A Universal Charging Standard Is Needed For Mass EV Adoption

A Universal Charging Standard Is Needed For Mass EV Adoption

Imagine this: pulling up to a gas station to fill up only to discover that you can’t get gas there. Your car is a Chevy and you’re at a Shell station. Chevy’s aren’t compatible with Shell stations. You can only fill up at Speedway. But you really need gas and the nearest Speedway is 48 km away and you only have 24 km of range. This is almost what’s happening with the current state of EV charging.

As Vice reported, Rivian’s recently introduced Adventure Network of chargers sets the stage for a future of automaker exclusive charging made up of a confusing combo of charger types and exclusive networks. From a business standpoint, this makes sense for automakers. Enticing customers with an exclusive charging network can be sold as a benefit to both current and previous EV owners as well as people who aren’t owners and are on the fence about ownership. From a mass adoption standpoint, it won’t work.

Ford Mach E CCS Charging Port (Image: Ford)

A charging standard needs to be set if both automakers and the government expect everyone to be driving EVs by the 2030s. The closest thing we have to a universal standard currently is the use of J-plugs for vehicles. Most EVs use this type of charger. Currently (at least in North America), there are three charger connector types split between two charging levels ( 120-volt and 240-volt) and two types of chargers, home or public. Combined Charging System (CCS) is the most popular as it’s used by more automakers:

  • BMW
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Stellantis
  • Ford
  • Jaguar
  • GM
  • Honda
  • Hyundai/Kia
  • Mazda
  • Polestar
  • Tesla
  • VW

Tesla Model S Charging Port (Image: Stan Honda, Getty Images)

Tesla is the only automakers that uses its own proprietary charge connector. When Tesla established the Supercharger network in late 2012 it created its own Tesla-specific DC fast charging connector, because the common standard CCS plug didn’t yet exist. Tesla has clung to its own charger, despite everyone else agreeing on a new standard, shutting everyone else out from using the Supercharger network.

CHAdeMO Charging Port (on the left) as seen on the Nissan Leaf (Image: AFP, Getty Images)

The third type of connector is CHAdeMO. But it’s almost exclusively used for JDM EV’s and charging. Most models that use it aren’t sold in the U.S. The ones that were sold here and used the charging type sold in so few numbers that it was almost a given the type would never catch on. EV models such as the Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i MiEV, and Kia Niro used CHAdeMO.

Third-party chargers like Electrify America And EVGO can charge CHAdeMO plugs and CCS plugs, but not Tesla plugs, unless you have a Tesla-to-CHAdeMO adaptor. This is on top of the different memberships, pricing plans, and apps that have to be used before the chargers can even be plugged in.

With these different types, this is where the problems come in with having everyone using something different. For instance, non Tesla vehicles cant use Superchargers, even with an adaptor. And the company hasn’t announced any plans for that to change in the future. You can use a Tesla home charger or destination charger on a non-Tesla EV, but that requires a J-1772-to-Tesla adaptor.

With President Biden wanting half a million chargers built across the country by 2030, the government needs to step in and set a universal standard for charging for all vehicles that automakers have to adhere to. Universal adoption cant be championed at the same time as brand-specific charging. The two don’t mix. If nothing is done, mass adoption of EV’s will never get off the ground and the simple ability to charge will be to blame.