The day when all EVs can use the same DC fast chargers just moved a little closer, as the White House announced that Tesla will move forward with plans to open its Supercharger network to non-Tesla EVs in the US. (Is that how it works when a company has no PR department?)
Tesla, which rolled its own charging standard back in the early days as other automakers dithered, has been moving towards opening up its Superchargers for some time. It has little choice but to do so, as subsidies for public chargers in the EU, and now in the US, are available only to companies that make their charging stations available to all drivers.
Tesla has already opened hundreds of stations in most of its European markets, where it was already using the standard CCS connector, but here in North America the company fell behind schedule—it had announced plans to open up by the end of 2022.
Making Superchargers available to non-Teslas may be a bit more challenging in the US, where the company still uses its own proprietary connector. However, Electrek reports that Tesla has a new CCS adapter called the Magic Dock, which can be retrofitted to existing Supercharger stalls (hopefully with a longer charging cable).
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will make some $7.5 billion in funding available for public EV charging infrastructure, but only charging stations that serve all brands of EVs will be eligible. Assuming that Tesla moves quickly to open up access, it stands to earn a sizable chunk of that pot of funds. The company has also announced plans to “more than double” the number of Superchargers in the US by the end of 2024.
The official White House announcement reads, in part:
Tesla, for the first time, will open a portion of its US Supercharger and Destination Charger network to non-Tesla EVs, making at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. The open chargers will be distributed across the United States. They will include at least 3,500 new and existing 250 kW Superchargers along highway corridors…and Level 2 Destination Charging at locations like hotels and restaurants in urban and rural locations. All EV drivers will be able to access these stations using the Tesla app or website. Additionally, Tesla will more than double its full nationwide network of Superchargers.
If the past is any guide, the transition may not happen as quickly as advertised, and a number of important questions remain. Will opening the network increase congestion at Superchargers? Will Tesla have to change the layout of its stations to accommodate EVs that have their charge ports in other locations? Will it be allowed to charge non-Tesla drivers a higher rate for charging?
Over the longer term, will opening up prove to be a positive or a negative development for the EV trend-setter? Some have opined that Tesla risks losing one of its major competitive advantages. The Supercharger network is widely considered to be the “gold standard” of charging. Will allowing the thundering herd into the walled garden cause standards to slip?
We doubt it. Tesla may not be great at meeting deadlines, but one thing the company has proven to be very good at is rolling out large numbers of Superchargers (it currently has around 17,700 in the US, in addition to 10,000 Destination Chargers). Reliability is often simply a numbers game—if a site has 20 charge points, it’s no big deal if 2 or 3 are out of order. Furthermore, back in 2021, Tesla’s CEO said that non-Tesla EV owners would be able to (or maybe required to?) use the Tesla smartphone app to manage and pay for their charging sessions. Tesla’s competitors’ customers will be downloading its app? That sounds like a golden brand-building opportunity—and brand-building just happens to be another Tesla specialty.