Standardization

March 4, 2024

Mark D Larsen


Adaption
(Click to enlarge)


First… a caveat. After my wife read the post below, she prudently pointed out that all the details would only confuse and bewilder electric vehicle neophytes who are simply interested in giving up their gas mobiles for an EV. She therefore suggested that it would be more helpful to simply point them to resources like the PlugShare map, where they could easily find out what EV chargers are available, from which providers, at what locations, and with what types of plugs, speeds, and costs.

If, however, you are a masochistic EV nerd like myself, who understands and relishes such a verbose quagmire of information, you are welcome to keep scrolling down!



It has been a long time in coming. A very long time. Well over a decade ago one of my first posts described the lamentable incompatibility among the various plugs and ports to charge electric cars. For years here in the USA, numerous connections had been used, everything from inductive paddles to regular 120V plugs.

Eventually it seemed like four designs would dominate the emerging EV market. The first was the J1772 that came from Japan with the LEAF and the i-MiEV, which became the de facto standard for Level 1 (120V) and Level 2 (240V) charging —what the majority of EV owners would use at home in their garages with EVSE stations (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment). The second also arrived from Japan with the LEAF and i-MiEV, and was nicknamed CHAdeMO, a Level 3 (fast charge) plug and port to be used on roadtrips at public charging stations. Balking at how large CHAdeMO was, but also to thwart the competition, General Motors pressured the SAE to come up with a fast charge alternative that merged J1772 and direct current connectors into one cumbersome plug, jokingly nicknamed the “FrankenPlug,” but now designated CCS1 (Combined Charging System 1). I well remember how the promise of Level 3 fast charging using these two competing plugs wasn’t very practical, since the first EVs on the market like my LEAF could only drive 100 miles at best on a full charge.

Then, when Tesla Motors released the Model S with a 200+ mile range, they decided to reject all the above connectors and come up with a fourth alternative, a slim all-in-one plug that could provide all Level 1, 2, and 3 charging. Needless to say, the incompatibility among all these plugs and ports really irritated me, and I longed for EV makers to settle on a single charging standard.

It now appears that this year a transition to a universal EV charging standard will finally roll out. First Ford, then GM, followed by practically all other EV makers, have decided to start using Tesla’s plug, first with adapters like the one shown at the top of the page, and then in 2025 with dedicated receptacles on their vehicles. Tesla calls its plug NACS (North American Charging Standard), but the SAE now designates it J3400. The other automakers decided that adopting J3400 as a universal standard only makes sense, given that Tesla’s Superchargers are the most widespread and reliable across the nation. Tesla, of course, is more than happy to now pocket the profits from any and all EVs charging at its network —and not just its own models. What is most ironic in my not-so-humble opinion is that, in Europe, the standardization moved in just the opposite direction: the EU demanded that Tesla change its plugs, ports, and Superchargers to conform to the CCS2 standard already widespread throughout the continent. Go figure!

Over a year ago, it seemed that small steps were being taken to move in that direction. Tesla started to equip a select few of its Supercharger sites with what they called “Magic Docks,” J3400 plugs that also sported adapters to accomodate the CCS1 ports on other makes of EVs. I recently uploaded a post describing the charging speeds that other EVs were achieving with those “Magic Docks.” In hindsight, it now seems obvious that Tesla was conducting experiments to work out any compatibility issues with such adapters. As of today, there are 51 such “Magic Dock” sites in operation in North America, as shown on this map:


”Magic Docks” nationwide
(Click to enlarge)

When Ford announced that it would transition to the J3400 standard, it promised its EV owners that in Q1 2024 they would receive free adapters to use at Supercharger sites. Lo and behold, that promise was fulfilled last week, on leap day 2024. Numerous owners of Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning owners immediately started posting videos of using their adapters at Superchargers. Indeed, one such owner, Tom Moloughney, also tried using his Ford adapter with other EVs, a Rivian and a Bolt, and found that only “authorized” EVs, i.e., from Ford, could successfully connect to Superchargers —so far, that is. Over the next several months there is little doubt that Tesla will begin to allow more models to tap into its network, since it has already designated numerous sites as “Superchargers Open to NACS,” in addition to the “Magic Dock” locations, as shown on this map:


Superchargers open to all makes of EVs with NACS adapters
(Click to enlarge)

The above map does not include all Superchargers in the Tesla network, as adapters will only work with newer v3 and v4 units. The earliest Superchargers installed years ago remain incompatible with other EVs, and will only charge Teslas. Still, this transition means that, over the next year, all EVs will eventually be able to plug in at over 15,300 Superchargers —a huge increase in fast charge stations nationwide.

My only question is: how long will it take before Hyundai gets the green light like Ford, and I will be able to also plug in my Ioniq 5 at a Supercharger via an adapter? I already have J1772 adapters for my High Power Wall Connector and Universal Mobile Connector. If and when Tesla authorizes Hyundai’s EVs, I anticipate buying a J3400 adapter like Lectron’s Vortex Plug or A2Z’s Typhoon Plug.

In the interim, I will just have to depend on other 3rd party DCFC providers like Electrify America. The good news is that I can use the latter stations for free for the next two years. Supercharging requires a charging fee, of course, and from what I’ve seen on the charging maps, it looks like other EVs will have to pay a higher price per kWh than Teslas. True to the laissez-faire capitalism in this country, there will be a price to pay in this transition to a universal EV charging standard, and Tesla —and E’loon Isherwell— will be earning a huge profit from it.