Charging up your Tesla isn’t the bargain it used to be.
Elon Musk’s company has hiked the price for juicing up its electric cars at one of its Supercharger stations by nearly 20 percent — further shrinking the savings it can offer versus gas-guzzling vehicles.
The 19-percent increase announced on Tuesday actually marked a U-turn from a Friday announcement that it was jacking up the price of juice by a full 33 percent — a painful markup that sparked a weekend backlash from Tesla owners.
Still, even with the smaller markup, the per-mile cost of driving a Tesla Model 3 sedan — about 7 cents per mile — is now only 30 percent less than that of, say a comparably priced BMW 330i sedan that averages 10 cents per mile with recent gasoline prices.
That’s a far cry from last September, when Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations — which now number 10,000 worldwide — were offered free of charge for owners who had bought on referrals the souped-up versions of Tesla’s Model S, Model X and Model 3.
With Tuesday’s increase, the average national rate for juice at a Tesla Supercharger station is now 28 cents per kWh. In Manhattan, it’s 29 cents.
For a mid-range Tesla with a 62 kWh battery, a full charge in New York City costs just under $18 and gets you 267 miles of range. By comparison, a full tank of gas for a BMW 330i in Manhattan costs $35.72 and will tke you 358.8 miles.
Tesla owners can charge their cars at home, but filling the battery can take as long as 12 hours. A Supercharger can bring a Tesla to 60 percent capacity in 30 minutes, although that’s still about 29 minutes longer than it takes to fill a gas tank.
Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA Research, called Tesla’s increased Supercharger prices “a concern,” noting they occurred less than three weeks after a federal electric-vehicle tax credit was cut in half to $3,750 on Jan. 1.
“A lot of people don’t think about the electricity costs,” Nelson said. “But it can add up.”
Tesla last week also said it would eliminate its referral program, which currently allows Tesla users to gift 6 free months of Supercharger network access to their friends with the purchase of a vehicle.
In a tweet, chief executive Elon Musk said that the burden of giving out free charging to new customers was “adding too much cost to the cars, especially Model 3.”
Musk last week also announced that Tesla would be laying off 3,400 workers as it attempts to lower the price tag of the Model 3 — a vehicle considered Tesla’s key to sustained profitability.
In his letter to employees, the Musk admitted that Tesla’s fourth-quarter profits trailed those of the third quarter. Tesla, which announces its earnings at the end of the month, hopes to squeeze out “a tiny profit,” Musk said, but only with “great difficulty, effort and some luck.” Still, the cost-cutting measures may not be enough at the moment. Goldman Sachs said Tuesday that it sees growing pains in store for Tesla and the Model 3.
“We believe that 2019 is shaping up to be another choppy year for Tesla and its shares as it navigates the US Federal Tax Credit phase-out and mix-down of its Model 3 program,” analyst David Tamberrino said in a note.
Tesla shares closed down 1.1 percent at $298.92.