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 gesture 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 ability 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 been 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 monetary credit to your paid supercharging account.
- 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 Tesla's hands since the change in policy.
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:
- SC01: The car has unlimited free supercharging enabled and this is transferable to the next owner via a private sale. This can only occur on cars registered before April 2017 but not all cars will have it.
- SC04: The car has supercharging enabled but you pay for each charge. Any referral miles will give you a credit towards the supercharging cost.
- SC05: The car has unlimited free supercharging currently enabled but this is not transferable to the next owner and the car will revert to SC04 following a sale. This can be on any car but is most common on cars from April 2017 and still registered to the first owner.
Just to add a little extra interest, for a short while Tesla offered unlimited free supercharging but for a fixed duration, usually 6 months.
- SC06: The car has time bound unlimited free supercharging. Its unknown whether this transfers to the next owner in the event of a sale.
So which option does my car have?
There are a number of ways although when looking at cars to buy not all of these options may be available to you.
- Ask Tesla which is not particularly practical at the moment with service centres not having a phone line.
- Looking in MyTesla. Select Manage->View details and you should see on the right hand side whether the car has Free Unlimited Supercharging. This unfortunately does not necessarily mean it is transferable and on cars built after 2017 it will not be. .
- From the same View Details page examine 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. We believe this is the most reliable way other than asking Tesla themselves.
- If the car is being sold by Tesla then the Tesla listing will tell you. We go one step further and break down the option codes on our inventory listing site so it may be worth finding the car on our site to find out whether the charging is transferable or not.
- If you are looking at a car privately and do not have easy access to any of the above, you can determine if the car does not have free charging by looking at the charging screen. The opposite of not having free charging is however not that it is transferable, only that the current owner does not pay. You will still need to confirm with the seller.
- 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.
- In the bottom right is should display "Current Session" and beneath that either a monetary value or "No Recent Supercharging". The former means the car does not have unlimited free charging, the latter that the current owner probably does, although this alone does not tell you if it is transferable although in many cases it will be.
- If the car was first registered after March 2017, then irrespective of what the display says, supercharging will not be transferable
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.