Tesla Motors Inc. annoyed some owners of its Model S cars with an e-mail requesting that they stop hogging the free fast-charging stations the electric-vehicle maker provides to ease long-distance travel.
“As a frequent user of local Superchargers, we ask that you decrease your local Supercharging and promptly move your Model S once charging is complete,” Tesla said in the note this week to owners in the U.S. and other markets. Plugging in at home instead “allows Supercharger resources to be available for those who need them most.”
Ricardo Reyes, a company spokesman, declined to elaborate on the contents of the letter or how many people got it.
Tesla currently has 495 Supercharger stations worldwide, typically at shopping centers on highways between major cities. They’re not meant for local use, and CEO Elon Musk said at the company’s shareholders meeting in June that Tesla might have to notify those who were abusing them for that purpose.
The e-mails quickly drew criticism on the Tesla Motors Club forum, a privately run online bulletin board for owners and enthusiasts of the company’s cars. Some owners complained that the letter was poorly worded, while others questioned how those notified were chosen, saying they felt wrongly singled out as Supercharger abusers.
“I’m in sympathy with the purpose of the letter, but Tesla sent it to the wrong people,” Bill Hamilton, 70, of Napa, Calif., said in an interview. “This is a classic screw-up. They sent this letter out based on some algorithm that is totally incorrect. Maybe a summer intern ran the programming query. Communications is not Tesla’s strong suit.”
Hamilton said that he regularly charges his Model S at home and that the closest Superchargers to his house are in Vacaville and Petaluma, both about 25 miles from Napa.
Nigel Mould, a Model S owner in Sarasota, Fla., started an online poll in an effort to find out how many Tesla customers received the e-mail. He said he didn’t get it himself.
“My sense is that only a handful of people got the letter. It’s not a big deal,” said Mould, who also has a reservation for a Model X SUV. “The company is passionate and the customers are passionate, and sometimes that’s a double-edged sword.”
Tesla is adding Supercharger stations at the pace of almost one a day, a growth rate Musk has referred to as “kelp on steroids.” As the network has grown, so too has the potential for taking advantage of it and the need to establish a sense of etiquette as to how the stations are used.
“Free long distance forever is what the Superchargers are providing,” Musk said at the shareholders meeting. “Now there are few people who are like quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging. We’re to send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally, but it’s meant to be a long-distance thing.”