SAE says yes to making Tesla EV chargers an American standard

Another win for Musk: Ford, GM, Rivian and Volvo have already announced plans to dump CCS

The winds of EV charging standards change continue to favor Elon Musk, as the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has confirmed plans to standardize Tesla's in-house car charging hardware.

Keep in mind, this doesn't mean Tesla's chosen charger is the new US standard, it simply means the SAE is getting on board with the numerous automakers who've announced plans to ditch the Combined Charging System (CCS) that's been standard in all US EVs, sans Teslas, since 2013.

Far from being final, the SAE said its move is one stage in a process toward standardizing Tesla's chargers across the industry. 

"The standardization process is the next step to establish a consensus-based approach for maintaining NACS and validating its ability to meet performance and interoperability criteria," the SAE said in a statement.

Tesla arguably jumped the gun by naming its chargers the North American Charging Standard (NACS) in 2022 when it announced it was opening the standard up to anyone who wanted to adopt it – that openness doesn't equate to standardization. Presumptiveness aside, the move has turned out to be a good one for Tesla.

Ford announced in May that it would begin including an adapter for existing EVs to be able to use Tesla's Supercharger fast-charger network, and EVs beginning with model year 2025 would come equipped with a NACS charging port. General Motors announced an identical move earlier this month, as has EV maker Rivian. Swedish automaker Volvo yesterday became the first foreign car company to adopt NACS, and will make a similar 2025 transition away from CCS. Like Ford and GM, Volvo will supply adapters for prior model year EVs.

SAE said its new NACS connector standard will be developed on an expedited time frame and will be done alongside development of public key infrastructure for securing the US's poorly performing charging systems and work to improve charger reliability. 

Reasons for supporting NACS over the bulkier CCS chargers vary. Most proponents of Tesla's design argue for its compactness and ease of use over CCS as well as its lack of a locking clip, which has been reported as a major point of failure at public charging stations that have rendered many unusable.

But that standard ain't a standard

The loudest voice of dissent against the adoption of NACS has been the Charging Interface Initiative, or CharIN, a global group of EV industry players dedicated to pushing international standards for EV chargers. Despite Tesla's opening of NACS last year, CharIN referred to the standard as "proprietary" in May, and called Ford's decision to adopt it a move away from open standards that "will inevitably lead to further consumer confusion and delay EV adoption."

"We strongly encourage the EV industry to work with CharIN's membership base to create a fully interoperable EV charging network," CharIN said before following up with a blog post in early June that supported the standardization of NACS.

"CharIN will work to convene an open task force to align requirements with the goal of submitting NACS to the standardization process," the group said. CharIN confirmed it will continue to support CCS and the Megawatt Charging System when its NACS task force convenes next month. ®

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