In a lengthy interview with the Financial Times recently (you can watch the entire conversation on YouTube if you have an hour and twenty minutes), Elon Musk said, “We’ve already opened Tesla Superchargers to other electric cars in Europe, and we intend to roll that out worldwide. It’s a little trickier in the US because we have a different connector than the rest of the industry. But we will be adding the rest of industry connectors as an option to Superchargers in the US. We’re trying as best as possible to do the right thing for the advancement of electrification; even if that diminishes our competitive advantage.”
Standards are what make commerce possible. Russia and China use different widths for their railroad tracks, which means trains travelling from one country to the other must stop at the border so cranes can lift the railway cars and slide wheels with the correct spacing under them before they can continue their journey. Does that slow down the wheels of progress? Oh, you betcha!
Cars and trucks all use wheels with diameters measured in inches. Why not millimeters? Or Angström units? Because it would be chaotic — and unprofitable — to try to manufacture wheels and tires that conform to different standards. There is nothing about feet and inches that is inherently superior to other units of measurement (well, actually, there’s a lot to be said for the metric system), but for whatever reasons, inches became the standard for the dimensions of wheels for cars and trucks a century ago and so that’s what most of the world uses.
In the world of EV charging, there is no global standard for charging. Tesla began with its own proprietary charger plugs largely because no one else was interested in devising a standard, so it created its own. In Japan, CHAdeMO was the accepted standard. China has its own standard. Europe and the UK have adopted the CCS 2 standard. The US has gone with CCS as well, but its connectors are slightly different from the European connectors, so in North America it is known as CCS 1.
The Differences In Charging Standards Explained
Being a journalist, I know a little about a lot of things but I don’t know a lot about anything (except how to use WordPress, perhaps). But I do know how to find answers to questions and chanced upon a very detailed analysis of the various charging standards a person on the Reddit EV forum by the name of SirEDCaLot. Here’s what he had to say:
“EU level 2 is the ‘mennekes type 2’ connector. It supports 3 phase AC. EU CCS is mennekes with two DC pins below it, called CCS type 2 or CCS2. US level 2 is the J1772 connector. It supports 1 phase AC because 3 phase AC is less common. US CCS is a J1772 with two DC pins below it, called CCS.
“Teslas in EU use a Type 2 connector that has Tesla proprietary negotiation so it can charge at L2 speed from any normal connector, or DC fast charge from a Supercharger using the Type 2 connector. Teslas in US use a proprietary connector that supports L1, L2, and DC charging. It can be easily adapted to J1772, and newer Teslas can use CCS with an adapter (older Teslas can’t use this adapter).
“So the ideal would be a situation where the Tesla proprietary connector goes away, and all Tesla vehicles & superchargers use a CCS port. I think this is the direction Tesla will eventually go in. But compatibility must be maintained.”
Another poster complained, “I just wish that the standard connector was more like the US Tesla one and less like CCS. No idea why those connectors are SO big and heavy. It’s a terrible design.” To which, SirEDCaLot had this detailed response:
“It’s a reflection on who designed it. Tesla was primarily designed by IT tech people — make it small and efficient and do the job. J1772 was designed by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) along with a bunch of electricians. Make a big, heavily insulated connector.
“The differences are even more evident in the spec itself. For example, Tesla makes a CAN Bus connection between the car and charger. Since the various components of the car already speak CAN Bus to each other, it’s an easy way to communicate with an offboard charger. Thus the car and the charger can negotiate, and for example the car can say it only needs 1kW now so the rest of the power can be freed up for another EV.
“J1772 on the other hand is much ‘dumber’. The charger puts out a square wave signal, the duty cycle of which indicates the current it can source. By sending that signal voltage back to the EVSE with various resistances / diodes in the mix, the car signals the charger to start current flow.
“DC fast charging changes things. With DC fast charging, the offboard power converters have to supply the exact voltage and amperage that the car requests, and must continually adjust that voltage per the car’s specifications as the battery charges. Thus, you need a continuous rich communication path between EVSE and car (not just a ‘I’m here’, but an actual data link).
“With CAN Bus, Tesla simply had to add an additional mode the charger would offer and the car would accept. The car and charger can then continue communicating and the car can tell the charger what power it needs in real time.
But for J1772 CCS, an entirely new communication system was required, namely HomePlug Green PLC (power line communication), which creates a data link over power lines. Without that, the car couldn’t continually adjust the output of the charger as is needed for DC fast charging.”
Frankly, that is the best explanation of the various charging protocols I have found anywhere, so I decided to share it with you.
The Tesla Takeaway
There are a lot of unanswered questions with this whole “anyone can use our Superchargers” thing. The US government is prepared to spend a big chunk of change to improve the charging networks all across America and Tesla wouldn’t mind getting its hands on some of that money. But it doesn’t want to annoy its loyal customers, so it only wants to convert a percentage of chargers at its Supercharger locations to CCS operation — 4 out of 10 might be the right ratio, but the feds may want more than that before the part with the money.
We also don’t know how non-Tesla drivers would pay to charge. There might be subscription model where drivers pay a monthly fee for access to the Supercharger and then pay the same rate for electricity as Tesla drivers. Or they might just pay a premium for the electricity. We simply don’t know how this will all work at this point. When we know more, you will know more.
What seems evident is that CCS is winning the EV charging standard battle. In the not too distant future, those lovely, elegant Supercharger connectors may disappear and all cars sold in North America will come with CCS sockets from the factory just as new Teslas sold in Europe do today. Until then, be sure to bring your collection of charging adapters with you when you leave home.
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.