Tesla North American Charging Standard (NACS) — Should We Tesla Owners Give Cheers Or Have Fears?

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After 5 years of owning Nissan LEAFs, I picked up my new Tesla Model 3 in October 2019 at the Salt Lake City Tesla Delivery Center. I’ve been very pleased with the Tesla Supercharger network that allows me to travel cross-country on Interstate highways with only a little inconvenience compared with my previous trips in gasmobiles. I’ve done the 1500 miles between Utah and Wisconsin 7 times. I’ve added North Carolina to the trip once and Southern California once. So, I’ve literally driven my Tesla coast to coast.

My experience with the Tesla Supercharger network

When we are driving cross country in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota, Superchargers are spaced conveniently just off the Interstate highways and we are frequently the only car charging on one of 8 chargers. I back up to the charger or even park sideways to the chargers because of my bike rack on back. I plug in the slim charging plug and the charge is automatically initiated. I get complete information about the charging status on the big screen in my car, and my credit card is automatically billed. A digital display will be required on government-subsidized chargers, but Superchargers don’t have them and don’t need them. Hopefully Tesla will be able to get that requirement waved.

I’m particularly pleased with the upgrades and expansions Tesla has made since my purchase — in the Supercharger and the service network. However, when in Wisconsin, the nearest Tesla service center is 225 miles south in Madison. And the number of Teslas on the road continue to grow rapidly. Tesla has been selling ~200 cars per week at the Salt Lake City Delivery Center and the new Service and Delivery Center in Pleasant Grove. Add to that the thousands per week sold in California, and many people traveling from Southern California to Utah.

What will happen now with Ford, GM, Aptera (and others soon?) joining the Tesla Supercharging Network?

With every other automobile manufacturer in North America and Europe using the CCS standard, it looked like there was no chance in hell that any EV company besides Aptera would use the Tesla standard. However, the Tesla Supercharger network is so good, so reliable, and so much superior to CCS chargers that long-distance travel in any other car besides a Tesla has been a crap shoot. Besides, why would Tesla be willing to give up one of its major selling points? Tesla is making huge investments in its Supercharger network and the thought was that it wasn’t going to share unless the company it was sharing with would also invest. What’s changed? Maybe it’s because the Inflation Reduction Act includes $8 billion for charging infrastructure, but only for chargers that adhere to an open standard. Therefore, unless Tesla opened its network to other manufacturers, it couldn’t expect to get any of the government money.

Ford and GM have signed onto the Tesla NACS Supercharger network. Who’s next? While Volkswagen is heavily invested in the Electrify America CCS standard network and may resist, it is expected that most or every other EV manufacturer will also switch over to the NACS standard soon.

Why Tesla owners should have fears: Will Tesla be able to build out the NACS Supercharger network fast enough with all the cars from other manufacturers now using the network? Has Tesla given up its biggest competitive advantage, and will it no longer be the dominant manufacturer of EVs in the world?

Why we Tesla owners should be cheering: Our cars are already compatible with the NACS standard that will be built out massively with federal government and Tesla investment. Tesla will do its best to not allow congestion at Superchargers, and the number of locations should increase due to the larger number of users.

Why we should be convinced that Tesla will expand the Supercharger network fast enough to keep up with demand: The I-15 Salt Lake City–St. George–Las Vegas–Southern California corridor has become a very heavily traveled route for Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Supercharger buildout and use along this route was dramatically illustrated following Christmas on Monday, December 26.

Tesla Superchargers from Salt Lake City to St. George on PlugShare. June 16, 2023.

There was a lot of traffic was from people like my wife and daughter and me. St. George is almost always snow free, and the weather is sunnier and much warmer in the winter than the big metropolitan center in Northern Utah. Many Northern Utah residents like my daughter own vacation homes down there. People were also on their way to Las Vegas for entertainment and gambling, Arizona for football bowl games, and California for sunny beaches in San Diego. We also saw ski carriers on the Teslas going in the opposite direction from California, going north to Utah ski resorts. Also, with the large Mormon populations in Utah and California, many people were traveling home from Christmas family reunions.

Wide-tire ebikes on a Model Y at a portable Supercharger. Nephi, Utah Supercharger. December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

The sleepy Superchargers of 6 months or a few years ago have been built out and augmented to meet the demand of all the Tesla cross-country travel.

We were on the I-15 route from Salt Lake City to Saint George, Utah, two years ago at Thanksgiving when we stopped midway at the Beaver Supercharger and we slipped into the last free stall of 8 at the Beaver Supercharger, which shared 150 kW between adjacent stalls. (Most older Superchargers have 8 stalls with 150 kW shared between two stalls.) The oldest Superchargers can be as slow as 72 kW. The next Teslas behind us had to wait at least a few minutes for a stall. By the next Thanksgiving, Tesla had upgraded the Beaver Supercharger to 32 stalls (see picture below). All the new stalls have non-shared 250 kW chargers. No more waiting ever! Note: there are also two more Superchargers between SLC and Saint George if needed — one in Nephi, Utah, and the other in Cedar City, Utah.

17 Teslas at the Supercharger. Beaver Utah. December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

We were surprised to learn that the sleepy 4-stall 72 kW Supercharger in Cedar City well off I-15 in the center of the city has been upgraded with a 16-stall 250 kW Supercharger right on I-15.

That left the also sleepy 8-stall 150 kW slow Supercharger in Nephi 90 miles south of SLC that has always been packed. Apparently, Tesla anticipated the big post-Christmas travel surge on December 26, 2022, but hadn’t been able to install new permanent stalls yet. As we drove in, we observed a big semi-truck trailer with a huge box on it and a man standing next to it. We backed up to the trailer. The man, who turned out to be a Tesla employee, plugged in my daughter’s Model X (see picture below). There were 5 additional 250 kW cables running from the trailer. In the meantime, Tesla has added another 8 permanent 250 kW non-shared stalls. That makes 16 stalls now at Nephi.

Tesla employee plugging in my daughter’s Model X at a portable Supercharger. Nephi, Utah. December 26, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

This rapid Tesla Supercharger buildout to meet the increasing demand on I-15 in Utah convinces me that Tesla will meet the increased demand from opening the network to other manufacturers.

It is common knowledge that the uptake of EVs in general and Teslas specifically in California is much greater than in any other state. Even though Superchargers are much more frequent in California, we do hear reports of waits to charge on busy weekends. On our jaunt from Saint George through Las Vegas to Southern California in 2021, we pulled into the Baker Supercharger, one of the most popular ones in California. Surprise! The Baker Supercharger now has 40 stations (but they only have a maximum of 150 kW). We slipped into the only vacant stall (see picture below). However, just 50 miles to the north on I-15 at the Primm Nevada Supercharger, there are 42 non-shared stations with a 250 kW max each. Tesla is upgrading a Supercharger station in Quartzsite, Arizona, to 88 stations, and the Tesla employee at the Nephi Supercharger reported that at least 2 Superchargers in California already have over 100 stalls. One of these is in Barstow, California.

40-station Tesla Supercharger. Baker, California. February 21, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

However, these Superchargers are pipsqueaks compared to the largest Supercharger in the world, the 637-stall Supercharger in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen, with 12.6 million residents, is the companion city to Hong Kong. It is the home city to BYD corporation, the world leader in plugin vehicle sales. BYD has produced thousands of electric buses for Shenzhen, which has the largest electric bus fleet in the world, and other Chinese, European, and US cities. In a city like Shenzhen, giant Supercharger stalls like these are what it takes to insure worry-free travel in a Tesla most of the time.

Other EVs will be able to use Tesla Superchargers, but can Teslas use CCS chargers?

There are still destinations off the major highways that are difficult in an EV. For example, we often travel north from our summer home in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, to the wonderful tourist town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior next to Madeline Island. But when we go there, it requires a 6-hour Level 2 charge at the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce in order to get back home. There is a L3 fast charger 12 miles south in Washburn, Wisconsin, but it is a CCS charger. That would be helpful.

You can buy a Tesla–to–CCS adapter from Tesla for $175, but it only works on recently produced Teslas. Tesla will offer an upgrade to my 2019 Model 3. The upgrade plus the adaptor will cost $450. However, it is only available for the S and X models at this time. Tesla says it will be available for older Model 3s like mine soon. Once we get it, we will be able to start for home from Bayfield earlier.

Please leave your take on NACS expansion in the comments section.

Tesla has reactivated its referral program. If you find any of my articles helpful to you, please use my referral link: https://ts.la/arthur73734. If you are buying a new Tesla and use my link (be sure to use it when you make your order), you’ll receive $1,000 off your purchase price and 3 months of Full Self-Driving (at the time I’m writing this — details are subject to change). It is technically FSD Beta and it will drive you automatically to any address you enter into the navigation. (Just be prepared to intervene immediately if it screws up.)

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 123 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler