The extensive network of Tesla Supercharger stations is one of the coolest perks of owning a Tesla, but it won't be free anymore for new customers by January 2017.

Tesla's Supercharger network consists of more than 630 charging stations across the United States, allowing owners of Tesla electric vehicles (EVs) to charge their car quickly and easily.

Supercharging has so far been free of charge, but Tesla announced earlier this year that new Model 3 owners won't be able to charge their car for free.

Tesla Supercharging Annual Credits

The company confirmed on Monday that Supercharging will not be free anymore for any new owners next year. Customers will have some annual credits, but new limitations will require payments past a certain threshold.

"For Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging during travel," Tesla explains.

"Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car."

Nevertheless, all vehicles will continue to come equipped with the hardware necessary for Supercharging, adds Tesla.

The company has yet to specify just how small that "small fee" really is, but says it will offer more details regarding the program later this year. At the same time, Tesla further points out that although prices may vary over time, with regional variations based on electricity costs, it will never turn its Supercharger Network into a business for profit.

Current Tesla Owners, Relax

At the same time, the company notes that this change will not affect current Tesla owners, or customers who order new Tesla vehicles before Jan. 1, 2017, provided that their cars are delivered before Apr. 1, 2017. Otherwise, all Teslas purchased after Jan. 1, 2017 or delivered after Apr. 1, 2017 will fall under the new Supercharging scheme.

The reason why current Tesla owners will not have to pay for Supercharging in the future is quite simple. Tesla started out as a luxury EV maker handling low volumes and it's gradually turning to mass-market mobility, making its cars more affordable and accessible to a wider pool of customers.

So far, Tesla factored in the cost of Supercharging into the cost of the vehicles, which is why the Model S and Model X will continue to enjoy free Supercharging. With the Model 3, however, things change: the vehicle is more affordable and the cost of using Supercharger stations is no longer factored into the cost of the vehicle.

For this reason, the company will offer only some credits for free Supercharging per year, but customers will have to pay for anything past that. Tesla can't go high-volume and continue to offer mass-market perks with an advanced network of free has to all customers.

This means that while free Supercharging has been a great benefit for Tesla owners, delivering high-speed recharging for full-battery in less than an hour, it's not feasible anymore. Tesla Model 3 preorders scored record numbers and soon enough there will be a whole lot more Tesla vehicles on the road worldwide, making it understandably tricky for Tesla to keep offering its Supercharging network for free all the way.

Long-Distance Supercharging

While some Tesla owners might have taken advantage of the Supercharger stations to get free electricity instead of charging their cars at home too once in a while, that's not how Tesla sees its network's usefulness.

Tesla owners should charge their vehicles on their own mostly and tap the power of Supercharger stations as a perk to extend the car's range for long-distance supercharging. This new change in policy will ensure they get enough juice on the go to enjoy a good vacation, but won't give them free electricity forever.

Then again, considering that Tesla's new Supercharger rules will apply only to new owners next year, we'll have two categories of Tesla owners: those who will be able to continue enjoying free Supercharging till the end of time, and those with limitations that leave only long-distance supercharging for roughly 1,000 miles.

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