GM Joins Ford In Using Tesla Superchargers
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GM Joins Ford In Using Tesla Superchargers

Aug 20, 2023

GM has joined Ford in agreeing to install NACS charging equipment in its electric cars so drivers can use the Tesla Supercharger network.



Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door, according to an old business adage. Tesla built a better mousetrap — its Supercharger network which is constructed around the company's proprietary "North American Charging Standard." Recently, Ford announced it would begin installing NACS hardware in its electric cars sold in North America by 2025, which would allow its customers to use the Tesla Supercharger network. Now, General Motors has also climbed on the Tesla bus.

CNBC reports that GM will begin installing the NACS charging port used by Tesla instead of the current industry-standard CCS charging port in its EVs starting in 2025. With Ford and GM now solidly in the NACS camp, that will put pressure on other EV manufacturers like Stellantis, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Hyundai, Kia, and others to adopt the Tesla technology in North America.

But that isn't the half of it. The US government is deep into a multi-billion-dollar campaign to build a nationwide network of EV chargers to reduce the fear people have about buying an electric car because they don't know where or how to charge it. (Many potential EV customers don't know that more than 80% of all charging takes place at home overnight in the privacy of their own garage or parking space.)

The federal program is built around the CCS-1 charging standard that is commonly used today in America by Electrify America, ChargePoint, EVgo, Blink, and most other charging companies. The sudden switch by Ford and GM to the NACS standard will almost certainly lead to some serious rethinking of the federal program. We also wonder what impact this will have on the EV charger manufacturers ABB, Tritium, and Siemens that are rushing to build charger factories in the US to qualify for incentives baked into federal legislation.

Wall Street analysts hailed the Tesla/Ford deal as a "win-win" when that deal was announced last month. Both GM and Tesla stocks were up about 3% after the announcement.

This new deal was announced by GM CEO Mary Barra and Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a live audio discussion on Twitter Spaces, just like the Ford deal. GM is ramping up production of its fully electric vehicles as it makes plans to exceed Tesla in terms of how many electric cars it produces each year. That will be a neat trick if GM can pull it off, as Tesla is now near full production at both its Fremont and Austin factories and is reportedly about to begin construction of a third North American factory in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leone.

A few weeks ago, when Ford announced its own partnership with Tesla, GM was working with SAE International to develop and refine an open connector standard for CCS-1 charging. GM CEO Mary Barra said at the time, "I think we have a real opportunity here to really drive this to be the unified standard for North America, which I think will even enable more mass adoption, so I couldn't be more excited."

Something obviously changed in the past few weeks. Did the Ford announcement upset the apple cart? Usually Ford and GM are happy to go in opposite directions, as each seeks to carve out a separate niche for its products in the marketplace. Perhaps there is more to this story that may come to light in the days and weeks to come.

It was also surprising that Mary Barra chose to use Twitter Spaces to make the announcement. Barra has not used Twitter since last October 27, the day that Elon Musk officially became the new owner of the company. GM also discontinued all advertising on the platform at the time. A GM spokesperson said Thursday its brands and some executives continue to use Twitter but that the company has not resumed any advertising on the social media platform. There was no indication given that a resumption of advertising was imminent.

The GM/Tesla deal, like the Ford/Tesla deal, is likely to be beneficial for both companies. It is expected to more than double access to fast chargers for GM and Ford customers and increase use of Tesla's network.

Tesla says it has roughly 45,000 Supercharger connectors worldwide at 4,947 Supercharger Stations. The company does not break out how many are in the US, but the figure most commonly bandied about on the internet is somewhere north of 12,000. The U.S. Department of Energy reports the country only has about 5,300 CCS fast chargers.

Tesla has previously had discussions with the Biden administration about opening its Supercharger network to other EV drivers. And why not? With billions of dollars on offer from Uncle Sugar, Tesla would be foolish not to cut itself in on the deal. White House officials announced in February that Tesla had committed to opening up 7,500 of its charging stations to non-Tesla EV drivers by the end of 2024.

As part of the GM announcement on Thursday, Musk said Tesla owners will not be given priority to the company's chargers, calling access "an even playing field" for all EV owners. "The most important thing is that we’ve witnessed the electric vehicle revolution," Musk said.

That could make some Tesla owners unhappy. They have grown accustomed to pulling into a Tesla Supercharger location to find an available charger waiting. Some of them may be less than thrilled if they have to wait for a Hummer EV or some other groundpounder with a 200 kWh battery to finish charging before they can plug in. No doubt, the great and powerful Musk has a plan to placate his loyal customers and perhaps one day he will share it with the rest of us. In general, though, the Supercharger network is growing every day and more revenue will equal more growth.

In the final analysis, the Tesla charging standard is not simply about its sleek design. It is about how the Supercharger network simply functions as it is supposed to the first time and every time, or nearly every time. The internet is full of horror stories from other EV drivers who have arrived at chargers only to find they are broken or require a certain identification card or have been unexpectedly shut down without notice.

Potential EV drivers are right to be nervous about charging. The only EV drivers who don't worry about charging while away from home are Tesla owners who have learned that Superchargers are easy and reliable to use. No drama is the best EV charging experience.

Tesla built a better mousetrap. Let the EV revolution continue.

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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