Tesla CEO Elon Musk at today's Tesla shareholders meeting revealed that the upcoming Tesla Model 3 sedan will not get free Supercharger access without purchasing a "package". When the Model 3 was announced it was touted as having Supercharging support standard, which Tesla then walked back to "capable".
Here's what Musk said in response to a question from a current Model S owner about what was meant by that:
Obviously, [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. I wish we could, but in order to achieve the economics, it has to be something like that.
Superchargers allow for long-distance travel, providing free rapid charging capabilities for the Model S and Model X. The system provides high voltage DC charging directly into the car's battery pack, putting up to 170 miles range into the car in roughly 30 minutes, and a full charge to even a 90kWh model in 75 minutes. Superchargers were added to the Tesla ecosystem in 2012, with more than 600 stations with nearly 4,000 individual chargers located across North America, Europe, and East Asia.
While Musk did not elaborate on what this "package" for Supercharging would look like for the Model 3, this wouldn't be the first time that Tesla has charged for access to Superchargers. The first generation of the Model S did not support Supercharging, though 60kWh-equipped cars had an available upgrade for $2,500. Considering that the typical Supercharger station can cost upwards of a quarter of a million dollars to build and install, we're not terribly shocked by Tesla's decision to charge buyers of the $35,000 Model 3 for access — there are more than 370,000 reservations for the Model 3 — to help defray the cost.