Tesla Cuts Entire Supercharger Team Despite Receiving $17 Million in Federal Grants

Tesla, the electric vehicle and clean energy company, announced on Tuesday that it will lay off all staff involved with its new vehicle and Supercharger teams. The sudden decision has left industry observers puzzled over CEO Elon Musk’s intentions and the future of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, particularly as other automakers recently switched to Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS).

This move comes as a surprise, especially since Tesla has emerged as a major beneficiary of federal grants for electric vehicle charging under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. According to Politico, Tesla has garnered nearly 13% of all such grants awarded, amounting to over $17 million. Given that Tesla’s Supercharger network is currently the most extensive in the country, this level of funding isn’t inherently problematic. In fact, with Tesla’s agreements allowing non-Tesla electric vehicles to use its Superchargers, the figure might even seem modest. Tesla’s charging network, often criticized in other areas, is widely acclaimed for its efficiency and reach.

However, the substantial federal funding could also be seen as Tesla avoiding further grants to prevent any appearance of the federal government disproportionately favoring Tesla or creating a state-funded monopoly. Despite this, Politico notes that the 13% share of total grants is unlikely to raise antitrust claims.

Tesla’s advantage isn’t solely due to its existing infrastructure. The company proposes and constructs significantly larger charging centers at a fraction of the cost compared to its competitors. For instance, the $17 million granted to Tesla covered the construction of 41 charging stations, whereas Oklahoma-based Francis Energy reportedly needed $30.4 million to build 37 stations.

Amidst accepting federal funds, CEO Elon Musk has publicly criticized President Joe Biden’s administration, using harsh terms on social media and endorsing far-right conspiracy theories. This juxtaposition between accepting government support and publicly denouncing government policies underscores a complex relationship between Tesla and federal initiatives aimed at enhancing the U.S. infrastructure for electric vehicles.