California wants to increase the number of EV chargers in rural areas to support its push for more electric cars. Tesla wants to expand its Supercharger network in the Golden State. Now the California Energy Commission has approved Tesla proposals to construct new Supercharger facilities in 4 rural communities. Each of those projects will receive a grant of $1.6 million from the CEC’s inelegantly named Clean Transportation Program Rural Electric Vehicle Charging Program — also known as GFO-21-604.
Is there a catch? Of course there is. In order to qualify for the grants, Tesla had to agree to make half of the chargers in each location compliant with the CCS charging standard used by most electric vehicles manufacturers not called Tesla that sell cars in California.
According to Drive Tesla Canada, the four new Supercharger locations are in:
- Baker — a 56 Supercharger expansion of an existing facility — $4 million.
- Willows — a 100 Supercharger new facility in northern California — $6 million.
- Barstow — a new 100 Supercharger facility to supplement existing chargers — $4.5 million.
- Coalinga — 164 Superchargers. There are already 98 stalls at the Harris Ranch, so this may be an expansion of that facility — $8 million.
All 4 of the new facilities will be supported by a Tesla Megapack battery storage unit to smooth the demand for electricity to power all those chargers. Tesla is using canopies covered with solar panels at many California locations to protect drivers from the sun while charging and also to help charge the storage batteries onsite. There is no word on whether the new installations will do so as well.
The folks at Drive Tesla Canada delve into each project in exquisite detail, complete with screenshots of the actual applications, all of which is quite interesting. If you are curious about such things, feel free to visit their site. But those details are not our focus here.
What gets the gang at CleanTechnica all jiggly about this announcement is the 50% CCS compatibility requirement. The US government is also interested in getting more EV chargers built in rural locations and has put plenty of money behind that initiative both as part of President Biden’s plan to add a half million chargers throughout America and now as part of the funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
The problem is, Tesla uses its own charging standard for the cars it sells in North America. Everyone else uses CCS except Nissan, which uses CHAdeMO. In Europe, Teslas are equipped at the factory with CCS 2 charging ports, so it’s a little easier for Tesla to allow cars from other manufacturers to use its Supercharger network on the Old Continent.
Tesla would be happy to get some federal funding to bolster its Supercharger network in the US, but there is a question of how exactly that would work. Either there needs to be an adapter to connect a Supercharger cable to a CCS charging port, or there will need to be separate charging cables — one with a Supercharger connector on the end and another with a CCS connector.
The first solution creates another problem — how to keep people from stealing the adapters. The second solution cuts the number of charging cables available in half, unless Tesla owners could use an adapter themselves for CCS chargers. Still, it seems a little silly to have a Tesla drive up to a Tesla Supercharger and have to use an adapter to plug in.
Another conundrum for Tesla is how to keep its customers happy if they get to a Supercharger location only to find all the chargers are being used by Volkswagen, Volvo, GM, Ford, Kia, Hyundai, and Rivian drivers. One of Tesla’s main selling points is access to the Supercharger network.
Drive Tesla Canada hints at a solution it calls the Magic Dock that is stored on the Supercharger itself with an electronic lock that only allows it to be used by authorized drivers who must replace it before their car is allowed to drive away. Doable but tricky to implement. It would be so much easier if everyone used one common standard, which may happen someday.
In any event, Tesla recognizes that it is going to have to share its Supercharger network eventually. Elon told the Financial Times earlier this year, “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.”
Latching onto some federal dollars would be nice, too. The arrangement with California could well be a precursor of how opening up the Supercharger network to other drivers all across North America would work. Recently, the great state of Texas turned its nose up at a proposal by Tesla to install 700 Superchargers in that state that would supply both Teslas and other EVs. And yet, California has embraced a similar proposal. That’s good news, since the lessons learned in California will help make the superior Tesla experience available to more drivers.
Our grandkids will be amazed when we tell them there used to be three different charging standards and that EV drivers used to carry adapters with them everywhere. They will also be amazed that many drivers had to have special access credentials to use those chargers instead of just inserting a credit card like they would do for any other purchase.
But technology evolves. There was a time when gas stations didn’t exist and motorists had to buy gasoline at the local apothecary. Standards are what make mass adoption possible, and Tesla will drive the adoption of standards for EV charging.
America desperately needs more EV chargers to support the transition to electric cars. Tesla has the best charging network. In the best of all possible worlds, all EV drivers would be able to take advantage of the best charging network available and Tesla drivers would learn to peacefully coexist with those who choose to drive another brand of electric car. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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