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Ford-Tesla Deal Sparks an EV Charging Standards War

Do you remember when there was a huge debate between VHS and Betamax? If you were a child of the 80’s, you’ll recall it getting as heated as Pepsi versus Coke. It was ugly. Well, the EV charger space has begun it’s own war: CCS versus NACS.

Oleg Logvinov, the North American chair of Charin, which oversees the CCS charging standard, isn’t happy about it. He has seen firsthand the negative effects of standards wars and doesn’t want the same thing to happen to the US EV market.

According to Logvinov, standards wars never benefit anyone. They make companies spend more money on development, confuse consumers, and lead to unnecessary waiting times. We’ve seen this play out over and over again, so it’s a real bummer that it’s emerged at such a critical time for EV adoption.

The recent announcement that Tesla will allow Ford EVs to use its fast chargers in North America has stirred up the situation even more. Previously, only Tesla drivers had access to these chargers, but now, starting in 2025, Ford drivers will too. It’s a click move that benefits both Ford and Tesla–Ford drivers get an all access pass to the largest and most reliable fast-charging network in the US, while Tesla gets a fat new revenue stream as well as gets bragging rights. The consequences afterwards, however, are messy.

Before this deal went down, Ford had committed to the combined charging system (CCS), which is used by every other automaker selling cars in the US–except, of course, for Tesla. Although more automakers use CCS than NACS, Tesla’s dominance in the US EV market means that more vehicles use NACS. In 2022, Tesla accounted for 65% of all EV sales in the US, while Ford had a distant second place with 7.5% of the market.

Now that Ford has switched to NACS, there’s speculation that other automakers may follow suit, undermining CCS and creating even more uncertainty in an EV market that is already slow to mature.

Ryan Fisher, a transport analyst at consultancy Bloomberg NEF, believes that we will have dual standards for a while. This means that consumers and charge point operators will have to deal with the inconvenience and added costs of using adapters. Not ideal, and it’s going to add a lot of confusion for charging operators, who will start questioning whether they should install CCS or NACS as their base connector.

Logvinov finds it an affront to call NACS a standard. He points out that Tesla’s proprietary technology hasn’t gone through the collaborative processes that would make it a true standard. Making things interoperable within a single vendor’s ecosystem is easy, but it becomes challenging when multiple vendors are involved. Despite the challenges, Logvinov believes that achieving interoperability among multiple vendors is a worthwhile task, as it makes technology better, more accessible, and less expensive for everyone. So, it bothers him when he hears the phrase “North American Charging Standard” because it isn’t truly a standard.

The argument in favor of the single-vendor model is that there are fewer compromises and a single vision doesn’t get diluted. Apple enthusiasts often mention the benefits of having hardware and software built specifically for each other, providing a smoother user experience.

Supporters of NACS argue that the evidence can be found in the poor reliability of fast chargers built using the CCS standard, and some research from JD Power shows that at least 1 in 5 attempts to use public chargers in the US fails.

Charin acknowledges the reliability issues but attributes them to the early stage of development for this new standard. Logvinov compares it to the growth pains experienced in the computer industry when Windows computers from multiple vendors hit the market after the Apple Macintosh. Initially, there were quality problems, but a few years later, Windows computers dominated the market. Logvinov believes that what we’re seeing with CCS is a normal technology adoption cycle.

Time will tell how this tussle pans out. In the meantime, here’s hoping that everyone keeps their eye on the ultimate prize–mass adoption.

By evee Life Contributor

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