It's not just your average Model 3 owner who'll have to pay to use Superchargers. Tesla has announced that anyone ordering one of its cars after January 1st, 2017 will no longer get unlimited free Supercharger top-ups -- yes, even if you buy a top-tier Model S or X. You'll get 400kWh of free credit every year (enough to recharge a P100D four times), but every charge after that will carry an incremental "small fee." The company is quick to note that Superchargers will "never be a profit center," and that whatever you pay (which may depend on local electricity rates) will be less than what it would take to fill a similar gas-powered car.
You'll get more details about the program change later in 2016, Tesla says. However, you don't have to panic if you just pulled the trigger on your dream machine. Any existing orders will still qualify for completely free charging so long as you take delivery before April 1st.
This isn't great news if you can't justify buying a higher-end Tesla until 2017, but it's not surprising given the company's finances and ambitions. It just turned its first profit in 2 years, and staying in the black would be that much harder if the firm couldn't recoup the costs of running Supercharger stations. Also, the Model 3's runaway demand is bound to put pressure on Superchargers -- as Tesla says, those fees are needed to "reinvest in the network" and "accelerate its growth." It won't be fun to pay for that cross-country trek, but it might be crucial to making sure there are enough Superchargers to get you to your destination on time.