One of the big stories of 2023 is finally wrapping up as VW Group (including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and the upcoming revival of Scout) announces that the company’s going to switch to Tesla’s NACS plug for future cars. And, with the SAE recently announcing its full adoption as an industry standard, it’s really not just Tesla’s NACS plug anymore. Plus, this is the last major automaker to make the switch, so it’s really game over for the future of CCS (and obviously CHAdeMO).
It’s Been A Long Road
When Ford broke the ice with a NACS announcement, things were still pretty uncertain. GM followed not long after. Then came the flood of other automakers, with other German brands coming only somewhat recently. But, VW Group held out longer than anybody. Tesla fanboys were confident that everyone would switch, but the longer VW kept holding out on CCS, the more it looked like VW might really never make the switch.
This uncertainty led the charging industry (outside of Tesla, of course) to hedge their bets a little bit. Between future uncertainty with the German automakers and the existing base of CCS vehicles on the road, most charging operators decided to take a modular approach. By being able to host multiple plug types and switch at will, the migration could stop half-way or go full NACS at whatever speed made sense.
A number of U.S. states have taken the same approach. As plans were drawn up for the use of NEVI funds (money allocated by the Infrastructure Law), a number of states added a requirement for stations to have both CCS and NACS plugs at these stations. This tripped the industry up a bit, but they’re adapting and will be able to meet such state mandates.
While it would be great for consistency’s sake, it won’t really be possible to make NEVI stations NACS-only without a rewrite of the Infrastructure Law. Such a rewrite is probably not possible, as it would now require the cooperation of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, and they are likely to want to cut the program’s budget back if given any chance to do so.
Specifics of the VW NACS Announcement
It should be noted that not all automakers are switching to NACS in quite the same way. For example, Nissan is only going to support NACS on new vehicles, and will not support the LEAF, even with an adapter. Some automakers will be supplying adapters free of charge, while others will be only providing support for adapters that customers must purchase.
Sadly, though, details are a little sparse. According to Volkswagen, the companies (I’m assuming the other company is Tesla) are exploring options for adapters for existing customers and those who buy in 2024. In other words, Volkswagen has not decided yet how the intend to deal with that. But, given that NACS carries CCS signaling and is mostly just a physically different wiring configuration, any adapter should work as long as VW and Tesla provide a way to authenticate VW’s vehicles on the network. The only big question is whether people will have to buy or be provided an adapter.
“We strive to provide an exceptional and seamless customer experience, and when it comes to charging, greater choice is a key factor in delivering this,” said Timo Resch, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America. “Today our customers already have access to thousands of charging sites across America thanks to Electrify America, with existing stations being renewed and new sites being added weekly. We are proud to announce that in 2025 we will also partner with Tesla to significantly expand the network of chargers throughout the U.S. that will become available to our customers.”
But, one thing is for sure. Upcoming Scout-branded trucks and SUVs (a rebirth of International’s Scout brand) will all be electric and will all be NACS-equipped from day one. This won’t be a problem for those vehicles, as Electrify America plans to offer both CCS and NACS at some point in the near future, as do other networks like ChargePoint and EVgo. So, by the time Scout vehicles hit the roads (and off-road, of course), they’ll be able to charge up just about anywhere without any need for a reverse adapter.
“Our future customers are at the heart of every decision we make as we design our new Scout vehicles,” said Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Scout Motors. “Engineering NACS connectors into our vehicles from the onset will give Scout customers access to a vast and quickly expanding fast-charging network spanning North America.”
The company says that details on adapter availability, app access, and when each model will switch over will be announced at a later date. My best guess is that these details are all out during 2024.
I Wouldn’t Hesitate To Buy a CCS VW
One last thing I want to touch on is whether someone already considering a VW vehicle should wait. Personally, I don’t think there’s any reason to avoid buying a CCS VW vehicle.
First off, even if all charging stations went NACS-only, adapters will be available. It’s something that will take an extra 2-3 seconds to snap into place. If I had to choose between using an adapter and having to buy a car I don’t like, I’d go with using the adapter. Anything’s better than an ICE.
But, not all stations are going to go NACS only, and those that do will not do this for a number of years. Between all non-Tesla EVs out there and those that will be sold in 2024, there will be too many CCS vehicles on the streets for anybody (including Tesla) to ignore. Magic Dock, similar implementations from other manufacturers, and modular cable choice will mean CCS is widely available for at least the life of the car. So, the adapter won’t always be needed.
It also wouldn’t surprise me for some vehicles to be permanently retrofitted. If a manufacturer sells an existing CCS model and then starts offering the same vehicle with a NACS plug in 2025, there’s a good chance that it will be possible to swap a few parts to switch ports. Even if dealers don’t do this, third party shops will.
By all means, if you test drive a Tesla and fall in love with it, buy what makes you happy. But, if that’s not what makes you happy, and you like something like an ID.4 better, then do the same. Don’t let something as dumb as a charging port with available adapters and future retrofits keep you out of EV ownership.
Featured image provided by VW Group.