The Biden administration announced new standards for expanding the national electric vehicle (EV) charging network in order to encourage widespread EV adoption by providing a “predictable” user experience. All charging stations will soon be required to adopt the same connector types, payment methods, and data privacy assurances. These new standards have pushed Tesla, for the first time, to make part of its proprietary charging network compatible with non-Tesla EVs in the United States. We knew that Elon Musk was in DC, now we know why.
The government’s goal is to build 500,000 EV chargers nationwide by 2030. An agreement with Tesla has pledged to make at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. This will include 3,500 new and existing 250 kW “superchargers” along highway corridors and 4,000 slower “destination chargers” at hotels and restaurants in urban and rural areas.
Tesla currently operates a proprietary charging system that keeps its approximately 40,000 charging stations exclusive to the company and its consumers.
The deal with Tesla is that any EV driver should be able to use the Tesla app or website to access these charging stations, but it’s currently unclear how Tesla will adapt its charging network to comply with new connector-type standards. The most widely used connector type is the Combined Charging System (CCS), and Reuters reported that any company hoping to secure a portion of $7.5 billion in federal funding for Biden’s EV initiative would have to adopt the CCS standard. A White House official said that Tesla would be adopting the CCS standard and already has “a hardware and a software solution” to do so, and could qualify for state funding to retrofit its charger network, Reuters reported. Earlier this year, InsideEVs reported that Tesla’s solution could be a mysterious “Magic Dock” to retrofit Tesla charging stations to charge non-Tesla EVs. No one’s sure exactly how the Magic Dock would work yet.
Opening its charging network to all EVs could position Tesla as the clear industry leader across America, analysts told Reuters, but adopting the CCS standard could also diminish some consumers’ incentive to buy Teslas. Tesla drivers have enjoyed exclusive access to the nation’s largest and fastest network of “superchargers,” but soon any EV owner can enjoy that same benefit without buying a Tesla.
Despite this seeming risk to its EV sales, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seemed “very open” to helping Biden meet his ambitious EV charging goals. With so much funding available to competitors, Tesla otherwise might have risked a rival creating a larger charging network, thus losing Tesla drivers’ incentive of exclusivity either way.
When Musk met with White House officials last month, he made no commitment to opening up the charging network, The Washington Post reported. Today’s announcement will likely be good news to at least some of Tesla’s investors, who, Reuters reported, have been waiting for Tesla to confirm its commitment.
As soon as Tesla announced it would open up its Supercharger network to non-Tesla owners, we started seeing reports of worried Tesla owners, concerned that their charging experience is going to be impacted. Well, maybe to help soothe some of those concerts, Tesla dropped the price of its CCS adapter from $250 down to $175. And I bet this becomes a popular item among Tesla owners. They can still charge at Supercharger stations or use the adaptor anywhere else.
Tesla isn’t the only company that Biden is relying on to expand the country’s EV charging network through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program.
More than a dozen companies have committed to adding “more than 100,000 public chargers available for all EVs.” Those companies include automakers like General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Ford, as well as other EV industry stakeholders, including Hertz, BP, Pilot Company, EVgo, TravelCenters of America, ChargePoint, Electrify America, and Starbucks.
Not everyone expects that Biden’s plan will result in America suddenly gaining a dependable supply chain. Reuters reported that the European Union and Mexico have voiced concerns that the US is discriminating against foreign EV makers on the federal tax credits, and states told DOT that the global demand for EV chargers is already straining the supply chain—making it hard to speed up charger manufacturing while meeting new made-in-America standards. Tesla is worried that the “pace and scale of deployment” of Biden’s plan is too ambitious and could create a “shortfall in the number of compliant charging stations.”
Tesla founder Elon Musk could miss out on a major windfall if the company keeps its electric charging stations exclusive. But in the end, Elon Musk will earn a windfall of money and consumers will have more options to charge. However, non-Tesla vehicles will not get the fast charging, they will be able to access Level 2 charging only.
Lauren Fix is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. A trusted automotive expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics, energy and safety issues for both the auto industry and consumers. Her analysis is honest and straightforward.
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