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Ford, GM: Tesla is winning the EV charging market

A quick look behind the headlines as Ford and GM partner with Tesla and its Supercharger network moves closer to U.S. standard.

Charging station

Ford and Tesla ink a deal. Image courtesy of Kindel Media.

This article originally published on June 9 and is being updated as news about EV charging quickly unfolds. Vartan Badalian is GreenBiz’s in-house expert on the electric vehicle industry.

On Thursday, General Motors CEO Mary Barra joined Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces to announce a deal that would — like with Ford last month — grant drivers of its U.S. vehicles access to Tesla's Supercharger network. This will initially be through an adapter and then in 2025 new vehicles will be built with Tesla's North American Charging Standard, known as NACS.

The dominos are starting to fall. It’s clear Tesla is cornering the EV charging market versus CCS, the combined charging system, which the U.S. government supports and until now auto companies — except Tesla — and public EV charging networks have adopted. But they’ve been plagued with reliability and uptime issues. (I’ve been tracking this for years, and even called it the Achilles heel of EV adoption.) 

On May 25, Ford announced its Tesla deal on EV charging. The partnership, still with many questions left to be answered, grants Ford U.S. drivers access to Tesla’s Supercharger network initially through an adapter. Ford’s next-generation EVs will be built in 2025 and beyond using Tesla’s NACS standard directly.

In between, a string of charging companies and station makers, such as Freewire, ABB and Flo, have stated they will adopt the NACS too. 

It’s not surprising: Tesla’s Supercharging experience is far superior in terms of reliability and uptime to what exists for the public EV charging networks using CCS. It’s largely why Tesla vehicles sell and Tesla still holds such a market dominance, even though so many other EV vehicle options exist. 

Here’s my quick take on what else you need to know: 

  • The customer is most important. The decision by Ford and now GM is likely a result of years of countless customer complaints about poor public EV charging experiences. In the end, the customer is always right. I suspect Tesla will grow its Supercharger network accordingly to account for this huge influx of new drivers and it will play a huge part in bringing on the next wave of EV adopters.
  • Tesla is flexing its muscle again. As legacy automotive companies are unable to succeed, they cave to public pressure and partner with Tesla.
  • Big questions remain. Industry players are asking the following:
    • Which automotive companies will be next to partner with Tesla? 
    • How and when will more other major charging companies react?
    • Will NACS only get applied to public charging networks and CCS remain the dominant standard for private and fleet charging at depots? 
    • Will automotive companies entirely eliminate CCS from their vehicles or build them with both CCS and NACS? 
    • Will this accelerate the inevitable consolidation of EV charging companies as smaller companies struggle to shift quickly?
    • Will NACS, which some believe to not even be a standard, effectively be the new U.S. standard? Barra openly said on Twitter Spaces during the announcement that she hopes to drive mass adoption of NACS as the universal U.S. standard. 
    • What does all this mean for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) federal funding, and how and when will the Federal government step in to clarify questions around CCS vs. NACS? 

A lot remains to be clarified and answered. I anticipate the road ahead will get messy very quickly as the industry tries to navigate this transition while it still transitions to electric from gas vehicles. 

But as it happens, we’ll see many more happy Ford, GM — and likely other — EV drivers.

I'll be adding updates here as I see them: 

Friday 12:46 p.m. EST | White House reacts fast: The White House makes first public comments on Tesla NACS vs. CCS. Public charging stations with NACS will still be eligible for federal funding as long as they also include a CCS connection. Surely, this is just a stopgap. 

Friday 3:09 p.m. EST | SK Group-backed EverCharge announces support of NACS: EverCharge, an EV charging hardware and software company, released a statement: "We’re proud to be a provider of charging solutions that support all vehicles, both NACS and CCS. Upon request, we’re ready to provide NACS connectors..."

Friday 3:45 p.m. EST | Wallbox announces support of NACS: The EV charging hardware and software company shared a LinkedIn post supporting the adoption of NACS: "We're excited to offer customers the option of NACS configurations when we bring our DC fast-charging solutions to the USA!"

Monday 9:00 a.m. EST | EVSTATION introduces NACS Adoption TrackerThe launch comes as EV stakeholders gather this week at EVS36, a major industry event in Sacramento, Calif., and EV charging companies like XCHARGE and Blink Charging showcased NACS in their charging stall designs.  

Monday 9:15 a.m. EST | KEMPOWER announces support of NACS: KEMPOWER, an EV charging hardware and software company, released a statement "Kempower is preparing to add NACS as an option for all North American deliveries..."

Monday 1:46 p.m. EST | CharIN announces support for standardization of NACS: CharIN, the association for electrification of transportation, said today it supports NACS becoming a standard because some of its members are interested in adopting it. Last month, when Ford said future EVs would be built with NACS, CharIN had committed to CCS. 

What are you doing now that NACS is emerging as the EV charging standard? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.  

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