Tesla will cap free Supercharging for new cars

Tesla automobile plugged in and charging at a Supercharger rapid battery charging station in Mountain View, California.
Smith Collection | Gado | Getty Images

Tesla has touted its easily accessible network of charging stations as a key factor that sets it apart from other electric car makers, but Monday Tesla put some limitations on that network's use.

Any Tesla cars ordered after Jan. 1, 2017, will be given an annual credit of 400 kilowatt hours — roughly equal to the power needed to travel 1,000 miles — at Supercharger stations. If they exceed that, they will have to pay a "small fee" to Supercharge, "which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car," according to a blog post published Monday.

The changes will not impact current owners or any new Teslas ordered before the start of next year, as long as the owner takes delivery before April 1, 2017.

Tesla said the changes are being made to help the company fund further expansion of the network.

Tesla maintains a network of more than 4,600 Superchargers, spread across 734 stations around the world. The chargers can add about 170 miles of range to a Tesla battery in about 30 minutes and are designed to replenish battery range on long trips.

The cost to use the stations "may fluctuate over time and vary regionally based on the cost of electricity," the company said. It added, the "Supercharger Network will never be a profit center."

Tesla said it will release more details later this year.

Assessing some kind of charge to use the stations makes sense when considering the company's plans to produce 500,000 cars a year by the end of 2018. If Tesla comes anywhere close to meeting that goal, there will be a lot more cars lining up at Tesla Superchargers.