Tesla opens up its charging connector design to the EV world
Tesla’s announcement that it will make its charging connector design available to colleagues and competitors may not be the company’s most game-changing move, but it’s a welcome reminder that the EV trailblazer can still achieve positive things.
Above: A Tesla charging port. Photo: Tesla
“In pursuit of our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, today we are opening our EV connector design to the world,” says the Prodigal Pioneer. “We invite charging network operators and vehicle manufacturers to put the Tesla charging connector and charge port, now called the North American Charging Standard (NACS), on their equipment and vehicles.”
Tesla understood from the beginning that a capable and convenient charging standard would be a critical factor in getting people to buy EVs. Back in the early days of EVs, as other automakers were slowly deliberating over charging standards, Tesla simply created its own system and started rolling out chargers.
Since then, the Combined Charging System (CCS) has come into widespread use, but Tesla makes a pretty good case that its design is still superior: “With more than a decade of use and 20 billion EV charging miles to its name, the Tesla charging connector is the most proven in North America, offering AC charging and up to 1 MW DC charging in one slim package. It has no moving parts, is half the size, and twice as powerful as Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors.”
To be clear, what Tesla is now making available is simply the design of the charging connector and charge port, which can be incorporated into any EV or any type of charger. “As a purely electrical and mechanical interface agnostic to use case and communication protocol, NACS is straightforward to adopt,” says Tesla. “The design and specification files are available for download, and we are actively working with relevant standards bodies to codify Tesla’s charging connector as a public standard.”
With this step, Tesla is facilitating a shift that was already slowly creeping into the charging world. Network operators are already beginning to add Tesla-style connectors to their chargers in order to serve Tesla vehicles, and Tesla is beginning to open up its Supercharger network to EVs from other brands.
This is the Tesla that we all know and love, doing something positive for the whole EV industry, while at the same time pulling off a brilliant marketing coup for itself.
Many commenters have poo-pooed Tesla’s announcement—one wrote, “This is not the way standards are developed.” However, I don’t think Tesla really expects its newly-dubbed NACS to be accepted as a standard per se. We’re not likely to see other automakers offering it as an option any time soon. Rather, opening up the design will make it easier for companies to create adapters and other gadgets to make the coexistence of NACS and CCS a friendly one. It’s a small step in the direction of a more interoperable EV ecosystem.