Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has talked about opening up his company’s massive Supercharger network to other electric vehicles for years. However, Musk tweeted earlier this month that Tesla wants to accomplish this “later this year,” and this week, he finally provided some ideas about how it would operate.
Musk stated on a Monday investor call that it would be “very straightforward.” Owners of other electric vehicles will be able to charge at a Supercharger station using the Tesla app, which is now only available to Tesla customers. In Europe and China, where charging cable connectors are standardized, Musk said that’s about all Tesla will have to do to make this viable. (Tesla has already stated that the network will be launched in Norway.)
In North America, however, Tesla uses a proprietary connector, therefore non-Tesla vehicles will require an adaptor. That decision may fall to the other automakers; Musk has previously stated that Tesla has held discussions with other automakers about sharing costs in order to expand the Supercharger network, and in 2018, he stated that competitors would have to “accept our charge rate and our connector, at the very least have an adapter to our connector.” Tesla may still produce its own, since Musk stated that he plans to make them available at Supercharger stations if “people don’t sort of steal them or something.” (On the phone, Tesla energy director Drew Baglino told his boss that his team “had a fantastic solution for that.”)
This adapter would very certainly need to be approved (usually by third parties such as UL) and some rudimentary software created to manage the “handshake” that occurs between a car and the charger before electrons begin to flow.
If Tesla permits other electric vehicles to use its Supercharger network, it may provide a significant boost to the small — but increasing — EV sector. The company has already installed over 3,000 charging stations and roughly 27,000 connectors around the world, allowing for faster charging than most other networks.
EVgo, ChargePoint, and Blink are just a few of the already-open charging networks that have recently gone public and expect to utilize most of the new capital to extend their networks. However, allowing owners of other EVs access to the Supercharger network should help reduce the dual difficulties of finding available (and working) chargers and time spent charging more quickly.
According to Baglino on a Monday investor call, it may be a financial gain for Tesla as well. “Increasing network usage lowers our expenses, allowing us to drop billing prices for all consumers, making the network more lucrative and allowing us to expand the network more quickly. He responded, “That’s a good thing there.” The prospect that opening up the network would make Tesla’s superchargers more enticing to government subsidy programs went unmentioned. (President Biden has stated that as part of a $15 billion investment in the technology, he wants to create 500,000 charging stations.)
However, there is at least one major possible stumbling block for this plan: capacity – not energy capacity, but capacity in terms of how congested Superchargers will become.
Supercharger outlets in various major cities have become overcrowded as Tesla’s vehicles have grown in popularity. In some ways, this is excellent for Tesla: hanging out at Superchargers while charging is a fantastic opportunity to meet other Tesla owners who might share your interests, which helps the business develop its fan base. However, waiting in line just to have to wait again while charging is inconvenient, and things will only become worse if Tesla opens up the Supercharger network to more electric vehicles.
To address this, Musk suggested that Tesla experiment with dynamic pricing. For example, if your EV charges at a slower rate than a Tesla, the business could raise costs because the “biggest restriction at Superchargers is time,” as Musk stated on Monday.
The main stumbling block, according to Musk, is that Tesla is producing cars at a faster rate than it is constructing new Supercharger stations. He claims that opening the network will be “only helpful to the public if we can [install Superchargers] quicker than Tesla vehicle output.” “So the Supercharger crew has a lot of work ahead of them.”
According to Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, access to a big, exclusive network of fast charging stations has long been one of the selling features of buying a Tesla, which could make the move difficult. In an email to The Verge, Brauer wrote, “Elon will have to combine his ambition to expand EV charging access — and improve Tesla’s profitability — with keeping his owner body pleased.” “Even for Elon, that might be a bridge too far.”
However, Autotrader executive editor Brian Moody remarked via email that opening up the network may be a great marketing tool for a corporation that is known for not spending money on traditional advertising.
“The genius of this concept is that it progressively introduces the Tesla brand to motorists, particularly those who are already interested in electric vehicles. I’m sure it will lead to more Tesla buyers in the long run,” Moody added.
Although Tesla’s private Supercharger network has been a selling feature, Musk stated on Monday that he has always planned to offer it up to other electric vehicles — and in the process, took a swipe at another Silicon Valley behemoth. “Our mission is to assist in the development of sustainable energy. It is not to build a walled garden and use it to hammer our competitors, as certain companies have done in the past,” he continued, before coughing and adding, “Apple.”
It’s something that the other charging networks have foreseen as well. EVgo revealed in a recent financial statement that Tesla’s Supercharger network opening up “may further impact demand for charging at our facilities.”