Here’s How A Simple Adapter Can Let You Plug A Regular EV Or PHEV Into A Tesla Level 2 Charger

Charger Adapter Topshot

The Tesla charging network is really annoying if you happen to own any electric car that isn’t a Tesla. I mean think about it, at least with Apple’s Lightning cable, the charging brick remains the same. With Tesla-specific charging stations, proprietary cables are hardwired to a box, meaning that you can’t just plug in the cable that came with your electric car. Hell, it’s simply not possible for a regular electric car with a CCS or CHAdeMO connector to hook up to a Tesla Supercharger Level 3 fast charging station. But that doesn’t mean that Tesla-specific Level 2 chargers are truly off-limits.

Tesla charger adapter
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Now, Level 2 chargers aren’t exactly the handiest things on the world when you’re on the road. They’re great for overnight charging, or if you’re spending a few hours at a location, or if you just need a few miles of range to make it to a fast charger, but they won’t do for a quick and proper recharge. However, there are more than 3,000 of these Level 2 Tesla chargers showing on Tesla’s map, destinations like hotels may have Tesla-specific Level 2 charging, and for around $150 to $250, just about any PHEV or EV can use them. All it takes is an extra little dongle.

Sae J1772 Diagram
Modified from Michael Hicks / Flickr “mulad”, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19025533

See, the fastest DC fast chargers require liquid-cooled cables, while Level 2 chargers are decidedly lower-tech. Generally, they only need a couple of connections. Take the J1772 plug, generally considered the North American standard for most EVs and PHEVs. It can’t supply a ton of juice, but it does the trick for 240-volt AC power. Looking at the pins, you have one for the first phase of 120-volt AC power, one for the second phase of 120-volt AC power, one that functions as a ground pin, one as a control pilot for vehicle communication, and one proximity pin for contact testing.

Tesla Charger Labeled
Modified from Paul Sladen – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75261476

Looking at a Level 2 Tesla plug, you’ll see two big pins for power, one medium-sided pin for ground, and two pins for communication purposes. Hey, I’ve seen this one before. Yep, it turns out that Tesla’s Level 2 connector is not too dissimilar to a J1772 plug. Well, once someone figured that out, they realized it was possible to make an adapter to plug a car equipped with a J1772 charging port into a Tesla Level 2 charger. Now, there are a ton of companies that take one female Tesla-style port, wire it to a male J1772 connector, then sheath the wiring nicely to prevent abrasion.

Tesla Charger Adapter Id4
Photo credit: u/taney71 / Reddit

Before buying one of these adapters, you first have to consider amperage. It’s not uncommon for houses to have 30-amp service, but commercial properties are often equipped with 50-amp service, plus 50-amp service is starting to be commonplace in homes. While Level 2 chargers certainly allow for the use of a 40 amp adapter, an adapter that supports more current theoretically allows for faster charging. Also, it’s worth looking up forum experiences to see if your vehicle is supported by a particular adapter. I’ve used TeslaTap’s 50-amp adapter on Hyundai and Kia EVs, a Volkswagen ID.4, a Toyota Prius Prime, and a Volvo XC90 Recharge, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work on all models.

Tesla To J1772 Charger Adapter
Photo credit: Amazon

It’s also worth mentioning form factor. Some adapters are quite compact, integrating the Tesla socket and J1772 connector into one solid form, while some feature flexible cable between the two connectors. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter style – not only are they often cheaper than integrated units, a little extra cable length is rarely a bad thing. The downside is that this style of adapter requires more in-vehicle storage space. Not a huge problem if you drive an F-150 Lightning, but not ideal if your electric chariot is a Smart Fortwo ED.

Polestar Tesla Charger Adapter
Photo credit: julianm / Polestar Forum

Honestly, a Tesla to J1772 connector should be part of every keen EV owner’s trunk kit. You never know when it can come in handy, be it for overnight destination charging or for the sake of emergency use. It’s nice having a little extra choice should you find yourself just far enough away from a Level 3 charging station that you can’t juice up. Looking at a variety of online sources like TeslaTap and EVSE Adapters, it seems like a 40-amp adapter typically retails for between $140 and $150, while an 80-amp adapter typically retails for between $240 and $250. Not exactly cheap, but mitigation of range anxiety rarely is. Until the charging network improves in both scale and reliability, having one of these adapters can open up new places for road trips, new places to stay, and potentially streamlined route planning. A bit more freedom can be a really beautiful thing.

Lead photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

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26 Responses

  1. I’m curious about potential warranty and liability issues. Based on my half-assed research using the links provided, it looks like the manufacturers cover defects of the product but what happens outside of that? If one of these happens to do serious damage to your car due to design or manufacturing defects, that could potentially be an eye-watering bill. I’m no fancy, big-city lawyer, but it seems to me you could open yourself up to some serious liability if plugging in an unauthorized device damages a charging station.

    Perhaps I’m overthinking this?

  2. I have a 3rd-generation Tesla charger w/ a CCS connector, which is the standard Tesla home charger here in Australia as all Teslas sold here have CCS connectors.

    I was looking around thought the settings on the charger and you can limit charging to only approved Telsas, only Teslas, or any car. So, if whomever set up the charger is a jerk, they could block non-Teslas from an otherwise-compatible charger.

  3. Looking at the Department of Energy’s EV charger map there are 41,018 J1772 Level 2 chargers in the USA and only 4,640 Tesla destination chargers. I think I will stick with the adopted US standard instead of buying an adapter to use Tesla chargers. It won’t be long before Tesla makes the switch anyways.

  4. I’ve driven PHEV’s for the better part of the last 8 years, and just don’t recall seeing these Tesla chargers hardly anywhere.

    Not the worst thing to have additional options, but i can see these collecting a lot of dust honestly.

    1. It’s because you have a non-Tesla that you don’t seek them out. They are all over the place. The 3,000 mentioned is a massive understatement because those are only the ones the owner chose to broadcast publicly. There are a lot not on the map, but get added to your own Tesla’s private nav map when you connect. They are typically at hotels, businesses, national parks, personal residences, etc. By design they are at places where your car will sit for a while since they are level 2, and not meant for travelers to use passing through. Often there is only one or two per location, and often they are in use. I have one in my garage I charge at daily.

  5. I suppose there are also Tesla-to-CHAdeMO ones and J1772-to-CHAdeMO (and really at this point Nissan should throw in one of the latter with every Leaf) but there are fewer choices for those?

    1. Yes, Tesla has a Tesla to CHAdeMO adapter. Nissan doesn’t need a J1772 to CHAdeMO because CHAdeMO is only used for DC charging so Nissan have a J1772 socket next to the CHAdeMO for AC charging.

  6. “It’s not uncommon for houses to have 30-amp service, but commercial properties are often equipped with 50-amp service, plus 50-amp service is starting to be commonplace in homes.”

    This will be very pedantic of me, but the quote above makes my left eyelid twitch so deal with it.

    No buildings that I’m aware of have 40 or 50 amp service. I have performed site visits (for solar, batteries, and EV chargers) on literally thousands of homes, and the lowest service I’ve ever seen was 60 amps, and that only twice on some really shitty old condo units in a rough part of Boston that hadn’t seen a licensed electrician since the Carter administration. The overwhelming majority of houses have 100 or 200 amp service, with 400 amp becoming increasingly common as more and more things get electrified. Commercial services typically start at 200 amps and go up from there; the highest I’ve personally encountered is 1600 amps of 277/480V 3-phase Wye, although there’s plenty of much bigger stuff out there that I’ve never touched.

    Sorry, let me step back a bit and explain. Article 100 in the NEC defines a service as, “the point of connection between the facilities of the serving utility and the premises wiring.” When we refer to electrical service, we’re talking about the connection between the utility and the consumer, e.g. the overhead wire coming off a pole-mounted transformer and running down the side of your house, through a meter, and terminating at your house’s main breaker. An EV charger is not part of an electrical service, although it is almost always served by one. An EV charger is a load. A load is any piece of electrical equipment that consumes electrical energy to perform a function.

    Level 2 EV chargers start at 32 amps, which requires a 40 amp breaker because 40 amps is what you get when you multiply 32 amps by the 1.25x continuous load correction factor that applies to anything which is expected to run at max power for three or more hours at a time. Tesla has been offering Level 2 home chargers for at least three years now that can be set (by the installer, not the homeowner) for up to 80 amps, depending on how much headroom (available ampacity, which is found through some fairly involved calculations that take into account things like all the appliances in your home and what the typical usage patterns for those appliances are, all standardized and regulated by the NEC, and definitely not by just adding up the numbers on all your circuit breakers) there is in the home’s electrical service and how many amps the charger’s branch circuit is sized for. (Don’t go opening up your Tesla charger and dialing up the power. Best case scenario, it’ll just pop its breaker every time you try to use it. Worst case, your house burns down in the middle of the night while your family is sleeping.) That’s not electrical service though, that’s just the load’s current rating.

    Anyway, I just had to get that out there. I understood what you meant of course, but referring to an EV charger’s current rating as a service is a bit like pulling up to a tire shop and asking for new wheels. The people there will get your meaning, but they’ll also die a little bit inside.

    1. Hey Halftrack….your account picture looks more like a Greenbrier than an ElCamino.

      Sounds like you’re also a long time wireman too.
      Going out on a limb here…but “happy retirement”.

    2. “Commercial services typically start at 200 amps and go up from there; the highest I’ve personally encountered is 1600 amps of 277/480V 3-phase Wye, although there’s plenty of much bigger stuff out there that I’ve never touched.”

      I work in a 150k sq. ft. machine shop – I am really curious what our rated service capacity is. Electrical rating on most of our bigger machines is on the order of 30-50 kVA. That’s something like 80A per machine on average and we have probably 15-20 big ones and a bunch of smaller machines that are in the 10ish kVA range.

    3. I have actually seen a house (well, a duplex half) with 30A service as recently as about 8 years ago. I think it’s a little more common in mild-climate regions that don’t need air conditioner or forced air heat.

  7. I regularly do EV road trips within Florida and Georgia in my non-Tesla EV. I picked up one of these adapters last year and use it as insurance that I’ll be able to charge overnight at my hotel if it advertises EV charging, but doesn’t specify what kind of charger they have.

  8. It should be pointed our that these Destination Chargers are GIVEN FREE to facilities (hotels, malls, etc.) with the stipulation that they arrange parking space and electricity so that Teslas can charge there. Tesla does not receive compensation for their hardware nor for the service in any way. In return the locations get quite a lot of free advertising in the form of appearing on the displays of millions of cars and also improving the service for their patrons at lower cost.

    This article is effectively shouting “This one handy trick allow you to fill up your car for free at the pump!!!1” with the actual article reading “just drive away without paying*”. Little disappointing from a new and upcoming site…

    *(I’m aware that this might not be possible in few places in the US)

    1. Unless the spaces are designated for Teslas specifically, using them is exactly what businesses want people to do. While your car charges, they assume you will spend money at the business. If they have gotten them free from Tesla to basically provide free advertising, the Tesla-branded charger probably provides that.

      1. Just realized I missed an important point: Tesla putting the chargers on their map.

        They probably don’t give a shit who is using them, as long as it builds a larger charging network they can point to as a benefit of owning their vehicle.

    2. Also the purpose of these adapter is allow the owners of home installed HPWC (High Power Wall Charger) to charge non-Tesla vehicles at home. It is of course convenient to be able to offer this to friends and family for example.

      In some cases the HWPC units might appear similar (gen2 especially) to DC (Destination Charger) units but they are not the same*.

      This article is about promoting these adapters for unintended tertiary purpose that might not be exactly criminal (assuming charging is allowed by owner of the facility), but is at least little bit in the grey are of what their intended purpose is and why they we’re given at no-cost.

      Also beyond morality, there is the question of technical risk. These adapters are provided with non-approved connectors as Tesla has not released the design nor allowed third parties to manufacture them. 50 amps @ 208 volts is definitely a non-trivial amount of power to transmit over connectors with questionable standards. Especially when doing so over long periods of time (overnight) and without any monitoring. I would be at least slightly worried about liability this would create.

      *(Technically DC units are not customer orderable and have separate part numbers compared to otherwise similar HWPC units)

      1. Aren’t Superchargers paid anyway? Pretty sure I read about them only being “free” is you now paid at purchase.

        Regardless, whatever arrangement Tesla has with the locations is irrelevant, that’s not widely known information. You’d only know if you went digging. If a company puts “free” chargers anywhere they’re free game to whoever can hook into them. Frankly I also find the thought of morality and Tesla in the same sentence pretty laughable if I’m being totally honest.

        I will say I probably wouldn’t plug one of these adapters into something I paid tens of thousands of dollars into out of fear of some technical mishap, at least not until they’ve proven to be reliable and safe for years.

      2. There is nothing morally questionable about plugging into a public Tesla destination charger. They are put there for customers to use and as a form of advertising to get customers in the door to spend money.

  9. The fact that the article doesn’t mention that this won’t work with Superchargers is a crime.
    The electronic handshake for a Supercharger is different. It has to recognize the vehicle as a Tesla in order to work.
    Folks that don’t know this may end up learning the hard way when they need a charge the most.
    Sad!

    1. From the first paragraph:
      “Hell, it’s simply not possible for a regular electric car with a CCS or CHAdeMO connector to hook up to a Tesla Supercharger Level 3 fast charging station. But that doesn’t mean that Tesla-specific Level 2 chargers are truly off-limits.”

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