Tesla Releases and Opens Specs for Charging Connector and Port

Image of Tesla/NACS charging connector overlaid on a CCA connector.

Tesla today released the design and specification files for its charging connector and port, which it now refers to as the North American Charging Standard (NACS). In so doing, Tesla is providing other vehicle manufacturers the ability to use the Tesla/NACS connector in non-Teslas.

Until now, all non-Tesla plug-in electric vehicles in the United States capable of DC fast charging have had only two choices for plug-type: Combined Charging Standard (CCS) or CHAdeMO. In recent years CCS has pulled far ahead of CHAdeMO. And with the U.S. Department of Transportation proposing to require CCS plugs for National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) charging stations, CCS appeared to have all but locked up the U.S. market for DC fast charging. Given the popularity and apparent advantages of NACS over CCS, today’s announcement opens the door for Tesla to compete head-to-head for the first time.

With regard to compatibility among the various plug types, Teslas can use CCS and CHAdeMO chargers with adapters, but CCS and CHAdeMO cars cannot use Tesla chargers. The inability of non-Teslas to use Tesla chargers has two causes. First, the plugs are different shapes and there are no adapters allowing a Tesla plug to charge a CCS or CHAdeMO car. Second, Tesla operates a private network that communicates only with Teslas.

Today’s development addresses the first issue, meaning that a non-Tesla would be able to connect to a Tesla charger, so if other automakers and charging providers adopt NACS there will be no need for adapters. This increased uniformity should be good for the industry because consistent hardware will be easier for network operators to maintain while drivers will not have to search for the right shape plug. Moreover, a single plug will increase opportunities for competition which broadly speaking is, of course, good.

However, and quite notably, the opening of the NACS plug does not automatically mean that every car will be able to charge on every charger; network operators will have to agree to support each of the various automakers. For example, simply because a vehicle can physically connect to a Tesla supercharger does not mean that Tesla has to provide a charge.

In other words, consensus on a single plug and port is a necessary but not sufficient step for all cars to be able to use all chargers. With that said, today is nonetheless a highly significant milestone and EV drivers should pay close attention to what may be a rapidly evolving charging landscape.

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