocoe

      My idea was a reservation system for Supercharger access. When you enter your road trip into the Nav system, it makes all the appropriate reservations along the route… with reasonable windows to account for drive time and breaks.

      The algorithm for busy stations would place higher priority for drivers coming from farther distances. So if you are local, you can still get a reservation at a station that isn’t busy… but get lowest priority at busy stations.

      This way… it is still “free for life”… but prioritizes the intent of Supercharger for long distance trips. Also, it would only need a software upgrade, and won’t require the development of a payment system.

  • Nh-srt8

    I have no problem withTesla defining the rules for use but having received the email myself it ticks me off. I’ve owned my Tesla since May and not once charged at a local Supercharger because I don’t have one. The email stipulates I’m a fequent user of local stations but my nearest one is 55 miles away. I only been once and that was because the route guidance had me charge for zero minutes on a trip to California. I have done a cross country trip and enjoyed the network for long distance travel. The problem is what’s next! If I’m on some list erroneously then the next step is what? Limit charging speed? No response from Tesla or Elon as to why I was put on the list.

    • Yes, I think you summarized half the article better than I did. 😀

  • WeaponZero

    There is nothing shocking about Kurt’s statement. Personally I thought that has always been the statement of Tesla and not sure why people think that has changed. Maybe it has more to do with China market where charging is a bit more complex.

    I also see no problem with superchargers remaining free and see no reason to charge money for them. Superchargers are not like other chargers, they are more like an insurance policy. And as EVs gain more and more range, they will be used less and less.

    Tesla is right now handling city charging in Manhattan via level 2 chargers. And I think the solution for cities is conversion of streetlights into chargers (even level 1)

    As far as the letter goes, my guess Tesla’s concern is not cost but people hogging the chargers. So their algorithm is not only set to how many times you use a charger but how long someone uses it. So someone who say used a supercharger once but left it there for 3 hours might get a notice.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There was a report of someone leaving their ModS in a charge bay every night. Using it as a parking space.

      • Jacob

        A shopping mall that I go to charges $22/day for parking.

        Parking should not be free.

      • neroden

        That’s the abuse which needs to be eliminated. I really think the solution may be as simple as parking meters.

        “The charging is free. The parking is not.”

    • sranger

      I NEVER leave it in the bay for more than an hour… I have used the two local superchargers four times in 18 months…

      So why would I get the letter?

      • neroden

        Incompetence by Tesla, certainly. They really needed to double-check who they sent the email to.

    • Greg Hudson

      Simple solution to the 3 hour people is to UNLOCK the cable when charging is complete. Another user MAY be able to use it IF the bays back on to each other.

  • Jacob

    I was right all along. “free” charging is perverse.

    People that have a $70k car can pay $0.12/kWh for electricity.

    People that do not drive much are subsidising those that travel a lot.

    Paid charging would allow us to use the huge 85kWh battery to power our house in an emergency.

    You do not get “free” petrol when you buy a car, why should you get “free” electrons.

    • RobS

      Because Tesla chose to offer it as essentially a marketing tool to defray the road trip anxiety and sweeten the EV ownership deal. Their cost for supercharging per car sold is a hell of a lot lower than most of the big manufacturers marketing budget per car.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I ran though some numbers a while back. It looks to me like the $2k either paid as part of the car price or separately would easily cover the cost of a supercharger bay and enough solar panels to furnish all the electricity for a driver who took a moderate amount of long distance trips per year.

        • neroden

          Given that many people (>50%) take 2 or fewer long distance trips per year, it will also cover the electricity cost for a small minority (<5%) of super-heavy Supercharger users.

          The problem is congestion, not cost of electricity.

          As I've said repeatedly, electric car charging should not cost money for electricity — it should cost money for *parking*. Parking meters are the correct way to ration the spaces.

    • Ken

      Wrong. The only thing that is perverse are the ‘very few’ as Musk put it, who are abusing the system by charging locally for free instead of at their home.

      • Jacob

        Something has to give.

        The Model 3 will be sold in large quantities, including to people who live in flats with no power socket near the car.

        The electricity that my house uses is not built into the price of the house.

        • Ken

          Nobody said anything about the Model 3. It doesn’t exist yet. Tesla does not recommend their cars to people with no easy way to charge it.

          • Jacob

            Tesla actually want to save our planet by killing petrol cars.

            And what the hell is wrong with getting people to pay $0.12/kWh for electrons.

          • Ken

            It’s completely unnecessary for the Model S and Model X to have to pay for Supercharging. It is working fine economically for Tesla and customers love it.

            Musk said Supercharging would be free for life and it will be. There is zero reason for that to ever change. (with the exception of the abusers)

            A mass market priced car selling in large numbers, like the Model 3 would be a different story. Tesla will probably include an unlimited Supercharging option for an extra price.

          • Jacob

            There is a reason for that to change.

            Tesla goes bankrupt. A new firm takes over the assets of Tesla. And that firm decides that there will be no more free charging.

          • Ken

            Wrong. Tesla could not be further from going bankrupt.

            They are growing 10 times faster than any car company on the planet.

            They still have a waiting list for the Model S and the Model X is already sold out for over a year.

            Try doing some research.

          • It’s highly debatable whether this system will really work for Tesla financially.

          • Ken

            I don’t think it is debatable at all. Tesla is at about 26% gross margin average on every high end car that sell. That easily will cover free Supercharging – for traveling as intended.

            They did crunch the numbers and the only surprises have been locals hogging the chargers and causing actual travelers to wait. It is not a cost issue.

          • People have done the match on how much this is expected to cost over the lifetime of the cars. It’s way more than $2000. That’s what I’m referring to. Saying the cost is just in the first few years misses a lot of electricity.

          • Ken

            The Tesla’s home charging covers over 99% of all driving according to the DOT. I have not seen calculations that show Supercharging will negatively impact Tesla.

            The company knew exactly what it was doing when it offered free Supercharging for trips.

          • neroden

            Yes, people have done the math, and on average the expected cost of electricity is way less than $2000 per car. (Many many many cars are near zero usage, a few are very high.)

            There is no cost problem. The problem is congestion: locals, or taxi fleets, hogging the Superchargers and therefore preventing road trippers from getting a charge.

            The answer is probably as simple as parking meters.

            I’ve said repeatedly that it makes no sense to charge for electricity at an electric car charger; it’s not worth the cost of the meter. What does make sense is to charge for the *parking* — that gets people moving as soon as they’re done.

  • vensonata

    It is my vaguely informed recollection that Elon promised “free for life”. There may have been clauses and exceptions to that somewhere. But if not…then it is a grave error on the part of Tesla. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. It is a violation of trust.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    1 People who clog up the superchargers should pay a penalty.
    2 Tesla needs to apologize.

    • Jacob

      You mean no more free parking at supercharging stations.

      Pay $1.25/hour to park there or pay a fine.

      • Ivor O’Connor

        Yes. Time is money. The price should go up exponentially the longer you tie up a charger.

  • BigWu

    At $6 of electricity for 30 minutes of charge time (less travel time and tire wear), it is simply irrational for a Tesla S owner to use Supercharger network rather than their garage for local charging (it takes 4 to 6 seconds at home).Even a minimum wage worker in a $15/hr locale wouldn’t break even abusing the system.

    That said, some people are utterly irrational when it comes to “free”. As evidence, visit (or google the phenomena) an American 7/11 convenience store on July 7th, free Slurpee day (aka Squishy for all you Simpsons fans out there). People will drive their Mercedes SUV or other crazy cost per mile vehicle many miles just to wait 30 or more minutes in line for a “free” $1.39 Slurpee.

    It’s at once astonishing and confounding, certainly worthy of a David Attenborough voiceover explaining the bizarre phenomenon.

    • Yes, shocking indeed… humans. And imho, Tesla’s mistake was in rolling out a system that assumed humans were logical.

    • neroden

      The electricity cost to Tesla of people abusing the system is minimal and not worth worrying about

      The problem is congestion — the taxi fleet blocking the Superchargers for everyone else.

  • patb2009

    Maybe Tesla could throttle the superchargers when you are within 30 miles of home and have used it more then once/month…

    • Joe Viocoe

      Worse idea….. keeping people in the stalls longer defeats the purpose.

      • dRanger

        Gee Joe, surely even a greedy owner is not going to want to wait if the charger reverts to an L2. That would be a serious obsession.

        • Joe Viocoe

          You’ll be surprised.
          It’s better just to deny the charge all together, and tell the driver to come back during off-peak hours, since there are long distance drivers waiting.

  • Ronald Brakels

    The word “free” breaks people’s brains and gets them to do things that are not very rational such as spending time and rubber driving to get a free charge when they would really be better off doing something more constructive with their time. (Maybe the problem is Tesla made their cars too darn nice to drive?) Analytical people, perhaps engineers who are used to working with machines and with other analytical people, who are unaware of this flaw in human thinking might plan for a much lower usage of their free service than they actually get. When this happens all that can rationally be done is to change plans, because that’s a lot easier than trying to change humans.

  • LafayetteCoboll

    I raised the issue of charging stations near or in urban centers (like the one in Brooklyn, New York) getting a lot of usage from people using it as their primary charging. If I remember correctly, a big Tesla advocate here said that it would be no problem because Tesla was getting the Supercharger electricity with 100% solar and so would not have to pay anything. Now that I think about it, wind and solar isn’t “free” unless you installed something on-site. And that is even if the “100% solar” claim was true.

    • dRanger

      It’s my sense that Tesla was more concerned about local users clogging the superchargers and causing delays for legitimate travelers. That’s been my answer whenever someone suggested that Tesla open up the superchargers to other EVs. Since no other EV has the range to use the system as designed, only local EV owners could use it, and Tesla had no interest in facilitating that. I support limited local use because I don’t want to wait in line when traveling, while local owners fill up. I don’t support targeting non-abusers though; that’s an unfortunate mistake.

      • LafayetteCoboll

        In re-reading it, I do see that they appear to be concerned with availability, not cost. They even ask people to “promptly move your Model S once charging is complete”. They could best avoid that by putting the station someplace where there is nothing else to do but wait for your car to charge. Don’t know if they have any criteria for surroundings. It could even be the reverse in that theylook to put them near a restaurant or shopping center.

        • dRanger

          I love their approach of putting the superchargers near restaurants and shopping malls. It means there are restrooms nearby and someplace decent to get some lunch. There is a free app for smartphones that notifies you when your car is charged so there’s no real excuse to hog a slot. Overloading chargers depends on when and where. The Chargers at the Fremont plant on the weekend often had a waiting line. Others not so much.

        • neroden

          You don’t want the Supercharger located in utterly boring places — though I’ve used Superchargers in pretty boring places in Syracuse NY and Utica NY — but you also don’t want them in super-popular places. Probably best location is near a restaurant or shopping center, but not a super-popular one, and at the far end of the parking lot.

  • Mike Ernst

    As the “Michael” who received and posted the email copied in Zachary’s article above I will say firstly thank you for the article. Secondly, I was annoyed by receiving that email from Tesla. Annoyed by the fact that 1) I agree with Tesla’s position of charging at home; 2) I estimate that I do more than 90% of my charging at my home; 3) I don’t have any “local” superchargers – the nearest one is 60 miles away yet I received this email accusing me of abusing the superchargers.

    My receipt of that email is likely an honest mistake on Tesla’s part. But… As an investor, early adopter and two time Model S owner I have to say that receipt of that email, as innocuous as it may seem to others (most of whom did not receive any such email), has, well, annoyed me.

    • I think it would have annoyed 95% of people who knew they weren’t abusing the system.

    • Michael B

      As an investor, it would almost annoy me more that such an egregious “honest” mistake could be made by such a (great) company. The wording and selection algorithm and set of recipients output should each have been triple-checked on something so important. The ‘ill-will” and negative press that this is going to cause now negates much of the *good-will* and (free) positive press that they have cultivated in other areas. And oh boy, are the shorts going to come out of the woodwork and tap their keys accordingly! :-

      • Joe Viocoe

        PR issues come and go… it really matters on how fast Tesla will correct the situation.

      • Yes. I am irritated as an investor that such a bad mistake slipped through, and also as someone who wants to see the EV revolution advance as quickly as possible and knows Tesla is the sheep dog that’s leading the way.

    • Benjamin Nead

      A classic first world problem . . .


    • sranger

      Same here. I have use the local supercharges four times is 18 months and charge 90+% of the time at home and have only used the SC for long distance travel…

      I found the letter insulting…

  • apsley

    I guess it boils down to whether or not Tesla wants owners to use the network to charge for local trips. They say they don’t, but if you look at the SC map, you will see that there are a lot, perhaps half, of SCs in or around large urban areas. There are, in my opinion, far too few SCs out in the hinterland and far too many in or around the cities. Personally I think that they are making a huge mistake in this regard. What is going to sell the Model 3 is a SC map which shows coverage on 90+% of the Interstates in the country, even if most people never use most of them. It’s knowing that they are there that reduces range anxiety and makes people buy. I’ll go even farther and say that they could see 200,000 reservations for the Model 3 and when it goes into production, that network has got to be there.

    • neroden

      “There are, in my opinion, far too few SCs out in the hinterland and far
      too many in or around the cities. Personally I think that they are
      making a huge mistake in this regard.”

      Agreed. There really shouldn’t be any in the downtowns of major cities.

      I’ve been pushing for Tesla to fill in the network gaps (Erie PA, Jefferson City MO) — these Supercharger locations will never be overcrowded, and they’re crucial for reassuring people that they can take long road trips.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Looking out a few years, having ‘in town’ superchargers increases the market for Tesla EVs.

        People who don’t have an outlet where they park could charge up once a week or a bit more and drive an EV. 170 miles per half hour charge would be almost 9,000 miles per year with a once a week. 13,000 miles would require charging about every five days.

        • neroden

          Those would have to have very different policies, though, or they’d be overcrowded with people parking permanently.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Clearly Tesla will have to sort this out as they go forward. They’ll have to build in some sort of controls for those who abuse the system. There have already been reports of some owners parking in charging bays overnight.

            Longer term, once your battery is full your car will drive itself to a nearby parking spot and a waiting car will drive itself in.

  • Zero_X_Rider

    Old gas habits die hard. Older horse habits where you hitch it at home at a bale of hay to eat work better.

  • Marion Meads

    At least you agreed with me on one point. The charging infrastructure all over the planet is not critically needed for EV’s to be successfully adopted.

    • I purchased my first EV (Smart ED) as a dedicated commuting vehicle when there was practically no charging infrastructure here in Ontario Canada.
      Since then, the charging roll out here has reached the point where I could finally replace our primary gas powered family car with a Tesla just one month ago.
      We’ve done 4,000 km in the Tesla in one month, whereas it took me almost two years to put on 12,000 km on my Smart ED. Obviously, we’ve done some road trips in the Tesla, and many of them were supported by supercharging, and the others by L2 destination charging.

  • phineasjw

    Tesla’s in a no win situation here, as their “free-for-life” supercharger network is really an unsustainable, ticking timebomb. Once the Model III (hopefully) starts rolling at 500K units/year the four or five slots at these Supercharger locations will be filled with cars 24/7 — resulting in a horrible experience for everyone.


    1. Charge money for their usage (net benefit for Tesla, incentive for #2).
    2. Drastically increase locations and capacity.

    People will still be happy to charge their cars when on the road, and the increased capacity will result in a better user experience.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Give people a very generous access allowance. X number charges per year.
      Perhaps set an even higher allowance for off-hour charging.

      The problem is likely not basically the cost of electricity but a few people tying up the chargers or using them very frequently. I’m not sure the idea was to provide free charging for taxi drivers and delivery services.

      What I’d love to see is a distribution of uses per car. I’ll bet it would show a very small number of drivers way out on the end of the curve.

      • Otis11

        Exactly this – I expect there’s less than 1% who are really abusing the system… but still, that 1% may be enough to fill the stalls in some locations and clog up the network for the people who actually need it.

      • Matt

        That was my thought. Is it a few people charge 3 times a day? Is it people parking at the charger for 4 hours?
        Does TESLA have that data? When you super charge, does it know what car it is? Or do they have to download data from your car to know.
        If they have the data, then someone at TESLA messed up and didn’t filter who got the mails based on what the issue is.

      • Greg Hudson

        I saw on one of Bjorn Nyland’s videos when he went to Amsterdam, a fleet of taxis basically using all the SC chargers, makig it difficult for travellers to charge, so I can see where Telsa is coming from with their letter, albeit it should have been much better targeted.

    • I don’t think there’s a chance Tesla plans to offer free and unlimited Supercharging with the Model 3.

      The could roll the option into the price for an extra, but at that scale and market, I think there’d just be far too much abuse of the system. And think Tesla is well aware of that now.

      • No way

        Elon has already stated “free supercharging for life with the Model 3”. =) But there might be a higher initial fee and/or an “excess use”-clause.
        Except that it will be pretty much like the Model S charging.

        • Hmm, did he? I don’t remember that. I really see them running into a lot of issues with abusers of the system if they do that, and don’t really see them recouping the Supercharger + electricity costs with a built-in price of $2000. If you have time, dive into that forum thread and find the people trying to calculate the cost/car. I think between pages 20 & 30.

          • Yes, he did. Elon stated that free charging worked up to the first million Tesla vehicles, and they would need to evaluate what to do at that time.

          • Hmm

          • LafayetteCoboll

            Still time to rescind that. I don’t think you can be held liable for verbal promises with regard to cars not sold. Or he could change it to “one million Model S” vehicles.

          • Joe Viocoe

            Tesla would need to “grandfather” the current customers.

          • LafayetteCoboll

            Yep, they bought a car with a “lifetime for free” agreement.

          • No way

            He did say that when talking to/taking questions from dutch (or was it norwegian) owners about 2 years ago or so.

            He was asked it more than once so that in the end the answer was super clear.

            And now that I googled it it was in Germany:


            Unfortunately that video isn’t available to hear the exact wording.

            Anyway, one of the absolut largest advantages of buying a Tesla is the supercharging network so it would be absolutely insane to change the concept (more than maybe a small tweak).

          • neroden

            The Supercharger + electricity costs are easily covered by the $2000/car. (I’ve done the math on this. One key fact is that most of the car buyers only use the Superchargers a few times a year, nor do they want to use them more often. They cover the tiny number who use Superchargers daily.)

            The real problem is congestion caused by, for instance, a taxi fleet hogging the Superchargers. Tesla needs the Superchargers to remain uncongested so that people on road trips can use them, and if a taxi fleet is hogging them, that’s a problem.

        • neroden

          It could be free but not unlimited. Basically, an anti-taxi rule like “don’t supercharge more than 150 times per year” would make a serious difference.

          • No way

            Of course the could have some limits, massive abuse is never okey no matter what’s offered for “free”.
            Using the vehicle for commercial purposes is a whole different thing and hopefully and probably they even have rules for that already with the Model S.
            But for the 99% that are regular users it will be the same as for the Model S unless Elon is a massive lier. =)

      • JeremyK

        Exactly. Much like the Ranger program, free supercharging for a $35K vehicle is not sustainable. The Ranger program sounds great, but it should have been obvious from the start that this is something that could only support a boutique industry.

        Now that Tesla is growing, their going to have many of the same problems/challenges of traditional auto makers. One is example is the nationwide dealership/service network. Sales can be initiated and mostly finalized through the internet, but when service work is needed….you need a garage and a mechanic…not a software patch and good 4G connection.

        • neroden

          The Ranger program is quite sustainable, provided that it’s restricted to the people who are a long distance from a service center…. who are the only people who need it anyway.

          As service centers are deployed, the scope of Ranger service would naturally decrease, but it would still be used by a few people in the seriously low-population areas. This is sustainable.

    • Philip W

      I’m pretty confident that the Model 3 won’t get free supercharging, since – as you already said- the superchargers would be completely overrun with cars.

      Maybe something like 5-10 free charges per year would be a decent compromise? That should be plenty for the average person. If you need more, you just pay per charge.

      • valakos

        it would STILL be cheaper to charge at home than fill up with gas on a per mile basis…. plus by 2020 i think nissan and perhaps another car maker will roll out their faster charging stations (than available now) as well. There will probably be adapters available from tesla to use those much like chademo

    • Omega Centauri

      3. Provide N free charges per year, after that a modest charging fee, after say 3*N a hefty charging fee.

    • TD1

      Basically I agree, establish rules for a self regulating market such as a charge for use, perhaps a free allotment, perhaps not, and then let people run their own lives.

      As society changes many will choose not to have their travel and recharging patterns individually monitored. Tesla is also naively creating unnecessary and intrusive work for itself.

    • patb2009

      the Model III does not have to get free supercharger use, they can buy a subscription.

      • valakos

        i think by the time model 3 launches, there will be other companies rolling out their charging stations (nissan comes to mind) and tesla will sell adapters….. obviously nissan will charge to charge but i don’t forsee a lack of charging options for people out on a drive. A subscription makes sense but people will complain…. charging up at home though will still be alot cheaper than filling up on gas in an ICE car on a per mile basis

    • Shane 2

      Yep, unsustainable. I wrote this a week ago on this site:

      “The Supercharger network is an Ace in Tesla’s hand. However, I don’t think that free charging for the life of the vehicle is a sustainable business model. Just keep on replacing parts and some of these cars will be around for 100 years. People will waste energy if they don’t pay more for using more. I can see that at the moment that this is good marketing. If I take a long trip in my fossil car I spend about 10% of my trip stopped to refuel, washroom, leg stretch, eat, and drink. In a Tesla 85 kWhr with supercharging I would have to be stopped 25% of the trip duration. When people point this out to the Tesla owner, she can retort “yes but my fuel is free!” So the current free fuel is good marketing during this phase of EV development. I just don’t think that it is sustainable in the long run. In the long run there should be a charge incorporating kWhrs of energy taken and time plugged in. One would want folks to unplug as soon as they have enough juice so that the next car can plug in. So a fee for duration plugged in sends an appropriate signal. V2G and V2home are coming. V2home would tempt people to take electricity at superchargers for use at home. I’m sure that this would be easy for a good electrical engineer.”

      • LafayetteCoboll

        Does the “free SuperCharging for life” really transfer to each owner, or rather, only apply to the car regardless of who owns it?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m almost certain ‘free charging for life’ goes with the car to the next owner.

      • The CHAdeMO chargers used locally by Tesla owners (no superchargers in DFW yet, oddly enough) charge $0.10 per minute the vehicle is connected, delivering around 130 mph, and disconnected parking is subject to towing. That seems fair to me.

      • John

        We must also remember Tesla has one of the largest solar network in the US. When the charging stations are all solar operated, they become mini generators to feed the grid. There will also be ‘Powerpacks’ there storing power, therefore at night when there are less vehicles on the road a percentage of this stored power feeds the grid. He’ll be making his money… That’s part of the plan.

    • Jacob

      I do not know who is the buffoon that decided that people that have a $70k car cannot afford to pay $0.12/kWh for electricity!

    • RobS

      They promised free for life for Model S, they have the option to adjust the model with the next generation of vehicles.

    • valakos

      the solution is to locate most superchargers outside of the city… only put a few in the city.

    • Think Smart

      Put a solar panel on the roof, bigger than what Nissan Leaf has it will at least charge the gizmos in the car. Turn up the radio. Charge something to supercharge.

    • Joseph Kool

      They’ll never sell 500,000 cars in a year this is delusional.

  • Basically, Tesla doesn’t want to pay for you to charge your car. Charge it at home.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oh, come on, Jo. You’re capable of higher quality trolling than that…. ;o)

      • JamesWimberley

        What’s wrong? Tesla offered “free” supercharging. It has discovered that some owners are cheapskates who use local superchargers to save $2. Their problem. I can’t work up much sympathy for either side; especially as the only rational scheme is a unified open-road network with a single technical standard, and paying.

        • Jacob

          USB type C is a global standard.

          About time the EV industry came up with a global 120-240kW DC plug.

          Where you pay for the electrons using your phone or a credit card.

        • Martinkauai

          Yes. I think providing an affordable but optional subscription service for Tesla owners would solve some of the problems.

      • I didn’t realize that was trolling? Is it trolling to simply come out and say what Tesla’s saying?

        • jeffhre

          Tell us. What is Tesla saying?

          • I did. You seem confused. There is help available.

          • jeffhre

            What help is that? With what problem? And feel free to insert more snark. It goes immediately to credibility – but you knew that.

          • In a universe where Fox News and CNN are largely seen as credible, what good is credibility?

    • Kyle Field

      They foresee massive swell in customer base and know that people will continue to abuse superchargers, thus diminishing the benefit for everyone, eroding the consumer experience. This takes a proactive hardline…I’m glad they are doing so now vs when the model 3 is out and problems abound.

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