Is Charging a Tesla Free?

Tesla charger

Tesla has taken a bite out of the auto industry and made its stamp on the world forever. With the power and savings that a Tesla gives you it makes you wonder if Teslas are as cracked up to be as everyone makes them?

Since a Tesla cost so much to purchase shouldn’t we get access to free unlimited lifetime charging just for owning one? Well, unfortunately, the answer is not really. Tesla offers the first 400 kilowatt-hours for free every year (about 1,000 miles / 1,600 kilometers), but after going over that limit, owners will have to pay a small fee associated with driving around.

After so many years of offering free Supercharging, CEO Elon Musk said that it’s not sustainable and won’t be coming back.

Charging Networks

For Tesla drivers and electric vehicle (EV) drivers alike, it’s safe to say that most of the time people charge their EV is from the comfort of their own home. For drivers that regularly charge their electric cars in public, they need to know where they can find the different charging networks that are located throughout the cities. To find these charging stations you can download different various apps on your phone to locate them.

There are three different primary methods used for charging networks. Pay to charge, pay a monthly subscription, or charge for free. Now, you would think that charging your car for free is always going to be the best-case scenario, and you’d be right to think that. However, there’s not always going to be a free charging network conveniently located close to you.

Free Charging Conditions (Tesla) – Tesla used to offer free unlimited charging of their supercharger stations but for the last couple of years they have been slowly phasing away from the free charging model that they used to offer.

All Tesla vehicles that were ordered before January 15th, 2017 (delivered before April 15th, 2017) have free lifetime Supercharging that goes with the vehicle (so look at purchasing an older model from a private party if you want to Supercharge for free). Unfortunately, finding a Tesla with the free Supercharging feature could prove to be difficult as these cars rarely get sold and when they do sell they get picked up fairly fast.

Paid Charging Conditions (Tesla) – All new Tesla models have been moved away from the free supercharging networks. From now on, any Tesla’s purchased after November 2nd, 2018 will automatically be on a paid model for supercharging their car at standalone supercharger sites.

Tesla is also part of a “destination network” where they’ve partnered with establishments such as hotels, retail stores, workplaces, multifamily entities, resorts, etc. to make charging your Tesla more convenient.

Tesla officially opened its first V3 (Version 3.0) Supercharger station to the public. It can charge up to 250 kW of power for their Model 3 vehicles and up to 200 kW of power on the latest Model X and Model S vehicles. The amount of charge you can get is insane compared to the older charging stations. With the V3 Supercharger you can charge a Model 3 Long Range Tesla to 75 miles in just five minutes (saving over 50% of charge time).

Tesla believes this will cut the average charge time for owners down to 15 minutes. Compare that to the older supercharging stations and it would take Tesla owners around 20 minutes to charge up to 50%, 40 minutes to charge all the way to 80%, and 75 minutes to fully charge your battery life.

Free Charging Offers by Hotels, Shopping Centers, Resorts

With Tesla’s Destination Charging network they offer incentives to businesses to add two free Destination Chargers, it’s not a supercharger but it is a level 2 Tesla Wall Connector, like the ones you can install in your house. The business can add additional chargers if they want to, however, they will have to pay a cost for that.

The thought process behind this is that if a hotel or restaurant opts to participate in this program anyone who brings up the Destination Charging network can decide to go to their business that offers the Destination Charger over the neighboring business that doesn’t have this amenity.

Charging Credits

Tesla offers charging credits for anyone who purchased their Model X and Model S on or before November 2nd, 2018, so if you’re looking for any charging credits and you haven’t already bought a Tesla yet, you’re out of luck in that regards. The good news is that you can still receive six free months of charging at a supercharger station when you buy a Tesla using a referral code.

Potential Savings

The savings that you can make by driving a Tesla will come regardless of if you have to pay to use a supercharger station or not. Since Tesla just launched its more affordable Model 3 for $35,000, owning a Tesla doesn’t come with such a hefty price tag as it used to.

Now saving money has become easier for everyone. Matter of fact, the Tesla Model 3 outsold all the other models sold by either Audi, BMW or Mercedes. That’s pretty impressive to think that one model from a car company outsold all models of any given competitor.

We’ll help you figure out exactly how much you’ll save by comparing the price you pay for energy compared to how much you’re paying for gasoline every year. Depending on where you live, you could save anywhere between $300 – $675 a year. Quite a big difference, and there’s a lot of variables that can change that number depending on a lot of other factors that could be taken into consideration.

Paid Price Compared to Fuels

Even though it now costs money to charge your Tesla at charging stations, it still costs a substantial amount less than filling up a tank with gas. The price of fuel is always going to be tied to crude oil and that means the prices will fluctuate more so than our electricity rates. One might even argue that because of all the new energy-efficient advancements like solar panels, soon future, electricity rates could possibly drop if competition becomes stiff enough.

If electricity prices went up instead of down and fuel prices declined as well (which is not likely), you would still be saving quite a bit of money in the long run. If you take a comparable car like the 2018 Audi A4 which goes for around $36,000 we can quickly do a side by side comparison to the Tesla Model 3. The Audi gets an average of 32mpg, if we drove 12,000 miles a year and paid $2.49 for a gallon of gas, we would end up paying $933 a year on gas alone.

Calculating the cost of driving an EV is a little bit more complicated. To calculate the price paying for energy to charge the battery on a Tesla you need to know the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and instead of mpg we will use the term miles per kWh. For a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, the rate is 4.15 miles per kWh.

Electricity rates vary from state to state so this is something you’ll have to look into first before seeing exactly how much you can save. The rates range anywhere from 9 cents/kWh (WA state) to 22 cents/kWh (Alaska), with the national average 13 cents/kWh.

To calculate how much you pay, you’ll take the miles driven (12,000 miles) divided by the miles per kWh (4.15), and you get 2,892 kWh of electricity. Take that number and multiply it by how much you pay for electricity (so for WA state .09) = $260, and for Alaska, it would be (2,892 x 0.22) = $636. Either way, you’re saving money, but it’s quite a huge difference in the amount of money you’ll be saving.


Tesla is always going to try to be as innovative as possible when it comes to keeping up with technology and upgrading their cars and chargers. They’re going to have to make money outside of people outright buying cars from their dealerships if they want to keep up with the future. Charging to use electricity when they used to offer it for free seems a little unfair at first but when you think about it, from a business standpoint, it only makes sense.

There’s always going to be people out there (probably the majority of people) that want to have the fastest most powerful cars available and they want to charge their car in a fraction of the time.

Tesla is smart for offering a free charge up to a certain point. As a forward-thinking company, Tesla needs to do (and is doing) as much as possible to keep up with the world’s rapidly advancing technology and the exponential speed that it’s growing at.

If we want to continue to have innovation and ingenuity at the cusp of our hands when driving a Tesla, we should be happy that their decision is something that will eventually benefit everyone, even if right now we’re experiencing small growing pains.

Mike Reyes

I'm Mike Reyes, a guy behind I have a background in electrical engineering and I was interested into technology since my early age. My passion is sustainable transport and energy, and my objective is to make eDrive Planet a pillar of the electric vehicles industry with hopefully millions of site visitors each year. I am counting on you, please spread the voice!

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