Last month Tesla announced (Opens in a new tab) that it was opening up its own connector, in an effort to make it the North American electric vehicle charging standard — renaming it the North American Charging Standard (NACS). A strange move to make now, considering the Tesla charger debuted a decade ago.
I bring this up because Tesla has started Home charging stations for sale at Best Buy (Opens in a new tab). This is the first time that a third party has offered the charger separate from the installation package – suggesting that Tesla may be more serious about getting more Tesla chargers into the world.
It’s easy to see why Tesla has an interest in expanding the reach of its own charger — especially if it can make money licensing the technology to other companies. While it’s hard to imagine other automakers abandoning the combined charging system (CCS) that’s an open standard, its widespread adoption could be beneficial for electric cars and drivers alike.
The Tesla Charger is superior to the CCS in many ways
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is any point in taking sides in a debate about which type of ingredient is best. CCS is an open charging standard, which means it’s available to almost everyone, and has become the default DC charger for cars around the world.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s NACS plug is proprietary, in other words, it can only be used by Tesla and any company that reaches some sort of licensing agreement. It is also only in use in North America, as Teslas outside the continent use replacement plugs – CCS Combo 2 in Europe and Australia, while China uses Type 2 AC and the domestic GB/T DC standard.
Despite its position as the “default” car charger worldwide, many electric vehicle enthusiasts will tell you that the CCS isn’t all that great for a number of reasons. The plug itself is quite large and somewhat bulky, with a noticeable separation between the AC and DC components. Other limitations include a maximum charging speed of 350 kW and no standardized Plug & Charge features yet — although some automakers, like Rivian, offer this on their chargers.
Tesla NACS chargers have one connection for AC and DC, which Tesla Claims It is half the size and weight of the CCS with no moving parts. Looking at it, it is not difficult to see how much more elegant and simple the design is. Tesla also claims the NACS is capable of supporting speeds of up to 1 megawatt, though Tesla Superchargers are currently limited to 250 kilowatts and megawatt speeds are reserved for Tesla Semi trucks.
sharen, The organization responsible for developing easy-to-use carbon dioxide capture and storage technology admits it hasn’t cracked the megawatt charge it would need to electrify trucks, buses and other heavy-duty electric vehicles. But for now, the Megawatt Charging System (MCS) is still in the development stage.
Tesla’s competitors are unlikely to join
Advantages or not, to suggest that competing automakers are adopting Tesla’s charging solution is a big ask. After all, it would be ceding control of shipping technology to a competitor, especially when that competitor, despite slightly declining market share, is like this. The dominant player in the US electric vehicle market.
It would be like asking Android phone makers to adopt Apple’s Lightning connection.
Strange things have happened though. Aptra, the startup responsible for the solar-powered contraption Apira Plus model, has been talking about how great the Tesla charger is for months — even going so far as to launch a petition calling for it to become the North American standard. Not surprisingly, the company has since done so has been confirmed (Opens in a new tab) Her car will use a Tesla NACS charger.
Of course, there is a big difference between a startup and an established automaker. Especially since we don’t know the details about how the company is going to certify the NACS charger. Tesla may have provided design and specification documents Available for free (Opens in a new tab)but there is no information on whether the implementation is free or if a license agreement is necessary.
One key point to mention is that owning a NACS charger does not automatically mean you can use a Tesla Supercharger. Software locks prevent unauthorized use, and you can’t get around them without going ahead with your Tesla. Supercharging is arguably the best reason to adopt NACS, and making the switch wouldn’t make sense without it.
However, the act of charging may be where this decision can do its best work.
Adding Tesla plugs to non-Tesla chargers is better for everyone
Getting its competitors to build cars using the NACS plug is likely to be an uphill battle for Tesla. The same isn’t true of many of the charging networks across the US, most of which are currently unable to cater to Tesla drivers.
As it is, Tesla drivers primarily use Tesla chargers when they are on the road. Third-party chargers do not have the correct plug, and although adapters do exist, they must be purchased separately. But if this changes, a whole new world of charging options will be available to Tesla drivers
Crucially, this can be done without blocking access to people who recharge via CCS. Dual cable chargers are not uncommon, as anyone who’s driven a Nissan Leaf can attest. There are a large number of charging stations that offer CCS and CHAdeMO fast charging.
A non-Tesla charging network that’s been spreading waves of NACS chargers could, in theory, grow its potential customer base by a very large amount. As mentioned earlier, Teslas remain the dominant figures in the US electric vehicle market, with Tesla claiming NACS-ready two-to-one CCS-equipped vehicles. These drivers need to be charged, and their money is just as valid as money from someone in a Chevy Bolt.
This has already happened, too, with EVgo announcing it has added 600 Tesla Chargers to its network Again in February 2021 (Opens in a new tab). Tesla also knows that the opposite is true. While there were other factors in her decision to start opening the Supercharger Network, she’s able to make money off of those cars – and make more money in the process.
Assuming the NACS is open as Tesla suggests, there is nothing to stop all charging networks from working by adding extra cables to their chargers. It is not clear how quickly this will happen. However, a slew of new potential customers can help push charging networks to install more chargers in the areas that need them.
It’s a win for everyone. Tesla benefits from additional chargers for its drivers, without having to build or manage them, while chargers have a new set of customers to generate revenue. Plus, if it leads to more chargers in more locations, better for all the non-Tesla drivers in the world.
This feature should be more visible, though, if Tesla integrates CSS charging cables into Supercharger sites – something Elon Musk has suggested it might be in the works.
But let’s try not to fragment the charging infrastructure
Of course this scenario depends on all of these things combined, and doesn’t just lead to the neglect of CCS charging networks in favor of attracting the masses driving Teslas. The last thing you want is a situation where your CCS software becomes your new CHAdeMO.
Depending on where you are, finding an available (and functional) CHAdeMO charger can be a challenge. This is because most non-Teslas have CCS, and the Nissan Leaf is the only car that still uses CHAdeMO with any significant frequency. I’ve had firsthand experience with this problem, and it’s not pleasant.
Fortunately, it’s hard to imagine other major auto companies moving away from CCS anytime soon. Not unless there is a major shift in the industry. I also can’t imagine Tesla would abandon NACS, certainly not that they’re trying to push it as a standard. Just take a quick look at the Tesla forums and Subreddits to find people criticizing the CCS for one reason or another – especially the way it looks.
So if NACS and CCS are going to coexist side by side, they might as well coexist peacefully. Since the argument about which is better is redundant, and there will be no standardized electric car charger, we might as well make sure that both are available globally.