The Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN) association, which promotes interoperability based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) as the global standard for charging vehicles of all kinds, has a reason to be worried about Ford joining Tesla.

Following Ford's recent announcement about the use of the Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) charging standard in its future models in North America, the CharIN released a cold response.

The association, which includes over 300 stakeholders (both Ford and Tesla are members), outlined several issues with Ford's move, probably hoping to discourage the automaker or at least prevent a domino effect, which is a real threat to the whole existence of the CCS1 version in North America.

Tesla had roughly a 60 percent share of the all-electric car sales in the US in Q1 2023, which combined with Ford (bold BEV ambitions) and potentially some other manufacturers, would move CCS1 to the side as a far less popular solution than Tesla's NACS.

NACS Is Not A Standard?

First, CharIN noted that the NACS is not a charging standard in the same meaning as CCS, but rather a proprietary solution. Tesla announced the opening of it in November 2022, which already then raised the attention of CharIn.

"NACS is not a published or recognized standard by any standards body. For any technology to become a standard it has to go through due process in a standards development organization, such as ISO, IEC, and/or SAE. Such a process is collaborative and enables all interested parties to contribute their ideas.

The current CCS standard, including connectors and related communications protocols, is a true international standard that has gone through the standardization process. Any newly introduced idea, including a mechanical improvement to the existing CCS connector design, would have to follow the same process before the industry can safely adopt it. There is a significant chance that what is ultimately approved in the standards development process may not align with what is currently proposed."

We guess that CharIN might be formally correct, but NACS can be opened and published as a standard (just like the Japanese CHAdeMO was at some point in the past).

An argument on the other side is that as a standard, we often consider something that is very (the most) popular among many solutions. Here is Tesla's strong point, as it outsells CCS-compatible cars in North America.

CharIN has an answer for that, pointing out over 50 passenger vehicle models with the CCS charging inlet and saying that "the anticipated volume of these vehicles will exceed a single NACS supplier volume soon." We will closely follow this forecast.

No public funding for competing solutions?

Another thing mentioned by CharIN is that it's not good for the global EV industry to have multiple competing charging systems.

However, it's worth adding that this matter concerns only North America (and some other markets like South Korea, and Japan), because everywhere else, Tesla does not use NACS (Europe, and most of the rest of the world, excluding China, goes with the CCS2 charging standard). Also, CCS is not physically consistent - there is CCS1 and CCS2, and you can't use them alternately.

CharIn expressed a belief that "a proprietary implementation between two automakers... should not re-open eligibility decisions on public infrastructure funding:"

"Public funding must continue to go towards open standards, which is always better for the consumer. Public EV infrastructure funding, such as the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program, should continue to only be approved for CCS-standard-enabled chargers per federal minimum standards guidance."

By the way, the press release includes some numbers (PlugShare data, including public and restricted use) to compare the charging infrastructure side in North America:

  • CCS1 (DC): 22,262 connectors
    SAE J1172 (AC): 204,253 connectors
    * SAE J1172 connector is only for AC charging (1-phase), while the CCS1 (aka SAE J1772 Combo) is a combined system with a DC-extension for DC charging
  • Tesla's NACS (DC): 22,128 Tesla Supercharger connectors
    Tesla's NACS (AC): 16,009 destination connectors
    * NACS's connector is used for both AC and DC charging
Tesla: North American Charging Standard vs CCS Combo 1

Tesla: North American Charging Standard vs CCS Combo 1

Adapters Not Welcome?

The CCS association is also worried about the wide use of adapters between various standards (Tesla's NACS and CCS1 in particular) because they might affect not only the charging experience, but could even cause some damage:

"Further, CharIN also does not support the development and qualification of adaptors for numerous reasons, including the negative impact on the handling of charging equipment and, therefore the user experience, the increased probability of faults, and effects on the functional safety. There are also a variety of technical challenges related to lower current ratings, variations of electrical requirements, and mechanical loads caused by the weight of the adaptor which may lead to wear and mechanical malfunctioning of the vehicle inlet (see CharIN’s position paper)."

CCS Reliability To Improve

An interesting thing is that CharIN noted the reliability concerns of the CCS fast charging,  and promises improvements. Let's recall that in contrast to the Tesla Supercharging network, there were many issues reported at CCS fast chargers.

As far as we know, some of those issues were related to the high number of models of cars and chargers with different software implementations of the CCS standard. There is also a challenging layer of authentication and data security for payments (roaming between various charging networks). Tesla has everything in-house - chargers, cars, and the software platform for the network, which is vastly simpler.

CCS1 charging reliability to be improved (finally, we would say) through the National Charging Experience Consortium and more interoperability testing events:

"CharIN joined the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation and the National Laboratories to support the launch of the National Charging Experience Consortium. The Consortium will address charger interoperability and reliability issues in public CCS deployments, which is appropriate to address jointly as an industry. Additionally, CharIN will announce other major interoperability initiatives in the coming weeks, including upcoming interoperability testing events. The entire EV industry should double down on activities to support public fast charging for the long term."

Which Is Better?

Probably everyone agrees that it would be great to have just one charging standard (for both AC and DC), which means that one of the two leading ones must be dropped and fade away like the CHAdeMO (it's on its last legs in North America).

We should also acknowledge that in the past, when standards were competing in various industries, not necessarily the better one won, but rather the stronger one (with stronger members).

CharIN wrote that is "strongly encourages the EV industry to work with CharIN’s membership base to create a fully interoperable EV charging network that best serves the needs of all consumers and will enable a better and faster transition to electric vehicles." However, only time will tell whether this is enough.

Both solutions - NACS and CCS - are currently used for fast charging at hundreds of kilowatts. According to Tesla, the NACS should go to 1 megawatt (1 MW) level and 1,000 V, which is even beyond what the CCS currently offers (350-500 kW at up to around 800 V). We don't know the details, but the power output or voltage might not be an issue for cars, while for trucks, there are already other solutions in the works.

Nonetheless, according to CharIn, only the CCS is "future-proofed":

"CCS is the global standard and therefore focuses on international interoperability and, unlike NACS, is future-proofed to support many other use cases beyond public DC fast charging."

On the user level, Tesla's NACS is about half the size and without moving parts, which combined with the in-house system, turned out to be an extremely reliable, easy, and user-friendly solution that's praised by EV drivers. CCS1, on the other hand, had no choice at the time of design, because engineers were ordered to secure backward compatibility with the SAE J1772 AC plug, which was introduced several years earlier.

CCS2 To Rule Them All?

Well, we could continue this dispute for hours and still, there would be something more to say. However, one last thing should be considered - the switch entirely to... CCS2, which, as we said multiple times in the past, is the only candidate to be a true global standard. Why? Because it handles all charging scenarios (1-phase, 3-phase, and DC current). The 3-phase would not be used in North America (although the 3-phase Type 2 base for CCS2 is already here on a small scale for truck charging). 3-phase is a must in a high number of markets around the world, and CCS1 can't handle it.

The CCS alliance would be happy. Tesla (which already operates CCS2-compatible Superchargers in Europe and around the world) does not have to develop anything new, and the EV community (because the number of standards would be reduced) would be thrilled too.

It's high time to sit and select the one type that is universal for all markets and scenarios before a much higher amount of investment will potentially be lost in a decade of competition between the two standards and families of adapters.

There are basically two end-game scenarios:

  • CCS2 for most of the world plus CCS1/NACS in North America and a few other markets
  • CCS2 for the world (maybe excluding China if they really don't want it)
    * one-off cost to replace all SAE J1772 (AC) and CCS1 (DC) charging points with Type 2 (AC) and CCS2 (DC) probably would exceed $10 billion (increases every day), but the cost of the CCS1/NACS battle might in the end turn out to be even higher (millions of adapters in each EV)
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