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Tesla to Possibly Decouple Lifetime Supercharging From Model S and X Prices

By Daniel Sparks – Sep 2, 2016 at 8:11PM

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Is Tesla about to monetize its massive Supercharger Network?

Just days after commented-out HTML code on electric-car maker Tesla Motors' (TSLA -6.81%) website revealed what seemed to be a pay-per-use system for Model 3 owners when accessing the company's Supercharger network, Electrek reports that the company plans to roll out this system for its more expensive Model S and X, too.

Model S at a Supercharger. Image source: Tesla Motors.

"Supercharger Credits"

While the discovery of "Supercharger Credits" on the My Tesla page for Model 3 reservation holders was first primarily discussed as a potential option for Model 3, the commented-out code was quickly discovered on the My Tesla pages for both Model S and X, too. This was the first sign Tesla may be considering the same monetization system for sales of its entire fleet -- not just the Model 3.

These credits, which are thought to be blocks of credits measured in kilowatt hours that could be purchased and used at Tesla's Supercharger network when recharging, would mark a departure from Tesla's current approach to including lifetime Supercharging for long-distance travel with the purchase of any Model S or X.

But Tesla is ready to break from its current practice of including Supercharging for free, according to Electrek:

"Sources familiar with the program have told Electrek that Tesla is about to introduce a new Supercharger Credit program to unbundle the cost of Supercharger access from the vehicle and, consequently, lower the entry price of the Model S and X while ensuring that the value of the Supercharger network is better represented by the pricing model. The update could coincide with the release of OS 8 or 8.1."

Electrek's source says Tesla will reduce the entry price of both Model S and X by $2,000 after decoupling it from the cost of the vehicle.


Introducing a fleetwide system for monetizing Supercharging would have a number of implications for the company, including setting a foundation for monetizing the charging network, helping the company reduce the price of its Model S and X, and potentially help generate more revenue to fund further expansion of the network.

Model S charging. Image source: The Motley Fool.

Notably, it wasn't entirely news that Tesla would introduce a pay-per-user system for the Model 3. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had already suggested the company would offer both pay-per-use and lifetime options for Model 3 owners to Supercharge. Including access to Tesla's Supercharger network standard with the $35,000 Model 3 simply wasn't economically feasible, he said.

"I wish we could [make Model 3 Supercharging free], but in order to achieve the economics, it has to be something like that," Musk explained during the company's annual shareholder meeting earlier this year.

Musk also said the company would make charging cheap enough that it will still be much cheaper to drive a Model 3 long distance than it is a gas car.

But with Tesla reportedly getting ready to decouple the cost of Supercharging from Model S and X, management may have decided separating the cost of charging is a better idea all-around for all of its vehicles.

It's worth wondering if Tesla is setting the foundation for sharing the charging network with another manufacturer. It has always said it would share its charging network with other manufacturers as long as they paid their share of operating expenses. However, no auto manufacturers have begun delivering a vehicle that can actually handle a charge from a Supercharger yet. But this is about to change; almost every major auto manufacturer has announced plans for electric vehicles with 200 miles or more of range. By rolling out a pay-per-user system, Tesla would be ready to monetize its charging network for other manufacturer's electric vehicles.

Whether Tesla plans to share the network with another manufacturer or not, the most likely reason for separating charging from the cost of the vehicle is simply to be able to make its Model S and Model X slightly more affordable. This would continue Tesla's recent moves to introduce more aggressively priced versions of its Model S and X.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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