Tesla Motors has decided to stop offering unlimited free use of its 734 fast charging stations worldwide, reports the AP, just months before it's set to start selling a mass-market electric car. Tesla says cars ordered after Jan. 1, 2017 will get roughly 1,000 miles worth of credits each year at the Supercharger stations. Vehicles ordered or sold on or before Jan. 1 would still get unlimited free charging. Tesla has more than 300,000 reservations for the mass-market $35,000 Model 3, which is due to go on sale in the second half of next year, and if all those owners started using supercharger stations for free, that could get expensive for Tesla. Tesla wouldn't say specifically how much its fees will be, but said charging would cost less than filling a comparable gasoline car.
The company will release fee details later this year and says prices could fluctuate over time and vary by regional electricity costs. Still, the move shouldn't hurt sales, says an analyst for a fund with holdings in Tesla, because Tesla owners charge their cars at home more than 90% of the time and use the Superchargers mainly for trips or when they need extra range. At the average US electricity price of 12.9 cents per kilowatt hour, it costs $9.68 to fully recharge a Tesla Model S with a 275-mile battery at home. The Supercharger stations can give 170 miles of range in a half-hour. A 30-amp public charging station can only do 10 miles in a half-hour, per Tesla. Tesla says the change will let it expand the supercharger network and it will not make a profit from the charging stations. (Read more Tesla stories.)