Today, the Biden administration announced new standards for expanding the national electric vehicle (EV) charging network in order to encourage widespread EV adoption by providing a “predictable” user experience. All charging stations will soon be required to adopt the same connector types, payment methods, and data privacy assurances. These new standards have pushed Tesla, for the first time, to make part of its proprietary charging network compatible with non-Tesla EVs in the United States.
Joining other industry stakeholders in supporting Biden’s goal to build 500,000 EV chargers nationwide by 2030, Tesla has pledged to make “at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024,” Biden’s announcement said. This will include 3,500 new and existing 250 kW “superchargers” along highway corridors and 4,000 slower “destination chargers” at hotels and restaurants in urban and rural areas.
Any EV driver should be able to use the Tesla app or website to access these charging stations, but it’s currently unclear how Tesla will adapt its charging network to comply with new connector-type standards. The most widely used connector type is the Combined Charging System (CCS), and Reuters reported that any company hoping to secure a portion of $7.5 billion in federal funding for Biden’s EV initiative would have to adopt the CCS standard. A White House official said that Tesla would be adopting the CCS standard, already has “a hardware and a software solution” to do so, and could qualify for state funding to retrofit its charger network, Reuters reported. Earlier this year, InsideEVs reported that Tesla’s solution could be a mysterious “Magic Dock” to retrofit Tesla charging stations to charge non-Tesla EVs. No one’s sure exactly how the Magic Dock would work yet.
Opening its charging network to all EVs could position Tesla as the clear industry leader across America, analysts told Reuters, but adopting the CCS standard could also diminish some consumers’ incentive to buy Teslas. Tesla drivers have enjoyed exclusive access to the nation’s largest and fastest network of “superchargers,” but soon any EV owner can enjoy that same benefit without buying a Tesla.
Tesla did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.
Despite this seeming risk to its EV sales, Tesla CEO Elon Musk seemed “very open” to helping Biden meet his ambitious EV charging goals, White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said at a press briefing today. With so much funding available to competitors, Tesla otherwise might have risked a rival creating a larger charging network, thus losing Tesla drivers’ incentive of exclusivity either way.
When Musk met with White House officials last month, he made no commitment to opening up the charging network, The Washington Post reported. Today’s announcement will likely be good news to at least some of Tesla’s investors, who, Reuters reported, have been waiting for Tesla to confirm its commitment.
Is Biden’s made-in-America plan realistic?
Tesla isn’t the only company that Biden is relying on to expand the country’s EV charging network through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program.
More than a dozen companies have committed to adding “more than 100,000 public chargers available for all EVs.” Those companies include automakers like General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Ford, as well as other EV industry stakeholders, including Hertz, BP, Pilot Company, EVgo, TravelCenters of America, ChargePoint, Electrify America, and Starbucks. General Motors and Francis Energy made some of the largest commitments. The former promised to install “up to 40,000 public Level 2 EV chargers in local communities by 2026” and the latter to expand into 40 states by 2023 and then install “50,000 EV charging ports by 2030.” Other companies and networks made commitments to regularly maintain new charging stations.
While the NEVI program helps Biden achieve his mission of electrifying “the great American road trip,” Biden’s larger goal is to aggressively ramp up domestic manufacturing of EVs and EV chargers. To that end, Biden’s plan requires that all federally funded EV chargers must be built in the US. Companies have until July 2024 to ensure that 55 percent of the cost of all components for new EV chargers is paid to domestic manufacturers. Any equipment that doesn’t meet that standard must be installed by October 2024. Biden expects that requiring continued investments will support the development of a dependable domestic supply chain.
“These standards will direct federal dollars to build out a national EV charging network that is user-friendly, reliable, and accessible so that charging is as easy as filling up at a gas station,” Biden’s announcement said.
Not everyone expects that Biden’s plan will result in America suddenly gaining a dependable supply chain, though. Reuters reported that the European Union and Mexico have voiced concerns that the US is discriminating against foreign EV makers, and states told DOT that the global demand for EV chargers is already straining the supply chain—making it hard to speed up charger manufacturing while meeting new made-in-America standards. Tesla is worried that the “pace and scale of deployment” of Biden’s plan is too ambitious and could create a “shortfall in the number of compliant charging stations.”