Market Insights

Tesla Supercharger Wins Big as Part of Electric Vehicle Design

July 10, 2023 by Kevin Clemens

The  Society of Automotive Engineers will standardize Tesla’s NACS connector design for electric vehicles in North America.

Just weeks after Ford Motor Company and General Motors (GM) said they would switch electric vehicle (EV) charging to the Tesla-developed North American Charging Standard (NACS) connector, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International will begin standardizing NACS for all EVs. The SAE’s standardization is a consensus-based approach for validating the ability of a device to meet performance and interoperability criteria. 


Tesla charging connector

Tesla charging connector. Image used courtesy of Tesla 


Tesla’s Supercharger System

Large-scale public charging networks are viewed as a vital key to the growth of transportation electrification. Tesla recognized this early, and the Tesla Supercharger system, a network of high-speed direct current (DC) charging stations owned and operated by Tesla, Inc., was introduced on September 24, 2012. The network started with six Supercharger stations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tesla used its own design for a connector between its chargers and its EVs, rather than using the CHAdeMO connector design developed by five Japanese carmakers in 2010 and was in use on the Nissan Leaf. 

The first generation of Superchargers (V1) offered a maximum charging rate of 72 kW. In 2013, Tesla introduced the V2 Supercharger, which increased the charging rate to 120 kW. In 2017, Tesla introduced the V3 Supercharger, which increased the charging rate to 250 kW.

Superchargers are located conveniently at shopping malls, rest stops, and highway exits. They are often clustered together in urban areas, making it easy for Tesla drivers to find a charger when needed.

Tesla supercharging is free for owners of Tesla vehicles purchased before January 1, 2017. For owners of newer Tesla vehicles, supercharging is charged at a per-minute rate. Supercharging costs vary depending on the location and time of day.

As of April 2023, Tesla operates more than 45,000 Superchargers at over 5,000 locations worldwide.

Meanwhile, in 2011 a combined charging system (CCS) was introduced, offering enough space for a Type 1 AC or Type 2 DC charging with an integrated two-pin DC connector allowing charging up to 200 amps. Seven car makers in Europe and the U.S. endorsed the CCS connector; until now, it has been considered the standard for on-the-go charging. 


Tesla’s NACS Connector

The unexpected change to Telsa’s charging connector design has followed a long path. Here is a history of Tesla's NACS connector:

  • 2012: Tesla introduces the Tesla charging connector on all North American market Tesla vehicles. The connector is used for AC and DC charging.
  • 2014: Tesla opens its Supercharger network to non-Tesla vehicles, but only with an adapter.
  • 2016: Tesla begins offering a CCS adapter for its vehicles, allowing them to use public CCS chargers.
  • 2022: Tesla renames its charging connector to the "North American Charging Standard" (NACS) and opens the standard to other EV manufacturers.
  • 2023: Ford, General Motors, Rivian, and Volvo announced they would equip their future vehicles with NACS charging inlets.
  • 2023: SAE International announces that it will standardize the NACS connector.


The De Facto Charging Standard 

The NACS seven-pin connector is smaller and more compact than the combined charging system connector. It can also deliver higher power, up to 1 MW DC charging.


Comparing the size of the new Tesla NACS connector versus the previous CCS connector

Comparing the size of the new Tesla NACS connector versus the previous CCS connector. Image used courtesy of Tesla

Tesla's decision to open the NACS standard is a significant step towards North America's more unified charging ecosystem. It is also a major win for Tesla, allowing more vehicles to use its Supercharger network.

The NACS connector standardization is still in progress but is expected to be completed in 2024. Once the standard is finalized, more automakers will likely adopt the NACS connector, making it the de facto charging standard in North America.