Tesla Motors Inc has a SuperCharger problem. The network of high speed chargers, which costs the firm millions to build out each month, is filling up. Tesla wants Model S owners to stop using chargers all the time. Some users, who have had their use of the chargers tracked by Tesla Motors, have received emails asking them to stop using the network in certain cases.
Elon Musk warned this day was coming. Tesla Motors has changed its tone on the SuperCharger network in recent months, adding that it was only to be used for long distance charging rather than local use. Now the firm has started sending emails to those it thinks are cheating the system in order to save on power bills.
Tesla Motors tells users to stop charging
When a user buys a new Tesla Motors Model S, they usually have charging at the firm’s global SuperCharger network included. They pay for the privilege. The firm used to market SuperCharger use as completely free, with no kind of limit on when or where you can charge. That’s clearly changing.
The email reads: “When staying local, please maximize the convenience of home charging by allowing your home to become your personal charging station.”
It urges users to “Simply plug in when you arrive home and Model S will charge right away or at the time you’ve scheduled using the Touchscreen or mobile app.”
There are a number of problems with the email, at least if forum posts about it are believed. First it’s not clear how Tesla Motors decided which users to target. That annoyed a lot of people. Second, it reminds them that they’re being tracked all the time by Elon Musk’s firm.
Tesla Motors targets the wrong people
On the TMC forums many people are angry with the message from Tesla Motors. They don’t think they use their local SuperCharger too much, or they often use it, but only for long journeys. Tesla’s email has made them react in a less than positive way, and that could hurt the firm’s brand going forward.
The email said, “As a frequent users of local SuperChargers, we ask that you decrease your local SuperCharging and promptly move your Model S once charging is complete.”
Many said that they almost always charged at home, and they wondered how Tesla Motors built the list of people that it would send this email to.
One forum user said that they have used their local charger three times in more than 9,000 miles. They wondered if this was enough to make Tesla Motors push him away from the network.
Tesla Motors did not make that process clear, and that’s one of the major problems that Model S drivers seem to have with the way the firm is dealing with the SuperCharger issue.
Will Tesla Motors send users elsewhere?
No other firm has a SuperCharger network, and there’s very few options if you want an EV sedan. That means that for those who want an EV, a Tesla Motors Model S is still the best, if not the only, choice.
Tesla Motors has built a great car, and it has made using it much easier by building a huge network of SuperChargers across the US and beyond. That doesn’t mean the firm is immune to any kind of backlash.
For now Tesla Motors seems content with giving some users a prod and hoping that it will decrease the load on the SuperCharger network. It that doesn’t work, and the issues are causing the firm financial or branding problems, Elon Musk may have to change his tactics and come up with a more forceful way to get Model S buyers to charge their car at home.
Tesla Motors may have to start charging new Model S buyers more to use the network, or they may have to begin asking users to pay for what they use.
The SuperCharger network costs a huge amount of money, though it’s not clear exactly how much from the firm’s earnings reports. It needs to find a way to balance that with the massive boom in sales it forecasts over the next five years.
Tracking users could be a pain
Tesla Motors keeps its cars connected over a wireless data connection at all times. It’s one of the best things about the car. It allows users to update the software, to add features like lane-keeping and auto parking, and it allows Tesla Motors to recall cars that it thinks aren’t working properly.
Most people don’t like to feel like they’re being watched, and judging by the TMC forum posts on the email from Tesla Motors, they don’t like to be told what to do by their car, or the firm that made it.
“Thank you for your cooperation” is the note the email ends on. That’s fairly standard PR talk. When it comes from a firm that’s watching how often you charge your car and where you drive, it could be seen as much more forceful than a “Don’t Litter” sign on a park wall.
Context is everything and, at least for some users, Tesla Motors has just put its car-tracking behavior into clear context. The firm is watching you. If you do something it doesn’t like, it may tell you to stop. If the forum users are believed, Tesla simply isn’t very good at telling who has been stepping over the line and who hasn’t, leading to almost random condemnation.
A lot of people are likely to rethink buying a car that accuses you of various misdeeds from time to time, and Tesla Motors should surely rethink the way they’ve dealt with their small charge cheating problem.
Fixing SuperCharger problems
That’s going to be a major problem for the firm going forward. The SuperCharger network, and the way people are using it, has clearly become a liability. Either it’s costing too much or users are annoyed because they’re being forced to wait in line in order to charge their Model S.
The way Tesla Motors is dealing with it right now is, however, causing problems. They may be limited in scope, and the backlash may last days or hours rather than weeks or months, but Elon Musk and his team should learn from this experience.
Many users feel like Tesla Motors has pulled a bait and switch on them, changing the terms of the network after they handed over the cash to use it. Others simply feel wronged by their receipt of the email. They reckon they don’t abuse the system.
Tesla Motors has caused a rift with some of its biggest fans. That’s not going to boost Wall Street’s confidence in the firm going forward.