One of Tesla’s biggest competitive advantages in North America is its network of chargers, which in most cases can only charge Tesla cars.
Tesla chargers outpace the so-called CCS chargers used by Ford, General Motors, Audi, Rivian and others by a factor of two. Tesla has now invited other automakers to build cars with charging ports that work with Tesla’s charging format, and to add Tesla-style plugs to chargers for other charging companies like EVGo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America.
It is not yet clear whether other companies will take up Tesla’s offer.
Tesla drivers have long been able to use CCS chargers with a simple adapter that fits into the charging plug. But actually having a Tesla-style charging cable – Tesla has it now called it the “North American Charging Standard” or NACS, although this is not an official government designation of any kind, it will simplify the process and not require the purchase of an adapter.
For non-Tesla vehicles, the ability to use the Tesla Supercharger — the company’s name for fast chargers — is more complicated and, at best, requires a special adapter purchased from another company. However, it may still not work due to differences in the way cars communicate with the charger.
Driving with a Tesla-style NACS charging point will make this much easier. But so far, no automakers and no charging companies have announced plans to take up Tesla’s offer, which was announced in a blog post on Friday.
The company and its CEO Elon Musk have previously talked about opening up the charging network to non-Tesla vehicles. The company started doing this in Europe, where Tesla cars are equipped with the European version of industry-standard CCS-type charging ports.
On the same day Tesla announced an offer for other companies to use its charging format, charging company EVGo announced a temporary offer for Tesla drivers with CCS adapters to use EVGo fast charging stations without paying a monthly subscription fee.
Under EVGo’s existing plan, Autocharge+, Tesla drivers can connect to a charging session using the EVGo phone app and get started quickly. Jonathan Levy, EVGo’s chief commercial officer, said the timing of EVGo’s launch announcement was fortuitous, and that EVGo currently has no plans to begin deploying Tesla charging cables at its stations.
In the past, Tesla has offered to allow other companies to use various Tesla-patented technologies, but that meant the companies had to abide by Tesla’s “Patent Pledge.”
Under the terms of this agreement, companies wishing to use any Tesla technology must agree not to sue Tesla for any patent infringement or to assist any other company in doing so, essentially suggesting that Tesla share the patent on a two-way street. .
It is unclear whether Tesla’s Patent Lien applies to the use of the NACS charging standard. Tesla, which generally does not respond to media inquiries, did not respond to emailed questions on the subject.
Bill Visnic, editorial director of the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, said automakers don’t think Tesla will accept the offer. CCS is a standard developed by SAE in conjunction with a consortium of automotive manufacturers.
“There’s a lot of work and collaboration involved,” he said.
Even Visnic admitted that Tesla chargers are more reliable and easier to use than other public chargers.
In terms of charging companies, Visnic said, they will likely want to keep their chargers using the CCS standard because Tesla already has a wider network of chargers and many Tesla drivers can easily use the adapter. (CCS adapters do not work on some Tesla vehicles.)
Charging companies may want to add these cables because it could bring in new customers, said Jim Burness, CEO of National Car Charging, a wholesaler of equipment for the electric charging industry. Burness owns a Tesla as his personal car.
“This will help older Tesla owners who would otherwise not only have to buy an adapter, but pay to upgrade their car if the station has an outlet.”