One of Tesla’s biggest competitive advantages in North America has been its network of chargers that, for the most part, can charge only Tesla vehicles.
Tesla chargers outnumber so-called CCS chargers, the sort used by Ford, General Motors, Audi, Rivian and others, by a factor of two to one, according to Tesla. Now, Tesla has invited other automakers to build cars with charging ports that can work with Tesla’s charging format and for other charging companies, like EVGo, ChargePoint and Electrify America, to add Tesla-style plugs to their chargers.
It’s not yet clear if any other companies might take Tesla up on the offer, though, or if any ever will.
Tesla drivers have long been able to use CCS chargers with a simple adapter that fits over the charging plug. But actually having a Tesla style charging cord – Tesla has now dubbed it the “North American Charging Standard,” or NACS, though that is not any sort of official governmental designation – would make the process easier and wouldn’t require purchasing an adapter.
For non-Tesla vehicles, the ability to use a Tesla Supercharger – the company’s name for its fast chargers – has been more complicated and requires, at best, a special adapter purchased from some other company. Even then, it may still not work because of differences in how cars communicate with the charger.
Driving a car with a Tesla-style NACS charging point will make that much easier. But no automakers and no charging companies have, so far, announced any plans to take Tesla up on the offer that was announced in a blog post on Friday.
The company and its CEO, Elon Musk, have talked before about opening up its charging network to non-Tesla vehicles. The company has begun doing so in Europe where Tesla vehicles are equipped with a European version of the industry-standard CCS-style charging ports.
On the same day Tesla announced its offer for other companies to use its charging format, the charging company EVGo announced a temporary offer for Tesla drivers with a CCS adapter to use EVGo fast charging stations wiithout paying monthly subscription fees.
Under EVGo’s existing plan, called Autocharge+, Tesla drivers can use the EVGo phone app to plug in and quickly start a charging session. The timing of EVGo’s promotional announcement was coincidental, said EVGo Commercial Officer Jonathan Levy, and EVGo does not currently have plans to start putting Tesla charging cables at its stations.
In the past, Tesla has offered to allow other companies to use various Tesla-patented technology, but doing so meant companies had to abide by Tesla’s “Patent Pledge.”
Under the terms of that agreement, companies that wanted to use any Tesla technology had to agree not to sue Tesla for any sort of patent infringement or to help any other company to do so, essentially making Tesla’s offer of patent sharing a two-way street.
It’s unclear if Tesla’s Patent Pledge applies to the use of the NACS charging standard. Tesla, which generally does not respond to questions from the media, did not answer emailed questions on the topic.
Bill Visnic, editorial director for the Society of Automotive Engineers or SAE, said he did not think automakers would take Tesla up on the offer. CCS is a standard developed by the SAE along with a consortium of automakers.
“There’s a lot of important work and collaboration that went into that,” he said.
Even Visnic admitted, though, that Tesla chargers tend to be more reliable and easier to use than other public chargers.
In terms of the charging companies, Visnic said, it’s likely that they will want to keep their chargers using the CCS standard since Tesla already has a larger network of chargers and many Tesla drivers can easily use an adapter. (Some Tesla vehicles do not work CCS adapters.)
But 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 to the EV charging industry. Burness owns a Tesla as his personal vehicle.
“This will help owners of the older Teslas that would have to otherwise not only buy an adapter, but also pay for a retrofit of their car if the plug is right there on the station,” he said.