Tesla Motors has struck nearly identical deals with its rivals Ford Motors and GM to allow them access to its vast Supercharger network in North America. The deal will allow both Ford and GM customers to plug in their electric cars to Tesla Superchargers and immensely enhance their access to charging points.
Fig. 1: Ford’s Mustang Mach-e will soon be able to plug in at a Supercharger station | Image: Electric Autonomy Canada
Tesla’s Superchargers (the proprietary name for the automaker’s electric car chargers) are built on NACS (North American Charging Standard), while the rest of the country’s EV manufacturers so far offer chargers designed on the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard. The deal is a major move forward for Ford and GM as the Superchargers are reported to be superior in performance, reliability and availability. The technicalities of the access will be worked out in the near future, but Tesla’s NACS also uses the same connector for slow charging and fast charging up to 250kW. This makes it lighter, smaller and all the more convenient for EV owners.
Fig. 2: The NACS vs the CCS connector | Image: The Tesla Space
In contrast, a quarter of the 657 CCS fast chargers surveyed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2022 were found to be not even functioning, and in general their bulkiness has been criticised. Tesla’s NACS charging architecture will be integrated into Ford and GM’s vehicles by 2025. Meanwhile, Charln, the association behind CCS, has issued a statement against the deal in what could be a last-ditch attempt to protect the standard from going obsolete.
The prospect of unified charging has not just been thrown open for Ford or GM. Back in late 2022 Tesla opened up the coding for its Superchargers for anyone to copy, with the company stating that its mission has always been to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. This has been taken advantage of, such as by commercial EV manufacturer ABB, which plans to introduce chargers with NACS plugs soon. This will allow for Tesla owners to use ABB equipment when there is no Supercharger accessible. Other charger manufacturers are bound to follow suit.
EV charging in India and China
EV charging stations in India are mandated to be interoperable. This means that all EVs must be able to access any charging station in the country, regardless of the brand. A Tesla-like deal between Indian EV manufacturers would therefore not do much — India’s EV chargers run on the IS 17017 standard — to spur the adoption of electric cars. What does need to happen is for the country to significantly upgrade the number of chargers publicly available to EV owners.
Fig. 3: The Nio ES6 is one of the models that has been granted access to Tesla’s Superchargers in China | Image: CarAdvice
For instance, as of March 2023, India only had 6,586 units. China, on the other hand, had 1.8 million EV chargers installed by the end of 2022. This is more than the EV chargers in the US and Europe put together. And Tesla had announced on April 25 that it would open its Superchargers in Beijing and Shanghai to 37 non-Tesla models on a pilot basis. This may be expanded to all of its 10,000 Superchargers in China over time, and the move will inevitably be extended to Europe and Australia.
Moving to one standard
It’s unclear if Tesla’s vehicles will ever be popular in India to sell even 500 units a year, as the vehicles are taxed heavily. If Tesla does start manufacturing in India, however, it’s likely that it will simultaneously set up its Indian network of Superchargers. In the interest of maximising access to EV chargers for its customers, though, Tesla may equip its cars with adapters for the Indian standard as well.
Yet, India’s fastest EV chargers currently manage a power output of up to a mere 22 kW, so some of India’s EV owners from other brands may want to switch to the Supercharger instead for faster recharging. This could create a market for two charging standards in the country: IS 17017 for cheaper EVs and the NACS for the high-end electric cars.
Fig. 4: An NRMA EV fast charger in Australia | Image: electrive.com
Globally though, given Tesla’s popularity and the quality of its cars and Superchargers, the deal with Ford and GM may pave the way for a switch to the NACS in most markets. China may remain an outlier by virtue of the sheer size of its domestic market and the necessity for its EVs to work with the country’s GB/T 20234 charging standard. But customers elsewhere would likely welcome the opportunity to plug in to a fast, reliable and technically superior Supercharger without any hassles.