With 2023 coming to a close and 2024 coming up fast, it’s a good time to look at the road ahead. There are a number of very important ongoing stories on the 2024 map that should develop in important ways during the next year. In some ways, the whole charging landscape is going to change in drastic ways.
Tesla NACS Adapters
One of the top stories of 2024 will be a continuation of the biggest story of 2023: the switch to Tesla’s NACS plug. Pretty much every company has announced that they’re going to switch, but nothing has actually happened yet. Cars by other brands are supposed to get the NACS plug in 2025, but all of the existing non-Tesla cars still have other plugs, and those made for most of 2024 will, too.
LEAF owners and others with the CHAdeMO plug aren’t getting any help, but the owners of CCS cars are supposed to be able to use an adapter starting in early 2024. Some manufacturers will provide the adapter. Others will sell it.
But, important questions about the implementation remain unanswered:
- Will drivers need to or be able to use the Tesla app?
- Will we have to use the manufacturer’s app (Ford, Chevy, etc)?
- Will plug and charge be available if set up ahead of time?
- What will adapters cost? Will they be widely available, or backordered?
- Will these adapters be reliable? Easy to use?
- Will there be problems with plug positions on cars and short Tesla charging cables?
- Will existing Tesla owners be inconvenienced by the influx of other cars, some of which charge slower?
We’ll definitely be watching to see how this all works out in the coming year.
Continued NEVI Station Buildout
The availability of adapters doesn’t necessarily mean that the non-Tesla charging network is done for. There are still many places where the Supercharger network doesn’t reach yet, and there’s plenty of room for additional growth, both in terms of geography and capacity. We need chargers in more places, and we need all of the chargers we can get, in other words.
Everyone’s competing for funds from the Infrastructure Law to do this. The process has been slow-going since late 2021, but the first station was recently brought online. Even Tesla is getting in on the action in some states by offering Magic Dock to be eligible for the funding.
We’re finally reaching the point where we’ll start to see more stations open, and that’s going to be a process throughout 2024. By the end of the year, we’ll probably see hundreds of new stations pop up where they’re badly needed.
This is going to be great news for drivers all over the United States.
Improvement Efforts at Existing and Future Non-Tesla Charging Sites
The existing EV charging networks that brought NACS down on the industry aren’t out of the game, either. Some of them are having financial problems, but they’re all working to get reliability up where it needs to be.
Electrify America’s plan to improve is the most aggressive. Instead of trying to fix existing stations that are giving drivers so much trouble, the company is working to rip the oldest designs out (that couldn’t take the punishment of heavier use, especially in California) and replace them with the latest design. The last of the Dieselgate money the company was required to spend in California is going to at least partially go toward doing that.
This won’t bear fruit immediately, and it’s sad to see EA need to rebuild instead of grow, but the current problems will probably be a blessing in disguise as it pushed everyone to compete instead of leaving non-Tesla drivers relying on less reliable networks. In 2024, the pressure to perform will be higher than ever.
EVgo is seeing reliability improvement, too. Better charging installation methods are now required. Better installer training is a big part of that. At the company level, better monitoring, and faster fixes are also coming together. The company aimed for an improvement to a 95% first attempt success rate by New Years, and will continue to push closer to 100% reliability during 2024.
ChargePoint is also on the improvement train. Monitoring, including a new Network Operations Center (NOC) is underway. This monitoring also includes watching things like charging websites and social media for complaints. More companies are being pushed to pay for service plans, which should help keep stations from going down and staying down like they have in the past. Installers are also now supposed to take courses to get better at making fewer mistakes, which was a big part of past reliability issues.
But, these are only plans and early results. The real story of these developments in 2024 will be to see if it actually pans out. Reliability problems were tolerated by many drivers because there was only one DCFC station in town, but as more towns have DCFC nearby or in town, the less reliable stations are going to lose out on a lot of revenue.
I’d like to see all of these providers stay in business and for all of their stations be very reliable in the future, because we need all of the stations we can get. But, if that doesn’t happen, some of these and other providers I didn’t mention here will probably sink.
The biggest question mark of 2024 is whether EV charging will attract more private investment. As it stands right now, governments are pouring billions into charging. But, in many places, nobody wants to pay to put any in. The property owners wants to rent space. EV charging companies want more money from investors. Investors are skeptical of the returns. Everyone thinks someone else should be putting the money in at this point, with the exception of some limited efforts by manufacturers other than Tesla.
Will that reach a tipping point and change?
This is a particularly important question for rural areas in the United States. Dieselgate money often went to EV charging and only some of that got spent on the backroads. NEVI funding is only for roads that are part of the National Highway System, and that often excludes even U.S. Highway System roads, but includes some local roads deemed essential to defense.
We could be years away from seeing improvement in that area, but it will need to happen eventually.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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