One of Tesla’s biggest competitive advantages in North America has been its network of chargers, most of which can only charge Tesla vehicles.
According to Tesla, Tesla chargers outperform the so-called CCS chargers used by Ford, General Motors, Audi, Rivian and others by a factor of two to one. Now, Tesla has invited other automakers to build cars with charging connectors that can work with Tesla’s charging format, and invited other charging companies like EVGo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America to outfit their chargers with Tesla-style connectors.
However, it’s not yet clear if other companies could, or ever will, accept the offer.
Tesla drivers have long been able to use CCS chargers with a simple adapter that fits over the charging connector. But to actually have a Tesla-style charging cable – Tesla now has it calling it the “North American Charging Standard” or NACS, although that’s not an official government designation – would make the process easier and eliminate the need to buy an adapter.
For non-Tesla vehicles, the ability to use a Tesla Supercharger — the company’s name for its fast chargers — was more complicated and, at best, required a special adapter purchased from another company. Even then it may still not work because the communication between cars and the charger is different.
Driving with a Tesla-style NACS charging station will make that much easier. But so far, no automakers and no charging companies have announced plans for Tesla to take up the offer, announced in a blog post on Friday.
The company and its CEO, Elon Musk, have previously discussed opening up its charging network to non-Tesla vehicles. The company started in Europe, where Tesla vehicles come equipped with a European version of the industry-standard CCS-style charging connectors.
On the same day Tesla announced its offer for other companies to use its charging format, charging company EVGo announced a temporary offer for Tesla drivers with a CCS adapter to use EVGo fast charging stations without paying monthly subscription fees.
Under EVGo’s existing plan, called Autocharge+, Tesla drivers can use the EVGo phone app to connect and quickly start a charging session. The timing of EVGo’s promotional announcement was coincidental, said EVGo commercial officer Jonathan Levy, and EVGo has no current plans to add Tesla charging cables to its stations.
In the past, Tesla has offered to allow other companies to use various Tesla-patented technologies, but this meant companies had to honor Tesla’s “patent promise.”
Under the terms of this agreement, companies wanting to use Tesla technologies had to agree not to sue Tesla for any type of patent infringement or help other companies do so, making Tesla’s patent-sharing offer essentially a one-way street.
It’s unclear if Tesla’s patent pledge for using the NACS charging standard applies. Tesla, which generally does not respond to media questions, did not respond to emailed questions on the subject.
Bill Visnic, editorial director of the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, said he didn’t think automakers would take up the offer. CCS is a standard developed by SAE together with a consortium of automobile manufacturers.
“There’s a lot of work and collaboration involved,” he said.
However, even Visnic admitted that Tesla chargers tend to be more reliable and easier to use than other public chargers.
In terms of charging companies, Visnic said it’s likely they’ll want to keep their chargers with the CCS standard, as Tesla already has a larger network of chargers and many Tesla drivers can easily use an adapter. (Some Tesla vehicles will not work with CCS adapters.)
But charging companies may want to add these cables because they could bring in new customers, said Jim Burness, CEO of National Car Charging, a wholesaler of equipment for the electric vehicle charging industry. Burness owns a Tesla as his personal vehicle.
“This will help owners of the older Teslas who otherwise would not only have to buy an adapter, but would also have to pay to retrofit their car if the plug is right there at the station,” he said.