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During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, Elon Musk revealed that owners of the company’s first mass-market car, the $35,000 Model 3, will not receive free, unlimited access to Tesla’s Supercharger network of chargers for life — unless they purchase a specific package.

The question was posed by a Tesla shareholder, who specifically asked how the company plans to cope with the flood of new Tesla owners once it brings an affordable electric car to market. Here’s Musk’s answer [emphasis ours]:

To date, we wanted to keep it really straightforward and easy. So that’s why the Superchargers are set up, at least to date for people who bought the cars, as free long-distance for life. Obviously that has, fundamentally, a cost. I don’t want to make this some big news headline, but 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’ve purchased that package.

I wish we could, but in order to achieve the economics, it has to be something like that. I want to just emphasize, what Tesla’s motivation is, is to make electric transport as affordable as possible. That is what informs all of our actions. So if we do something, and we charge for this, or we charge for that, it is not because we want to make things more expensive; it’s because we can’t figure out how to make things less expensive.

Later, Musk said:

The best thing to do with an electric car is to charge your car where you charge your phone. Would you really take your phone to a gas station? … Driving to a Supercharger, in order to get $5-worth of electricity, and spending half an hour of your time, you’re like, maybe barely at minimum wage. So it’s just not the best thing for people, but you know, they kind of do it out of habit.

This appears to be the first time the company has explicitly stated that access to its network of chargers will not be free forever for owners of the lowest-tier Model 3 — although the company never promised to offer that perk, either.

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