Tesla will no longer offer free, unlimited use of its supercharger network to Tesla buyers, as of January 1 next year.

In a November 7 Tesla blog post, the automaker said all Teslas purchased in the new year and beyond will be assigned an annual allocation of 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits – good for a driving distance of approximately 1,600 kilometers – but further use of Supercharger units would incur a fee.

Tesla promises that its Supercharger network “will never be a profit center,” and that income from its new fee structure for use of its charging network will be invested into improving and expanding the network.

Current Tesla owners, and all Tesla buyers who order their car before January 1 and take delivery before April 1, will continue to enjoy free, unlimited use of the charging network.

All Teslas, regardless of order date, will continue to come equipped with Supercharger-compatible hardware as standard.

Tesla says that come the new year, its new car and SUV buyers can expect to pay incrementally for their charge – i.e. pay based on actual charging time, not a flat-rate fee – and that the relative cost of charging their battery will be less than the cost of filling up a comparable conventional car with gasoline.

Supercharger charging prices are going to fluctuate with the cost of electricity, so large swings in the cost of gasoline and electricity could challenge Tesla’s pricing pledge to keep charges cheaper than fill-ups.

Tesla’s Supercharger network consists of more than 4,600 quick-charge units spread around the world, allowing Tesla owners to drive long-distance across much of North America and western Europe, as well as through densely populated areas in China and Japan.

The move to initiate charging fees will likely boost sales until the January 1 deadline as buyers are incentivized to offset a portion of their running costs with free lifetime charging on Tesla’s network.

(Tesla via Automotive News)