The Rise of the Tesla NA Charging Standard
Tesla’s North American Charging Standard is quickly becoming the standard of choice for major automakers.
Charging has always been among the largest concerns for owners of electric vehicles (EVs). Within this, one of the historical challenges has been fragmentation: not every EV was compatible with charging at every EV station. Namely, multiple standards have led to a lack of interoperability, with the two major competitors being Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) and the Combined Charging System.
EV makers like Kia plan to adopt the NACS. Image used courtesy of Kia
Recently, Tesla opened its NACS network to non-Tesla vehicles, which has spurred many of the industry’s top automakers to adopt the standard.
The North American Charging Standard: History and Importance
NACS originated as Tesla's in-house charging technology, designed to support its growing EV fleet.
Initially, NACS was exclusive to Tesla, serving as a competitive advantage for the automaker. However, as Tesla's Supercharger network expanded across North America, the standard began to attract attention for its efficiency and user-friendly interface. Designed to offer high-speed charging capabilities, NACS quickly gained attention for its efficiency and user-friendly interface. As Tesla's Supercharger technology improved and the network expanded, covering strategic locations along highways, the NACS standard became increasingly attractive to other automakers.
The plug used in NACS charging. Image used courtesy of Tesla
Recognizing its potential to become a unifying standard in a fragmented industry, Tesla started to open up NACS to other automakers. This shift began a new chapter, transforming NACS from a proprietary system to an industry-wide solution.
Today, Tesla's extensive Supercharger network accounts for about 60% of fast chargers in the U.S. For these reasons, many automakers have started to embrace the standard, as its adoption could significantly reduce the fragmentation in the charging infrastructure, making charging easier and more accessible for all.
Recent Developments in NACS Adoption
October 2023 witnessed a surge in the adoption of the NACS standard by major automakers.
For starters, Toyota and Lexus announced plans to incorporate NACS ports in their battery-electric vehicles starting in 2025. This move will give their customers access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers across North America. At the same time, Hyundai and Kia have also committed to adopting NACS, targeting the fourth quarter of 2024 for implementation. Even legacy automakers like BMW have confirmed their plans to adopt NACS.
Locations for Tesla’s Superchargers. Image used courtesy of Tesla
This news comes on the back of many of the other major automakers joining the NACS network, including Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Rivian. To this point, the only remaining major automakers that have not embraced the standard are Stellantis and Volkswagen.
The Road Ahead for NACS
The shift toward the North American Charging Standard represents a pivotal moment in the electric vehicle industry, signaling a move toward standardization and interoperability. For years, the EV charging landscape has been a patchwork of different standards, leading to fragmentation and inconvenience for users. The adoption of NACS by major automakers like Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia is a tacit acknowledgment of Tesla's influence and the efficacy of its Supercharger network.
Moreover, the move to NACS has broader implications for the automotive industry's competitive landscape. Companies that hesitated to adopt a competitor's standard now recognize the benefits of a unified, efficient, and user-friendly charging system. This could lead to a more level playing field where competition shifts from charging accessibility to other aspects like vehicle performance, features, and price.
However, it also raises questions about the industry's comfort level, with Tesla controlling a significant part of the EV experience. As more major automakers start to adopt NACS, the industry, and governing bodies will have to find ways to make sure the access to charging is equitable and accessible to all.