Adding Tesla Connectors was a bit of a coup for EVgo, we find out why Tesla allowed it.

Given the recent news regarding EVgo integrating Tesla connectors into some of their charging stations, we reached out to the EV charging infrastructure company to discuss the topic. Jonathan Levy, Chief Commercial Officer at EVgo was kind enough to take some time to talk to InsideEVs and get us current on the company's recent moves. 

Having the authorization from Tesla to add their proprietary connector is a huge win for EVgo, as every other EV charging network would love to do so also. Tesla sold about 80% of all new EVs in the US in 2020, so they have the largest fleet of potential customers.

Until now, Tesla owners needed to buy an expensive CHAdeMO adapter if they wanted to charge at a DC fast-charge station, outside of the Supercharger network. They still need the adapter to DC fast-charge on the Electrify America or ChargePoint networks, but with the EVgo stations that have been upgraded, they will be able to pull up and simply plug in. 

EVgo first launched the integrated Tesla connectors at its locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles in December 2019, positioning itself as the first multi-standard fast charging platform to offer Tesla connectors in the U.S., and remains the only third-party fast-charging network to be incorporated in the Tesla navigation system in the U.S.

EVgo station with  Tesla connector
EVgo station with Tesla connector

In addition to the Tesla topic, we asked Levy to comment on power levels and the number of chargers per location. Both are topics that have drawn EVgo criticism from the EV community in the past. 

Below are our questions and Levy's answers. 

Every EV charging network would love to cater to Tesla customers. Why did Tesla choose EVgo?

First off, I'd like to say that Tesla is doing such a phenomenal job with both their sales and what they have done with their supercharger network, but their sales have been so successful that there's a growing need beyond what they've installed for additional charging. 

We've established ourselves as a first mover and first learner in charging. We've been around since 2010. If you look at what EVgo has always done, it's two main things: One, focused on the customer, and two, make sure that reliability is at the fore, which is obviously closely related to point one. Part of that is because of our model, we make our money when the stations are on and dispensing which means we're aligned with the customers. If the charger's broken, we're not happy, and neither is the customer. 

Tesla wants to make sure their customers get that top-flight experience and they can be cautious, rightfully so. So we had some really good conversations with them and said look, here's what we'd like to do. We came up with a custom solution - we integrated the connector through an EVgo custom solution that's attached to the charging station so that the cords can be a little bit longer...In so doing we've been communicating to Tesla what we think makes sense and are employing a walk before you run approach.

EVgo has always been a fan of piloting and learning. We put out the first 150 kW DC fast charger in the US, we then put out the first 350 kW charger and we want to make sure they're fully tested before we put them everywhere. I think because we were willing to say hey, we'll take the time to test it first and we'll see what's going on. Then it was OK to move forward and go bigger. 

One of the criticisms of EVgo is that the majority of its stations are limited to 50 kW, and you speak a little about that and whether or not you will eventually upgrade those to higher-powered units. 

EVgo was a first-mover in this industry, and 50 kW was the gold standard for many years - even as recently as two years ago. Given that we were the first it's not surprising that we've installed so many 50 kW units. For a long time, we were pushing back on others that were calling 24 kW units fast, because really, that's not fast. 50 kW is still fast because you can still fill up in 45-minutes to an hour as compared to the 4 to 8 hours it takes on L2, so 50 kW is still a very convenient and premium product in its own right.

However, we have been installing stations that have much faster-charging speeds. We're putting out systems that deliver 150 kW up through 350 kW. We're trying to do that in the most efficient and economically rational way possible as well as the way that makes the most sense for customers. So yes, we are installing much higher-powered stations, however, there's still going to be a great role for 50 kW stations in a number of applications.

EVgo believes strongly in matching power to the specific use-case. A 350-dedicated station at a place where you're already planning on spending half an hour to forty-five minutes is actually not that great of an idea. There's going to be a lot of places where it still makes sense to either leave the 50 kW stations or install new ones, but the vast majority of our new go-forward stations are at higher power levels and we are also upgrading and retrofitting some.

Chevrolet Bolt EV at EVGo charging station via Bro1999

Many EVgo locations have only one charger, which can be very inconvenient. What's the installation policy moving forward? Will you commit to installing 4 or more chargers at every location as Electrify America does? 

Again, by being a first mover - and a first learner, it made sense back then because there weren't many cars you really could say were only putting out the one station, and it still sent a strong signal. We are no longer doing single-charger stations because the customer experience is important to us.

It's also about efficiency. If you're going to roll a truck to fix one station you may as well fix two. If you're going to install one, you might as well install two. The challenge of "will we always do more than four?" - The goal, and what you're seeing in our new installations, is we tend to do four and greater. However, there are some cases where the footprint of the site is such that it makes sense to do two, or the power availability of the site limits us to two. 

We are a business that's focused on scaling and doing such in a way that's sustainable both environmentally and economically, so sometimes it's going to make sense for it to be a two-charger station. However, other times it will make sense to install four-six or eight stations. 

EVgo fast charging stations equipped with an integrated Tesla connector
EVgo DC fast charging stations equipped with an integrated Tesla connector

Powered by CHAdeMO

The retrofitted EVgo stations now holster the Tesla connector in the main body of the unit, and the CHAdeMO connector has been pushed off to the side of the unit and is housed in an added appendage. The Tesla connector is actually powered through the CHAdeMO side of the station. 

If the CHAdeMO connector isn't securely connected to its holster, the Tesla connector won't receive power. We believe that's because there's a basic CHAdeMO adapter - or a version of one, inside that CHAdeMO connector holster. So when a Tesla vehicle is charging, the current is actually flowing from the station to the CHAdeMO cable, through the CHAdeMO connector, through the CHAdeMO adapter, and to the Tesla cable and connector. It's kind of a Rube-Goldberg approach, but hey, it works.

We asked Levy about this but he wouldn't directly explain how EVgo integrated the Tesla connector and simply said they developed a "custom solution" to integrate the connector into the CHAdeMO side of the station.

EVgo Tesla station
The Tesla cable actually comes out of the back of the CHAdeMO holster

We've learned that EVgo will deploy more than 400 integrated Tesla connectors at existing EVgo stations, with an additional 200 connectors reserved for new stations planned for 2021 in key cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Austin, Washington D.C., Salt Lake City, and Miami.

We certainly don't believe that EVgo will be the last EV charging network that strikes a deal with Tesla to provide charging services for Tesla customers. Quite frankly, I'm surprised it's taken this long for someone to break through and get Tesla to approve. However, they are the first, and we give them credit for it. 

Some may ask why Tesla owners would bother using EVgo or any other network when Tesla's Supercharger network is faster, easier, and less expensive to use? The answer is simple - it's all about accessibility. It's true that Tesla's Supercharger network is the largest, and best high-speed EV charging network in the US. However, as good as Tesla's network is, Superchargers aren't everywhere, and having the ability to use other networks can range from convenient to vital on certain road trips. 

We think it's great to see Tesla connectors on EVgo stations and we're looking forward to the day when we see them on ChargePoint, Electrify America, and other network's stations. But for now, EVgo has the edge. How long do you think that's going to last? Let us know what you think in the comment section below. 

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