SAN FRANCISCO -- Tesla Motors will likely charge owners of its forthcoming Model 3 sedan to use the company’s network of Supercharger stations, which is free to owners of current models, CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday.
“Free supercharging fundamentally has a cost,” Musk, 44, said Tuesday during Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting, held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. “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.”
Musk did not provide further details as to what the package may cost consumers. Tesla’s Supercharger stations, typically located at malls on highways between major cities, aim to ease “range anxiety” and enable long-distance -- even coast-to-coast -- driving in Tesla’s all-electric cars. Use of any of the 632 Superchargers in the world is free for customers of the Model S and Model X, but Tesla has found that some customers go to their local Superchargers out of habit. The Superchargers deliver 170 miles of range in 30 minutes, more than 10 times the range provided by other chargers, according to the company’s website.
“The best thing to do is to charge your car where you charge your phone: at home and at work,” said Musk.
Tesla is investing heavily in growth in as it prepares to begin producing the Model 3, slated to start at $35,000, about half the base price of the larger Model S car.
Tesla had 373,000 pre-orders for the Model 3, many from consumers whom stood in long lines to place $1,000 deposits for the promise of a fully electric car with a range of at least 215 miles. The demand inspired Musk to pull forward an already ambitious goal of building 500,000 vehicles a year to 2018, two years earlier than previously planned. Tesla has said that the first Model 3 deliveries will be in late 2017.
The battery factory Tesla is building east of Reno, Nev., is critical to getting the Model 3 out on time and at the lower price. Tesla has said battery cell production there will begin in the fourth quarter. Panasonic Corp., the supplier of battery cells for the Model S and the Model X SUV, is an investor in the plant. Musk said that Tesla and Panasonic are moving to slightly larger battery cells. Instead of using cylindrical cells that measure 18 mm by 65 mm, they will move to cells that are 20mm by 70 mm.
Musk spent much of the 3 1/2-hour shareholder meeting walking down memory lane and chronicling the early history of the company, from the challenges of the Tesla Roadster to critical investments by early partners like Daimler AG and Toyota Motor Corp. He also spent a lot of time talking about the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory and the battery factory as being products themselves -- the “machines that build the machines.” He also thanked longtime employees of the company, several of whom joined him on stage.
The automaker recently invited some Tesla owners who won a customer-referral program to a party at the battery factory on July 29.
“One thing Tesla is good at is we throw good parties,” said Musk.