Ford And GM Are Join The Race: Adopting Tesla's NACS

Ford And GM Are Join The Race: Adopting Tesla's NACS

With the recent news that both Ford and GM have elected to adopt Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) for fast, 400V or level 3, electric vehicle (EV) charging, the effort to electrify the American auto fleet has reached a turning point. I think NACS has won the fight and the other fast charging standards will be phased out.


What are the implications of this development for the American car buying public, the competing EV charging standard and the companies that support it? First, there are two competing charging standards or protocols to Tesla’s NACS: the CHAdeMO protocol, which is already a dying standard as even its primary automotive backer Nissan has abandoned it for their newest EV, the Ariya, leaving only the soon to be discontinued Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid (PHEV) as the only current model year vehicles that use it. The other standard is the Combined Charging Standard, or CCS, which all other manufacturers besides Tesla currently use. Tesla just won the charging standard fight in the US, in my opinion, because the NACS standard will now represent somewhere in the neighborhood 80% of the entire EV market (based on 2022 EV market share in the US). I don’t think it matters that Hyundai Motor Group and VW Group (the two other brand families that, along with Tesla, GM and Ford, made up 92% of the EV market in the US, combined, last year) have not yet announced intentions to switch to NACS too. They will. CCS will not be able to survive for long with less than a quarter of the new EVs coming to market next year supporting their standard.

What do I mean by “for long”? Well, I mean that CCS formatted chargers will soon stop increasing in number, likely sometime over the next 12-18 months or so, as all currently permitted projects and parts orders are likely to be fulfilled and installed. But after that, new charging equipment being installed by companies other than Tesla, will either be installed with only the NACS fast charging standard, or both NACS and CCS. There is, afterall, an existing population of hundreds of thousands of non Tesla EVs on the roads in the US, so it isn’t likely that CCS, or even CHAdeMO will simply disappear in the next few year(s), rather they will stick around until the charging equipment needs servicing and the heads need replacing, as these should be able to be swapped out with other internals in the stations being updated to handle NACS connections and charging sessions without replacing the entire charging station hardware. Adapters for the dying standards are already on the market, and more will be made available to support those that might need them. And perhaps that is the most salient take away for anyone that owns a non-Tesla EV right now; if you take trips in your EV that require the use of a fast charger, or if you rely on fast charger similarly to the way people with gas cars go to gas stations (because you don’t have a reliable place to charge at home or work), you may need to invest in an adapter at some point in the coming years. Ideally, the charging locations will include adapter hardware for those that need it, and bringing your own won’t be necessary, but that may be unlikely considering the costs involved and or technical hurdles.

One more thing: this situation is only regarding level 3, 400/800V fast charging; level 2 240V charging is not part of the format fight specifically, though it is possible that Tesla’s NACS could lead to the gradual disappearance of the SAE J1772 format too since NACS also supports 240V charging via the same physical interface, without using an adapter, as all the new Ford and GM (and Tesla) vehicles need when using J1772 charging hardware. If the consolidation around NACS also impacts the prevalence of J1772 charging hardware, I would expect that to happen much more slowly, over the period of several years. I figure this is important to point out since many PHEVs and shorter range EVs only use this standard for charging (along with the CCS or CHAdeMO connector for fast charging).

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