It's a much cleaner design, but is this really possible?
With more people warming to electric vehicles with each passing year, you'd think a massive country like the United States could come to an agreement regarding the plug these cars will use. But no. Much like with Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD or VHS vs Betamax, there's currently a war between charging formats with two clear leaders. Tesla designed its own unique plug, while every other manufacturer (with a few exceptions that use CHAdeMO) uses the industry standard Combined Charging System (CCS) J1772 connector.
Though Tesla sells the most EVs and has the largest charging network, we believe it would be advantageous for the company to open its Superchargers up to other brands by switching to the CCS connector. But not everyone agrees. In fact, a new Change.org petition seeks to make Tesla's connector the new standard.
Tesla wants to make sure it can qualify for funds from President Biden's infrastructure bill, so the company will open some of its chargers here in the US. With the charger format war looking nowhere near solved, this may become a major topic of conversation in the EV space.
The petition was started by a company called Aptera that builds a solar-powered EV with the goal of lobbying Congress to switch the national standard from CCS to Tesla. Aptera cites a JD Power study showing how consumers are far more satisfied with Tesla's superchargers than rival charging stations and Texas documents that reveal a Tesla Supercharger costs one-fifth the price to install. The company claims the US government could save as much as $4 billion through 2027 by switching to the Tesla standard.
As of now, the petition has a little under 4,000 signatures. Nearly ten times more people signed a petition to bring the M3 Touring to the US that failed to have any impact. Having every automaker and charging network (besides Tesla) change their plugs and connectors is an exorbitant task, so it doesn't matter how many signatures this petition gets, we can't imagine Congress would ever make a decision based on it.
At this point, you might be asking why Tesla has its own connector that no other company uses. When the original Tesla Model S shipped to customers in 2012, there was no agreed-upon charging standard. Rather than wait for the industry to agree on one, Tesla created its own. Other automakers were invited early on to use the Tesla plug, though this offer came with some stipulations. To use the patents, an automaker would need to sacrifice its ability to assert any patent rights against Tesla. Ask any automaker executive why this is a nonstarter.
Proponents of the Tesla charging standard will argue its superiority based on a few factors. First, the Tesla connector is far smaller and easier to plug in than the bulky CCS connector. Secondly, Tesla's Superchargers are plug-and-play with no menus, screens, or complicated payment methods. The charger talks to the car, the payment is taken care of automatically, and charging begins. Contrast this to our spotty experience with other charging networks and Tesla makes a strong case to be the standard.
CCS has its own advantages though, including the ability to charge at up to 350 kW whereas the Supercharger only goes up to 250 kW. It's unclear if this is a restriction of the plug or simply because no Tesla vehicle can charge quicker than 250 kW. Alas, the company doesn't have a PR department for us to ask.
As for the charging difficulties, a CCS connector needs to communicate with cars from various brands, not just Tesla. This is a far more difficult task that involves cooperation from multiple stakeholders rather than one company that controls every aspect of the experience.
Tesla's early adopters may whinge, but the path forward seems to be CCS. Having a massive charging network that can only charge one brand of vehicle is silly, like having a gas station that can only fill up Fords. If Tesla wants to access government funds (totaling $7.5 billion), its Supercharger network needs to "serve vehicles produced by more than one vehicle manufacturer." Government intervention is the same reason why Tesla uses CCS in Europe, only the US is choosing to use a carrot rather than a stick.
It's currently unclear how many stations Tesla will "open" to other vehicles or how it intends to make them compatible with CCS plugs. The easy answer is an adaptor, which would plug into the Supercharger station on one end and the plug on the other, and release from either end based on a command from the Tesla app. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's a decent path forward to make EV ownership easier for everyone.