sponge The EV charger migration continues to gain momentum. Since we last wrote on the subject, first Polestar and then Mercedes-Benz also announced that they are dropping the Combined Charging Standard 1 (CCS1) connector in favor of Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS). Sometime next year, non-Tesla electric vehicles from those brands, as well as Ford, General Motors, Volvo and Rivian, will be able to use Tesla’s Supercharger network. In 2025, those automakers – and probably a few more – will start building cars with built-in NACS ports.
It’s not just the car manufacturers. Charger and charging network manufacturers have also announced new NACS products, and it feels like enough critical mass is building up that CCS1 is on its way to extinction. Or at least it can be relegated to curiosities alongside CHAdeMO. Things look even better now that SAE International is taking control of NACS, removing it from the control of a rival OEM led by a billionaire known for impulsive and often arbitrary decisions. At this point, many are just waiting to see if Hyundai Motor Group or Volkswagen Group will be the next big convert.
The justification for dropping an entrenched standard and moving to NACS, from Ford and others, was equally about getting their EV owners access to Tesla’s Supercharger network, and why not? Even the most seasoned supporter of the EV brand’s flame wars has to admit that not only are there many more Superchargers out there, but they offer a much better charging experience than any of the public charging networks.
But does that automatically mean that switching from CCS1 to NACS guarantees a superior charging experience for all those Fords, Chevys, Rivians, Volvos, Polestars and Mercedes? I’m not quite sure. I have three big unanswered questions: do the non-Teslas fit in Superchargers, do non-Teslas fit in at Superchargers, and why should we believe that a different plug suddenly makes all those terribly unreliable third-party charging networks work perfectly?
For the hardware makers – both cars and chargers – the switch shouldn’t be too difficult in theory. In fact, NACS actually uses the same communication protocol as CCS (as well as ISO15118, aka “plug and charge”), unlike previous versions of the Supercharger network which used a proprietary communication protocol that communicated with Tesla’s CAN bus.
Will it fit?
But the first major issue drivers of all those non-Tesla brands will encounter is whether or not the charging cable reaches their charging port. As a completely closed ecosystem (so far), Tesla has been able to optimize the Supercharger experience for its EVs. So all Teslas have charging ports in the same location (on the back, integrated into the side of a light cluster), meaning the Superchargers don’t need very long cables to reach them.
Other brands’ ports are everywhere – often on a front wing in front of the door, but sometimes on the rear below the C-pillar – but with little standardization of which side of the car they go on. We have no idea if Tesla will redesign Superchargers to accommodate the newcomers, but if they do, “you need long cables to get to every position of the charging port,” said Dennis Mueller, SVP of product marketing and communications at ADS. -TEC, which makes hardware for electric vehicle charging. “A long cable means they are heavy; there is a lot of cost in copper and so on.”
Those longer cables are not only getting more expensive; they also become heavier and more unmanageable. And it’s not really the plastic CCS1 plug that contributes to the heavy cables you’ll be dealing with with an Electrify America or Chargepoint (or whoever) fast charger; it’s all that copper wiring.