The White House is backing industry efforts to standardize Tesla’s EV charging plugs

By | December 20, 2023

The White House is backing an auto industry effort to standardize Tesla’s electric vehicle charging plugs across all EVs in the United States, part of a broad effort to boost their sales to help fight climate change.

More than 1 million EVs will be sold in the United States in 2023, a record, but that pace still lags behind sales in countries such as China and Germany. One major reason is that the limited availability of charging infrastructure across the country has been a widespread concern for many potential electric vehicle buyers and has slowed their sales in the United States.

Tesla, the leader in the EV market, operates the largest network of fast chargers. And many of the Supercharger stations are located in prime locations along busy corridors, where other charging stations are scarce.

On Tuesday, SAE International, formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers, confirmed Tesla’s North American Charging Standard connector as the new standard. That connector, known as NACS, connects Tesla’s electric vehicles to the company’s network. In June, the automotive body had said it would set standards for Tesla’s EV charging plug, to try to make it work with all electric vehicles.

The new standard “ensures that any supplier or manufacturer of vehicles or charging equipment can use, produce or deploy the connector and expands charging access for current and future EV drivers nationwide,” according to the U.S. Joint Office of Energy and Transportation . in a statement Tuesday.

The standard could help boost consumer confidence in electric vehicles as the White House, the auto industry and other stakeholders look to encourage mass adoption. President Joe Biden has made decarbonizing transportation a top priority and has set an ambitious goal of having 50 percent of all new car sales in the United States electric by 2030.

Tesla’s charging standard has long conflicted with the Combined Charging Standard connector, which most other automakers have integrated into their electric vehicles. Tuesday’s announcement essentially formalizes what has already happened in the industry this year.

Tesla agreed earlier this year to open up parts of its network, with plans to provide access to at least 7,500 of its chargers to non-Teslas by the end of 2024. Since then, almost all major global automakers have signed up to use NACS with their EVs and will join Tesla’s charging network in the future, with the exception of a few holdouts, including Stellantis.

“Nobody can say right now that this is just ‘the Tesla thing,’” said Loren McDonald, CEO of EVAdoption LLC, an independent industry analysis firm that tracks NACS. “There is nothing holding them back now.”

Ford, General Motors and others say next year they plan to deliver adapters to customers whose electric cars are now equipped with CCS technology, allowing them to connect to Tesla’s network without needing a NACS connector . Most of these car manufacturers will officially equip their electric vehicles with NACS from 2025.

Shortly after Tuesday’s announcement, German carmaker Volkswagen – one of the larger remaining companies that had yet to switch to NACS – said this would also happen from 2025. Volkswagen, meanwhile, operates the Electrify America charging network, part of the settlement that followed its diesel emissions scandal.

Senior Biden administration officials told The Associated Press that they expect many vehicles to use both connectors on the road for some time.

However, McDonald warned that the transition in charger technology and adapter distribution could confuse many EV drivers.

“We will have millions of CCS connector vehicles on the road for years to come, and they will last a long time,” McDonald said. “Until we know how the automakers are actually going to distribute these adapters, it’s really unknown to me how this issue will be resolved in the next few years if you’re an existing CCS owner.

“The reality of all this is that we will be living in adapter hell for the next few years and the transition will then be problematic for the regular consumer who says, ‘I don’t understand this.’ ”

At the same time, some automakers are still investing in their own non-Tesla charging initiatives. Mercedes-Benz is building its own network and seven car manufacturers have announced plans to jointly develop fast charging.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which became law in November 2021, set aside $7.5 billion to build a nationwide EV charging network.

The Federal Highway Administration has set requirements for federally funded charging stations to require a CCS plug, but also allows other plugs. The agency will now determine how the new standard for the Tesla plug meets those requirements.

The government and climate advocates see widespread EV ownership as a way to help reduce the transportation sector’s dependence on fossil fuels, which are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

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Alexa St. John is an Associated Press climate solutions reporter. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @alexa_stjohn. Reach her at ast.john@ap.org.

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AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press’ climate and environmental reporting receives support from several private foundations. View more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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