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Midjourney generated image of Porsches, BMWs and Ford electric cars charging up at Tesla Supercharger station


Tesla Is Now A Dominant Charging Network On Three Continents For Most Cars

Charging electric vehicles is now Tesla’s world, and most other manufacturers are just renting space in it.

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US-centric car and EV media has been consumed recently with news that Ford, then GM, and now likely Stellantis (or at least the Jeep and Chrysler brands) are going to be installing Tesla charging plugs in their vehicles instead of anything else. Mercedes-Benz is assessing it too. They’ll be gaining seamless access to Tesla’s best-of-breed Superchargers and Destination Chargers.

NACS (North American Charging Standard), the renamed Tesla charging connector, is understandably a big deal in the North American automobile market, and has basically become the de facto standard for the continent, kicking CCS and all the charging vendors adopting it to the side of the road. I’m sure the standards boffins over at the CCS are incensed, but that’s only peripheral to my take on the subject.

But first, a bit of history. In Tesla’s original secret and diabolical Master Plan from 2006, Elon Musk said that Tesla’s focus was to “help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” Tesla has never been in the business of competing with other OEMs as they manufacture electric cars, but creating the ecosystem for electric cars to replace internal combustion cars. Obviously the legacy manufacturers didn’t really see it that way. Most of them ignored Tesla, and the ones who said anything were typically as patronizing as an Oxford professor telling a grade school child how smart and cute they were, but that perhaps they should consider plumbing as a profession.

The Tesla Roadster was a global hit, of course, and has become a collector’s item, with the three mint Roadsters discovered in China hitting $800,000 at auction for the lot. I’d only expected the low vehicle identification number (VIN) Roadsters to become collectibles in my 2018 assessment of whether EVs would hit the sweet spot for obsessive collectors, and am unsurprised that collectors are weirder than I imagined. I occasionally see one around Vancouver, and of course Mark Z. Jacobson has one in his solar-powered garage, something I chatted with him about in 2020.

And then came the Tesla Model S in 2012, and Tesla had a problem. EV charging networks in North America sucked. They were vastly uneven. They were more likely to not work if you could find one, than to perform as intended. They were dead slow. And they only existed inside cities, not between them. Tesla wanted people who owned its cars to be able to go on road trips.

As so, Tesla Superchargers were born. Tesla started putting up Supercharger stations between big cities and across the country. Other manufacturers? “It’s the gubmints’ job!” 

As early as 2013, a full decade ago, Tesla was offering to give other manufacturers access to the Supercharging network for their product. Other manufacturers at the time said “No thanks” if they bothered to even acknowledge the offer and opportunity. There certainly didn’t seem to even be negotiations. Of course, Tesla at the time was offering Supercharging for free for the life of the Model S, and Musk said other OEMs getting access would require that they do the same. I’m sure someone knows the real story there, but the alternatives are that Tesla didn’t want to do the work to create a payment system for the network or that Musk really thought charging would remain free forever.

For legacy manufacturers like Ford, GM, and VW, of course, this wasn’t an offer that made a lot of sense. In 2013, Tesla’s survival was far from guaranteed and the Supercharger network just wasn’t that big. From their perspective, it looked like they’d be putting their companies’ reputations and customer satisfaction in the hands of a brash Silicon Valley startup that was much more likely to fail than succeed. I can follow the logic quite nicely, even without the kicker of free charging for the life of their vehicles.

Tesla in 2014 went a step further in inviting other manufacturers to the table:

“Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.”

Other manufacturers’ response? Nada. Zip. Bupkiss.

And so time wound on, and other manufacturers wounded themselves constantly in their race to do as little as possible with the global transformation to electrical vehicles. “Short range, sluggish, expensive, compliance EVs? Sure, we’ll build them for the idiots in California, but we hope they don’t buy them.” That’s a paraphrase of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s 2014 public statements about the electric version of the Fiat 500, by the way. Note that Fiat Chrysler has now morphed into Stellantis, a name only a bunch of marketing bros who are late for martinis could possibly have picked or loved, compromising between Josh’ preference of Stellar and Chad’s strongly promoted Atlantis. Shove them together, get a bad name, go for martinis. There’s a funny movie starring Matt Damon and John Hamm in there somewhere.

Now, however, Ford finally got the memo. Perhaps it was that Tesla’s market cap was bigger than any other car company’s in the world. Perhaps it was that the Tesla Model Y was the best selling car in the world, period. Perhaps it was that Tesla Superchargers and Destination Chargers were everywhere.

Most likely it was because Ford was actually selling serious electric cars that people wanted to take on road trips, and US EV charging options that didn’t have the Tesla logo on them still all sucked and mostly didn’t exist between cities. Want to get somewhere other than your daily commute in a non-Tesla? Good luck, and prepare to spend a lot of time driving to where the charger is supposed to be, hoping that it works, and then waiting while electrons trickle like molasses into your battery.

Of course, Ford Mustangs have always been point-to-point vehicles for a lot of people, especially newer expensive ones bought by middle-aged white guys when they get that big promotion but are afraid of motorcycles so can’t buy a Harley Davidson. And, of course, the number of shiny pickups that are detailed regularly on the streets of North American cities makes it clear that there’s a big market for things which signify manliness without actually requiring sweating, cutting down trees, wrestling with bears, or even dealing with biting insects and single-ply toilet paper.

But the electric version of the Mustang (which like the new Tesla Roadster not being a roadster or the Porsche Taycan Turbo having no turbo or anywhere to put it, isn’t remotely like a classic Mustang, but merely shares a collection of phonemes and a piece of stamped metal that people recognize) and the electric version of the F-150 pickup truck were being bought by people who wanted to do more than drive slowly around cities in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They were being bought by people who actually wanted to go visit Aunt Betsie in Poughkeepsie, or head down to Florida, or throw camping gear in the back and head up into the mountains. And these weren’t low-end customers. These were people with serious scratch and the ability, willingness, and entitledness to kick up a fuss.

Other charging networks in North America were lucky to see 60% uptime, compared to Superchargers and Destination Chargers, where a failure was really rare. The networks aren’t five nines, but were running over 98% uptime for chargers, and instead of one charger in a hard to find place, there were four stalls, 12 stalls, 56 stalls or even a whopping 637 stalls, although you have to drive in China to use that one, and it’s out of scope of the NACS standard. (Or is it?)

So Ford finally broke through the conceptual barrier, accepted that if it wanted its customers to have good and rich experiences with its electric vehicles in North America, instead of annoying and frustrating ones, it needed to bed down with the no longer tiny startup it had once ignored and derided. Of course, free Supercharging for life was no longer part of the requirement, which undoubtedly helped.

And Ford stepping into the Tesla charging world opened the floodgates. GM only took a few weeks to join in as well. Stellantis is undoubtedly going to do the same. It’s unlikely that any manufacturer that sells cars in North America will resist, and NACS will be the only choice for most new cars in 2024 and 2025. VW and its sub-brands might resist awhile, because they are building inferior charging stations in a patchy network with their DieselGate-mandated Electrify America sub-brand, but like other charging competitors, they are now officially on life support.

This, by the way, is a fairly common pattern for standards. I’ve been involved in three or more global standards processes in the software industry, including Unified Modeling Language (UML), Electronic business XML (EbXML), and Health Level 7 version three (HL7v3). When the standards bodies start deviating from things that are pragmatic and deployable by people who actually have to implement the standards, then often a small handful of very big firms simply takes matters into their own hands, announce how they will be doing things, and everyone else just has to go along because they have the actual power. That happened with EbXML, and Microsoft and a couple of other big firms just rolled over the industry, to most people’s relief. With HL7v3, it just failed miserably and at great expense, and has been supplanted by much more sensible, lightweight, and pragmatic interfaces, shifting completely away from the tainted HL7 designation to Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).

The people who worked hard and diligently on the abandoned standards often feel beaten up in the process, but when a standard goes off the rails, it’s the bunch of people who worked on it who were culpable, so I generally don’t feel too bad for them, even the ones I knew personally. I like stuff that makes sense and works, and HL7v3 and EbXML weren’t it.

In North America, competing with Tesla’s charging network is now like trying to compete with Google for internet searches, Facebook for letting your Boomer relatives see a carefully sanitized version of your life without having to talk to them, or Apple for smartphones, streaming music, and medical information wearables. It’s just a painful way to turn investors’ money into bankruptcy proceedings. Bye-bye, CCS. Bye-bye, Electrify America. Bye-bye, ChargePoint.

But, of course, the NA in NACS is only for North America, so the rest of the world can safely ignore this, right? Well, no.

China, where that absurd 637-stall Supercharger station exists, dwarfing all European and North American charging stations from any vendor, currently has 37 non-Tesla models of electric vehicles that have access to the Tesla Supercharger and Destination Charger networks. The list includes the biggest Chinese brands, such as BYD, Dongfeng, Geely and SAIC, but also BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ford, Volvo, Audi, and Toyota cars.

Europe now sees Tesla Supercharging available to EV owners who have chosen a different brand in France, The Netherlands, Norway, UK, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Iceland, Italy, and Türkiye. Now, Luxembourg and Iceland might not be big additions, but Germany, France, and Italy are legacy car manufacturing powerhouses. Tesla’s amazing network being available to the majority of Europe’s population is a big deal.

Of course, there are some nuances to this story. In Canada, for example, Quebec’s electric vehicle charging system is en par with Tesla’s in terms of up-time. Hydro-Québec’s Electric Circuit and FLO are the two main networks of public charging stations in Quebec, and they are fully payment-integrated and have good up-times, as a Quebec acquaintance was quick to point out the other day on this topic. And European electric vehicle charging networks aren’t nearly as bad or sparse as North America’s non-Tesla alternatives.

But if I were an executive at Allego, BP Chargemaster, EVBox, Fastned, IONITY, or any other vendors in the patchwork of charging systems in Europe, I’d be very, very nervous.

With Tesla’s Superchargers available to the majority of drivers of electric vehicles in the biggest markets in the world, with their very high reliability and their excellent charging rates, what electric car manufacturer wouldn’t look at the opportunity to simplify and standardize on Tesla if they possibly could? From my perspective, charging electric vehicles is now Tesla’s world, and most other manufacturers are just renting space in it.

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is a member of the Advisory Boards of electric aviation startup FLIMAX, Chief Strategist at TFIE Strategy and co-founder of distnc technologies. He hosts the Redefining Energy - Tech podcast ( , a part of the award-winning Redefining Energy team. He spends his time projecting scenarios for decarbonization 40-80 years into the future, and assisting executives, Boards and investors to pick wisely today. Whether it's refueling aviation, grid storage, vehicle-to-grid, or hydrogen demand, his work is based on fundamentals of physics, economics and human nature, and informed by the decarbonization requirements and innovations of multiple domains. His leadership positions in North America, Asia and Latin America enhanced his global point of view. He publishes regularly in multiple outlets on innovation, business, technology and policy. He is available for Board, strategy advisor and speaking engagements.


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