(credit: Lee Hutchinson)

When it comes to succeeding in the marketplace with an alternative energy vehicle, building a good car is only one part of the equation. If you want lots of people to adopt the new technology, they have to be able to recharge it regularly and with ease. It's arguably a reason that Tesla's cars have been such a hit. Fifteen minutes on a supercharger will give an empty Model S or Model X a range of more than 100 miles, enough to reach the next supercharger (lather, rinse, repeat).

Even more appealing is the fact that those Model S and Model X drivers don't have to pay anything for the privilege; access to the company's supercharger network is factored into the purchase price (although it was a $2,500 option for the less-powerful Model S at one point). Unfortunately for the more than 400,000 people who've ordered a Model 3, this won't be the case. During a shareholder call on Tuesday, Elon Musk explained that economics mean that Tesla is not going to offer that same deal to customers of the $40,000 electric vehicle.

The cheapest Model S costs $71,500 before any tax incentives or rebates, and most customers spend a lot more than that to buy the more powerful 90kWh version. By contrast, the Model 3 will almost cost half that amount, produced in much larger volume. It is likely that Tesla will offer Model 3 customers a cost option for lifetime access to the network, but Musk told shareholders that the company will have to charge Model 3 owners something, because it hasn't worked out how to do it for free.

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