Strange bedfellows: Auto adversaries embrace Tesla EV stations. Electric car experts have been delighted with Tesla’s charging infrastructure for quite some time. However, Elon Musk’s “superchargers” have just gained support from an odd source: rival automakers.
Ford was the first automaker to disclose working with Musk back in late May, and GM followed suit early this month. Last week, on Tuesday, Rivian, a manufacturer of electric trucks, said it plans to “continue to find new ways to accelerate EV adoption.”
Musk has promised to allow customers with cars from competing companies to use its national network as part of the arrangement.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared on Twitter Spaces with Musk and expressed her excitement at the prospect of almost doubling the number of chargers available to owners of GM vehicles. Barra also expressed her hope that the Tesla system, known as the North American Charging Standard (NACS), could become a unified standard for the continent and “enable more mass adoption.”
As a result of supply chain issues and the slow rollout of a massive federal program, Tesla’s network has risen to prominence, reflecting the system’s reputation for reliability.
Musk’s latest success has been widely celebrated, with the Tesla share price increasing by about 40 percent since Ford’s announcement on May 25. Many EV specialists, however, argue that it is too soon to crown NACS the victor.
According to industry consultant Loren McDonald, “we may be heading that way, but it’s still too early to say Tesla and NACS have won,” because the market’s short-run growth might be like the smartphone split between Apple and Android, with two main standards.
Despite the popularity of the combination charging system (CCS), specialists in the field of electric vehicles note that other manufacturers with aggressive US electric vehicle projects, such as Volkswagen and Hyundai, continue to favor the competitor standard.
In the end, we’ll have one standard, but how long it takes is anybody’s guess,” said Transportation Energy Institute director and CEO John Eichberger.
Although it is unclear how far Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, will go to share a technology that was previously proprietary, Eichberger has cautioned that a Musk-dominated charging system might raise antitrust issues.
Eichberger argued that any eventual “default source for charging” must be freely available software.
The fact that CCS is mandated as the connector for use in a new federal program led many in the industry to believe it would soon become the national standard.
As part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021, there is a $5 billion fund available for states to build EV charging networks.
The White House and Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced an agreement in February in which Tesla committed to opening 7,500 of its chargers across the country to all electric vehicles.
While the federal government has shown no signs of changing course, some states are rethinking how to apply the policy in light of recent changes in the sector. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation told AFP on Friday that the state aims to mandate that all charging ports include both a CCS and a NACS connector.
Concerns that not enough charging stations would be available prompted Tesla’s move.
S&P Global’s January 2023 estimate found that the United States’ charging infrastructure is “not nearly robust enough to support a maturing electric vehicle market,” predicting that the number of EV chargers in the country would need to treble between 2022 and 2025.
Electric vehicle (EV) chargers “have been increasing, but very slowly compared to the number of vehicles coming into the market,” said Bertrand Rakoto, global automotive practice leader at Ducker Carlisle, a consultant.
Experts in the field have pointed to a number of factors slowing down the rollout, such as a lack of key materials in the supply chain, difficulties in negotiating affordable electricity contracts with utilities, and NEVI delays due to ambiguity in federal guidelines or regulatory inexperience in states without a history of approving EV chargers.
According to a representative for the Department of Energy, the department has been “working hard to stand up” the program, and seven different jurisdictions have issued requests for proposals.
However, McDonald reports that no states have yet signed contracts to develop EV chargers. McDonald keeps a careful eye on state NEVI projects. Most of the chargers, he says, won’t be built until 2025 at the earliest.
Concerns about running out of juice have prompted widespread attention to the necessity for rapid charging infrastructure.
In McDonald’s opinion, the actual importance is installing chargers in private residences like homes, apartments, and condos.