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by Matt Campbell

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Tesla‘s controversial decision to make its customers pay for access to its Supercharger network of fast-charge stations is going ahead, and the brand has announced estimates of what it will cost for owners to travel across different routes around the world.

The most pertinent locally, of course, is the jaunt down the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne. Tesla‘s Australian team has said this trip will cost about $38, based on a price of $0.35 per kWh.

According to Tesla, the move to ask buyers to pay for the fast charging service “allows us to reinvest in the network, accelerate its growth, relieve congestion, and bring all Tesla owners, current and Model 3, the best Supercharging experience”.

Buyers who order their new Model S or Model X after 15 January 2017 will get 400 kWh (kiloWatt-hours) of Supercharger credits, which the brand says will get them about 1600 kilometres of free motoring, and they get this every year on the anniversary of the car’s delivery. Existing owners have free Supercharger access for the life of their car.

So, why that amount of credits?

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“We carefully considered current Supercharger usage and found that 400 kWh covers the annual long-distance driving needs of the majority of our owners,” the blog post on Tesla’s site read. “As a result, most owners will continue to enjoy the benefits of Supercharging on road trips at no additional cost.”

It is, essentially, a disincentive for owners to go and park their car and top it up on the way home from work. One would assume Tesla is also pushing owners to purchase a Tesla Power Wall home battery system to run their house and car.

In other places such as the US, pricing is fixed depending on where you are – the company will, generally, charge owners per kWh when they visit a Supercharger, but some regions will require minute-by-minute pricing.

“We are only aiming to recover a portion of our costs and set up a fair system for everyone; this will never be a profit centre for Tesla,” the post said. “Customers can just plug in, charge up, and access their charging history anytime through their MyTesla account.

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“What’s important is that in every region, Supercharging will remain simple, seamless and always significantly cheaper than gasoline,” the post said.

It estimates a trip from San Francisco would cost US$10 ($13.36), while it would be about US$100 ($133.60) to go from LA to New York. A trip from Beijing to Shanghai could cost ¥391 ($75.70), while Paris to Rome would be approximately €55 ($77.97).

Let’s do the maths for Australia, though. To do that trip from the guts of Sydney to the middle of Melbourne – 873 kilometres, according to Google – in the best-selling petrol vehicle in the country, the Toyota Corolla, would indeed be a bit dearer than in a Tesla.

The average cost of petrol right now, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, is $1.28 per litre – and the Corolla has a claimed average fuel use of 6.1 litres per 100km in the bulk-selling automatic hatchback specification. That means to travel that distance in the Corolla would, theoretically (if it hit its claimed fuel use), cost $68.20.

Still, fuelling up in a Corolla would take you all of three or four minutes, where you might find yourself stopping to Supercharge every few hundred kilometres for at least 30-40 minutes a go, as we did when we drove from Sydney to Melbourne in a Model S in 2015.

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