Tech Insights

No Easy Hookup: Tesla Supercharger Falls Short

April 10, 2024 by Kevin Clemens

With the nationwide Supercharger network open to nearly all EVs, the lack of standardized charge port locations is a problem.

Undoubtedly, Tesla’s success with electric vehicles (EVs) has been due, in part, to its Supercharger network. Tesla’s DC fast charger network has over 2,300 stations in North America and more than 6,000 worldwide. Each charger can supply between 72 kilowatts (kW) and 250 kW. The Supercharger’s short charging time provides a practical solution for long-distance EV travel. 

Tesla introduced its Supercharger network in September 2012, just as its groundbreaking Model S began production. The idea of an EV car company owning a charging network was novel. Tesla owners appreciated the service, particularly as charging on the network was initially free for Tesla owners. The free charging eventually disappeared, but by then, Tesla owners were hooked and were the envy of other EV drivers.


Ford EV using Tesla’s Supercharger.

Ford EV using Tesla’s Supercharger. Image used courtesy of Ford Motor Company 


Tesla opened its Supercharger network to other EV manufacturers last year, but not without conditions. Other EVs must conform to Tesla’s standards to use the charging infrastructure.


Tesla’s Supercharger Standard

Tesla uses its own charging port design, the North American Charging Standard (NACS), which differs from the Combined Charging System (CCS) Type 2 connectors most EVs use. The CHAdeMo DC connector some Asian vehicles were originally equipped with has largely disappeared. If recent events are any indication, CCS connectors may soon be thrown onto the scrap heap. 


Types of charging plugs. Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock


That’s because, in mid-2023, Ford, GM, Rivian, and other EV manufacturers came to an agreement with Tesla, allowing other EVs to use the Supercharger network. Previously, only Tesla EVs could use the handy and reliable nationwide charging system. That meant EVs from different companies were tied into other commercial public charging networks like Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint, and none of these were as reliable and widespread as Tesla’s Supercharger network. Opening up the Supercharger network, which uses the NACS connector, to other manufacturers’ EVs means the CCS design has suddenly become obsolete. 

Ford was the first to change from CCS to NACS and will add Tesla’s connector to its EVs in 2025. Meanwhile, the company offers existing Ford EV owners a free Supercharger network adapter. 


Need For Standardization

If only the solution were that simple. As it turns out, not all EVs have their charge port in the same location as Tesla (the back of the quarter panel on the driver’s side). This can cause a problem with the version 3 (V3) Tesla Supercharger station as its liquid-cooled cable is not long enough to reach around a non-Tesla vehicle and plug into the charge port. Parking a vehicle so the cable can reach the charge port can block other stalls. The problem is particularly acute with large EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.

Tesla will solve the problem with its new V4 charging station, which has a much longer charging cable, but it will take time before the latest version becomes widespread. Meanwhile, Tesla has suggested that non-Tesla owners park over the line to get as close to the charger as possible while trying to avoid taking up two spaces to allow the V3 cable to reach the charge port. Tesla also discourages parking diagonally across two spots as this would use two spots to charge one vehicle. The company says it is encouraging other vehicle manufacturers to standardize the location of their charge port to the rear driver side or front passenger side of the EV.

Clearly, Tesla, with its NACS, is the winner of the charging connector wars—now it's just a matter of determining the terms of the others’ surrender.