Home » Volkswagen Screwed Up Its Charging Network So Badly It Had To Adopt Tesla’s Design

Volkswagen Screwed Up Its Charging Network So Badly It Had To Adopt Tesla’s Design

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For all its faults in quality and corporate bluster, Tesla was a breakout EV automaker in the United States. It didn’t just focus on building cars. it set about establishing a country-wide charging network that would actually enable people to drive them long distances. Volkswagen, in comparison, has faltered in its own efforts to do so and now finds itself adopting Tesla’s own charging connector for its U.S. market EVs.

Yes, Volkswagen has announced that it will adopt Tesla’s connector, starting in 2025. The connector will first appear on all-new models, with existing products receiving the new connector when it’s updated over time. Notably, the ID.7, due in 2025, will still use a CCS port as it is apparently too close to launch to change. Porsche and Audi models will also transition, while the company’s new Scout off-roaders will debut with the standard when they hit the market in 2026. More details will be released by VW as the 2025 switchover nears, with the company also exploring adapter solutions for CCS-equipped vehicles to access NACS chargers in turn.

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The North American Charging Standard (NACS) was the name Tesla gave to its proprietary charging connector back in November last year. At the time, it seemed boastful, given it was the only automaker using the connector. And yet, a year hence, so many have pledged to switch.

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Did Volkswagen announce this with a picture of a CCS charger, or is it just me?

The full list is a long one, so hold your breath. Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Fisker, Honda, Acura, Jaguar, Hyundai, Genesis, BMW, Rolls Royce, Mini, Toyota, Lexus, and Lucid have all announced plans to switch to NACS. Volkswagen, along with its subsidiaries Scout, Porsche and Audi, will now join that list. Indeed, the only major holdout remains the Stellantis bunch—Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Fiat. They’re also the major automaker with the fewest EVs in North America.

There’s one primary reason that has driven most automakers to adopt Tesla’s NACS connector. It’s the Supercharger network. Tesla has established chargers across the nation that are fast, effective, and available. While the company once held this network up as a competitive advantage, in recent years, it elected to change tack, announcing that it would open up access to cars of other brands.

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NACS chargers haven’t always been the fastest; CCS chargers can deliver up to 350 kW, and only the latest V4 Tesla Superchargers can match that. Where Tesla wins, though, is not in outright speed, but in reliability and availability. Tesla maintains 99% uptime on its charging network. CCS charging networks rarely do so well; one study in the Bay Area found just 72% of chargers were working in 2022. Anyone who regularly uses non-Tesla chargers has stories of getting stranded.

NACS also has the advantage in the sheer number of chargers available. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are 37,238 individual NACS charger ports available across the U.S.; 25,247 of those are DC fast chargers. In comparison, there are just 15,661 fast-charge ports for CCS users. There are, of course, around 130,000 chargers using the J1772 port for Level 1 and 2 charging. However, using those takes hours to charge and they’re generally less popular for road-tripping purposes.

VW, inadvertently, may have a lot to do with the NACS switchover. In the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, the company somehow convinced authorities to let it roll $2 billion of its penalty into establishing a charging network across America. That was in addition to $2.7 billion spent on other cleanup measures. On paper, it seemed like a great bit of restorative justice. VW would make right the excessive pollution by via the establishment of a company called Electrify America.

The company has established almost 4,000 fast-charging ports across 890 locations, which makes it the second-largest fast-charger network in the country. That figure puts it behind Tesla’s Supercharger network, and ahead of rivals EVgo and Chargepoint, who operate 2,778 and 2,551 charging ports respectively.

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Electrify America’s chargers aren’t known for their reliability.

It sounds good at first blush, but in reality, Electrify America hasn’t been a stellar performer. As covered by The Washington Post, the company has ranked poorly with customers as well as in reliability metrics. Flaws with the network include stations with charge cables so short they don’t reach vehicles, and rampant reliability issues that have stopped EV owners from getting a charge. Users have suffered payment issues and broken screens holding up their charges. Meanwhile, those that get a charge often have to tangle with the chargers mysteriously running far below their supposed maximum speeds. EV owners have reported rolling into Electrify America charging stations, only to find every single charging port broken or otherwise out of order.

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The agreement between Volkswagen and regulators did include provisions that its charging stations had to be maintained. Regardless, those provisions don’t seem to have any real impact, and the company reported to The Washington Post that it has received no fines for poor performance.

This failure to execute didn’t just put customers offside. As covered by The Autopian, it outraged automakers, too. With charging sites regularly down for months or weeks at a time, and seemingly little improvement on the horizon, it’s no surprise that automakers chose to act. Why continue with CCS charging when the biggest network in the country is so frustrating to use? Once access to Tesla’s network was on the table, switching over made perfect sense.

Whether or not the changeover was inevitable, the whole affair really makes a mockery of the company’s efforts to establish a viable charging network, and the move by both Electrify America and Volkswagen’s brands to adopt Tesla’s standards is basically a white flag that’s waving out of the windows in Wolfsburg.

The real boon will be that over time, it looks like the U.S. will finally settle on one primary EV charging standard that can be rolled out everywhere. Hopefully, this means more access to more chargers for all drivers, and less headaches with broken equipment and slow chargers derailing long journeys. The last few years may have been embarrassing, but the future is starting to look bright.

Image credits: VW, Electrify America

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Six
Six
3 months ago

Daily driver here is a Bolt and I take it on road trips. I use EA all the time. I think the thing left out by WaPo’s reporting is the fact that while EA chargers could be better, most other non-tesla DCFC charging companies are just as bad or worse than EA. If VW is bad at this, you should try EVCS on the West Coast — I’ve never gotten a single one of their chargers to work!

Second overlooked point, Tesla is charging an arm and a leg for non-Tesla users on their supercharger network. EA with a monthly membership is way cheaper. And unlike gas prices, DCFC prices can vary from $0.14/kWh to over $1 per kWh — you just don’t see that absurd spread in gas prices. I think most people just don’t know what’s happening in the non-tesla BEV space yet, and I include the feds and WaPo in that.

Dolsh
Dolsh
3 months ago

I wonder what the chances are that Tesla is known for EV infrastructure in 10 years and not building cars.

There’s a multi-billion dollar monopoly in the works there…

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
2 months ago
Reply to  Dolsh

If they end up having a monopoly, it’s gonna be well deserved. It’s not like giant companies like the big car or oil companies couldn’t find the cash to build a few 1000/10000 chargers across the USA. Of course they could, easily even, but they don’t want to. As long as it’s a pain to fast charge on a road trip, that means people will keep buying and using gas cars. That’s not a conspiracy or something, it’s just business.

Rob Rex
Rob Rex
3 months ago

Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Fisker, Honda, Acura, Jaguar, Hyundai, Genesis, BMW, Rolls Royce, Mini, Toyota, Lexus, and Lucid have all announced plans to switch to NACS”

You forgot Polestar.

Sivad Nayrb
Sivad Nayrb
3 months ago
Reply to  Rob Rex

Most of us have tried to forget Polestar. Stop bringing it up…

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