Tesla Plans To Let Other Automakers Use Its Charging Connector But There’s A Huge Catch

Tesla Supercharger Topshot

Electric vehicle charging is a little bit of a mess right now, and having a mix of DC fast charging connectors likely isn’t helping. Certain Japanese EVs like the Nissan Leaf use a CHAdeMO connector, Tesla uses its own proprietary connector on North American models, and the majority of non-Tesla EVs on sale use a Combined Charging System connector, or CCS for short.

However, not all CCS connectors are the same. In North America, Central America, South Korea, and Taiwan, most cars use a CCS Combo 1 connector, while everywhere else except China uses the CCS Combo 2 connector. To make things even more confusing, Tesla has now offered up its connector design for any EV manufacturer to use, while giving its connector a new name – NACS, short for North American Charging Standard.

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So what on earth does this mean? Well, it means that Tesla’s Supercharger network will largely remain exclusive to Tesla owners for now. As per Tesla’s media release, “Similarly, we look forward to future electric vehicles to future electric vehicles incorporating the NACS design and charging at Tesla’s North American Supercharging and Destination Charging networks.” No indication that future North American Supercharger stations will support CCS connectors, just a wish that other EVs will start using Tesla’s style of connector.

So, will any major manufacturers adopt the Tesla connector standard? I doubt it. Now that other automakers and charging station manufacturers are pulling more than 250 kW through CCS, there’s little incentive to switch from the standard. Plus, Tesla’s current V3 Superchargers aren’t the fastest things on the planet, maxing out at 250 kW, and this isn’t the first time Tesla’s voiced interest in opening up its Supercharging network to other manufacturers.

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In fact, TechCrunch reported that Tesla wanted to open up its Supercharging network to cars from other manufacturers way back in 2014. That’s eight long years of inaction, which suggests that if automakers weren’t eager to adopt Tesla’s standard back in 2014, they’re just as unlikely to do so now. There’s also an issue of the politics and fine print of adopting another automaker’s charging standard. Since DC fast charging requires an exchange of information between car and charging station, adopting Tesla’s connector theoretically could allow Tesla to pull a bunch of data from other automakers’ EVs.

If anything, the biggest potential benefit of this plan could come in the form of Tesla-style connectors on non-Tesla DC fast charging networks. Indeed, Tesla states in a media release that “Network operators already have plans in motion to incorporate NACS at their chargers, so Tesla owners can look forward to charging at other networks without adapters.” So why would Tesla owners want to stray from the Supercharging network? Well, some third-party DC fast charging networks offer advantageous rates that Tesla owners may be looking to take advantage of, plus opening things up to third-party networks means that Tesla owners aren’t locked into a proprietary ecosystem.

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In summation, while it’s now theoretically possible for other automakers to adopt Tesla’s style of charging connector, the biggest winners in this whole story are likely Tesla owners seeking different charging networks. While Tesla’s connector does hold advantages such as its small footprint, it’s unlikely that other major automakers will abandon CCS for it. While it would be great to eventually see a global charging standard, it looks like we’ll continue to use a mix of connectors for the foreseeable future.

All photos courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

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84 Responses

  1. Tesla had to come up with a charging system, as there was no standard here at that time. They still have more than the others put together. Why wouldn’t drivers want easy access to such a large network of chargers.

  2. Really cool that we’re doing the 2000s cell phone charging cable mess all over again with things that cost a hundred times more per unit.

    Everyone but Apple has now standardized. Apple gets away with the Lightning cable and refusing to support group text standards because they have a huge majority of the market and they are keeping it for the foreseeable future.

    Tesla isn’t Apple. They are losing their lead and their market share, and they’re going to be more and more burned by this incompatibility the longer they put off standardizing. Looking at the huge amount of federal money earmarked for charging infrastructure along U.S. highways and saying “nah we got this” is hilarious.

  3. Article is misinformed on a few points.

    Tesla released specifications along with the announcement. The connector is capable of far greater power levels than CCS1 is, up to 900kw. Tesla’s present chargers don’t define the maximum power the connector can handle.

    And as far as “pulling data”, this has absolutely nothing to do with connectors. The author in a couple spots mixes up connectors with charging protocols. I can use an NACS connector on a charger that I design. I don’t have to use Tesla’s protocols, nor send data to Tesla!

    The biggest reason automakers might actually adopt this plug is the high reliability of Tesla charging stations compared to CCS. CCS1 has been a miserable failure on ease of use and reliability, with a recent study showing a huge 25% failure rate for CCS charging. I’m sure this can be improved, but frankly, the CCS1 standard incorporates some poor design decisions which are now intrinsic to the connector system.

    As EV adoption takes off, this will be unacceptable to consumers. Moving to NACS will be the easiest solution.

    1. “As EV adoption takes off, this will be unacceptable to consumers. Moving to NACS will be the easiest solution.”

      You got the first part right at least.

      Either there will be adapters for ~$100, or if not, Tesla is going to start to find it impossible to build new charging stations and they will fall behind as more and more CCS chargers get built.

      No automakers will take Tesla up on this, just like last time they “offered” their charing standard to other manufacturers. They’ve already completely lost their EV manufacturing lead, and the charging lead will be gone in 2 years max. This is what death throes look like for a proprietary system.

  4. the tesla dc fast charging seems to be kind of picky with regard to what it will charge. Even among it’s own cars if the vehicle was rebuilt or bought outside of a tesla dealer they seems to now allow the fast charge option for some reason.

  5. Huge catch? What are you talking about?!
    “will any major manufacturers adopt the Tesla connector standard? I doubt it. Now that other automakers and charging station manufacturers are pulling more than 250 kW through CCS, there’s little incentive to switch from the standard”
    Yeah, but what about the opportunity to tap into the best charging network in the world, one with tons of chargers, in great locations, that always work?! Nah, you’re right, not a good reason, I see your logic!

    1. There’s also the risk of placing the standard in the hands of a single competitor rather than one like CCS that has been cross-industry consortium that develops standards (like SAE) that take all stakeholders into consideration.

      1. Why would SAE not accept the NACS standard now that Tesla has released it? I’m curious what you think their reason would be.

        A reminder that CCS was also developed by automakers. German auto companies hold the patents, and profit from licensing.

        1. “Released”?

          Read that press release again more closely. Nowhere does it say that it’s free to implement. And that’s before you even get to what they might charge non-Tesla owners.

          The “mess” of charging standards doesn’t look like such a mess when you ignore the irrelevant fact that chargers are incompatible in places you can’t drive your car across an ocean to. CCS is fine. And it won. Tesla hasn’t figured out that they blew their lead yet. Yawn.

    2. Tesla’s network lead is temporary, and it will continue to shrink as long as they use a non-standard connector. The fact of the matter is that they’re not the only game in town anymore. Fewer and fewer places will allow Tesla to build single-brand chargers going forward – and make no mistake, offering this “standard” will not trick anybody. Meanwhile the other networks are catching up.

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