Tesla Info: Do I have free supercharging?
Do I have free unlimited supercharging on my Tesla? This is a very common question as there are cars with unlimited supercharging, there are cars without, and there are cars that have it but will lose it if the car is sold, and there are even cars that had it indefinitely and now do not. Through this guide we try and explain how to find out, although if you're basing a purchasing decision on this information, ask Tesla to confirm.
History of Free supercharging.
Supercharging, free supercharging, unlimited free supercharging, transferable free supercharging, lifetime unlimited free supercharging are all terms that get used in this area so we'll quickly walk through the history.
- Supercharging has always been a Tesla thing and other than the very earliest cars with the smallest battery, it was included as part of the car. Some of these very early cars had to pay to have supercharging enabled, but there are only a handful of cars that have not had supercharging enabled so we'll assume all cars can supercharge.
- Supercharging when introduced was free. This gave the car owners the ability to supercharge for free. There was however no fair use policy and while Tesla did state the purpose of supercharging was to enable long distance travel, it did not prohibit the use of superchargers in any way.
- In late 2016 Tesla decided that giving away unlimited free supercharging was not a sustainable action and decided that new cars would be replaced with paid for supercharging with a nominal 400kwh included amount. The rules for the cut over were slightly complex as the car needed to be ordered in 2016, and delivered by the end of March 2017, but then the dates moved around a bit and got extended due to production issues and prices changes and there's no "cars after this VIN", but roughly speaking cars registered before April 2017 will have unlimited although don't take that as a hard and fast rule for a number of reasons (see below).
- This went down badly and Tesla updated the referral system to give buyers who used a referral code unlimited supercharging, but then made a hash of the wording. To cut a long story short, while the referral scheme awarded buyers unlimited supercharging, it would only be for the life of their ownership of the car.
- You will find people quoting various dates, timelines and features, in part because initially Tesla did not put an expiry date on the referral offer and secondly the offer talked about supercharging for life. A number of people inferred they could have unlimited free supercharging for their lifetime, not the cars. The wording was ambiguous and Tesla did clarify the situation although some insist they still have their interpretation of the initial wording, there is no evidence they have been able to put this into play, partly because new MS and MX purchases have nearly always been available with unlimited supercharging for the first owner.
- As a jesture of goodwill Tesla also retrospectively applied this to cars delivered between the old cut off and the referral scheme starting to gift charging to avoid bad feelings.
- This ran for a couple of years and then changed repeatedly over late 2018/2019 including removing the ablity to get unlimited charging, having different schemes on the M3 to the MS and MX, to drop the 400kwh annual allowance if the car did not have unlimited supercharging, and so on.
- For clarity, any car with unlimited supercharging delivered after that very original unlimited supercharging scheme, ie since referrals for supercharging started, were limited to the first owner only.
- Tesla having dropped the 400kwh allowance on cars without free supercharging, have adopted a referral scheme where 1000 free supercharging miles are awarded, although even this has beem 4000 miles at one point. These miles need to be used within a fixed time window. For the purposes of this, we're going to ignore this as its largely just a credit to your paid supercharging account although even 1000 miles is not 1000 miles and is converted to a number of kwh and M3 owners seem to get more miles than an MX owner due to the efficiency differences.
- Just when you thought you understood it, when Tesla have a car with transferable unlimited free supercharging returned to them, either by part exchange or end of lease, they are removing the unlimited free supercharging. As a result, a 2016 car which previously was a safe bet to having unlimited free supercharging, may no longer have it even if bought privately if its been through Teslas hands.
If you're a little confused and bemused by all this then you are not the only ones. A relatively simple thing has become very complex with multiple permutations and with changing dates, but it boils down to some quite simple basics on a given car, indicated by the option code:
- SC00: The car has supercharging enabled but you pay for it.
- SC01: The car has unlimited free supercharging enabled and this is transferable to the next owner
- SC05: The car has unlimited free supercharging enabled but this is not transferable to the next owner
So which option does my car have?
There are a number of ways. The first is to ask Tesla which is not particularly practical at the moment with service centres not having a phone line. The other options include a combination of using the cars options/configuration codes, looking at the cars charging screen and knowing when the car was first registered. It is almost certain that any car registered after March 2017 will not have transferable charging, although it may have unlimited charging for the current owner.
Reading the cars option codes
Generally the safest way to tell is to get access to the Tesla option codes for the car. To do this you either need access to the MyTesla account details for the account the car is listed under. This is fine if its your car or if you were buying as part of a private sale, but impractical if you were buying from a dealer.
If you have access to the MyTesla account then you can dig into the HTML of the web page for your car. You need to select the "View Details" option for the car and then examine the HMTL. To do this, browsers like Chrome have the ability to "View Page source", sometimes by right clicking on the page and selecting from the pop up menu or by going to the web browser menus. Within the HTML you are looking for a block of text started with the word "OptionCodes". After this there is a string of option codes that looks a little like "["$BP01","$ADPX2","$AU01","$DA02","$APD2","$X028"....". You need to select and copy this string and paste it into the bottom box on car info and we'll decode them all. It would of course be much easier if Tesla just made it clear to everyone including in the car.
If the car is being sold by Tesla then the Tesla listing will tell you, although we go one step further and break down the option codes on our inventory listing site.
Reading the charging display
This method is not guaranteed to determine if the car has transferable supercharging without other information however we understand it is accurate in most cases and may still be useful if you are looking at a used car, especially pre March 2017 cars that originally had unlimited free supercharging but where it may have been revoked. To use this method gain access to the car and have the key nearby so the main screen starts up.
If you press the charging icon on the top left of the screen it will bring up the charging display. In the bottom right hand corner you will find a display that says something along the lines of current session or paid charging.
We understand that if the display says "Current Session" and beneath that "No Recent Supercharging, the car has unlimited free charging although this alone does not tell you if it is transferable although in many cases it will be.
If the car was first registered before March 2017, then this charging should also be transferable to the new owner. A pre March 2017 registered car that has been sold by Tesla and had the free supercharging removed should not say "No recent supercharging". If this is crucial to your purchasing decision then we reiterate that the only way to be 100% certain is to validate with Tesla.
If it says "Current Session" and beneath that details for a charging session, even if priced at zero, we believe this car does not have unlimited and transferable free supercharging. It may currently have unlimited free supercharging if the price is zero but this will not transfer to the next owner.
As yet another twist, even if the car has paid for supercharging, the current referral scheme will reward you with an amount of free supercharging for each referral you make so the car may appear to be costing nothing to charge, but in practice this a transient situation.
Be wary of trade sales. Where a car has been returned to Tesla and Tesla have sold the car into trade either directly or via an auction, they are likely to remove free supercharging however it can take some time for this to be reflected. If buying from a dealer then ask where they sourced the car.