Access to Tesla’s Supercharger network is one of the biggest perks to owning a Model S.
At a Supercharger, an owner can have their Model S charged up for free in about 30 minutes.
And owners can do this for the lifetime of the vehicle.
For many, unrestricted access to these stations is a major selling point for the $US100,000 electric cars.
However, in recent months, Tesla owners have been grumbling that the company has been discouraging the use of Superchargers for anything but long-distance trips.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on complaints of overcrowding at a couple of specific charging sites in the network.
According to the Journal, Tesla owners at the Supercharger station in San Juan Capistrano, CA have reported heavy congestion and long wait times.
The station — located between Los Angeles and San Diego — often finds all eight of its Supercharger stalls full of Model S sedans.
Although technically any driver can access the Superchargers at anytime for any reason, the company would prefer that owners charge their vehicles at home and use the network to avoid “range anxiety” on longer journeys.
“Superchargers are intended to make long-distance travel easy and convenient for Model S customers,” A Tesla spokesperson told Business Insider in an email.
“We have over 450 Supercharger stations worldwide, customers have experienced wait times at a very small number of them. We continue to expand the network to meet the needs of our current and future customers.”
At Tesla’s shareholder meeting last month, company CEO Elon Musk addressed the issue directly.
“The Superchargers are basically free long distance travel for life, forever,” Musk said at the meeting. “Now there are quite a few people who are using it for local supercharging.”
“We’ll sort of send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally, but it’s meant to be a long-distance thing.”
Tesla owners could be forgiven for getting confused. When they buy a car, they also buy access to the Supercharger network. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of a free fast charging option? This creates a classic problem, of course: if you offer something for free, people will favour it over the non-free options.
Tesla and its owners now appear to sparring a bit over how the Supercharger network will be used as ownership of Tesla vehicles grows.