How Tesla will open up its Superchargers to other EVs

Tesla Supercharger

According to Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has, for years, talked about opening up his company’s vast Supercharger network to other electric vehicles. But earlier this month, Musk tweeted that Tesla plans to do this “later this year,” and this week, he finally offered some details about how it might work.

It will be “real simple,” Musk claimed on an investor call Monday. Owners of other EVs will be able to charge at a Supercharger station by using the Tesla app — which, right now, is geared toward people who’ve purchased the company’s products. That’s about all Tesla will have to do to make this possible in Europe and China, where there are standardized charging cable connectors, Musk said. (Tesla has already committed to opening up the network in Norway.)

But Tesla has a proprietary connector in North America, so non-Tesla vehicles here will need an adapter. That could be up to the other automakers to make; Musk has previously said that Tesla has held talks with other automakers about sharing costs in order to open up the Supercharger network, and in 2018, he said competitors would have to be “able to accept our charge rate and our connector, at least have an adapter to our connector.” Tesla may still make its own, as Musk said he anticipates making them available at Supercharger stations as long as “people don’t sort of steal them or something.” (Tesla energy lead Drew Baglino assured his boss on the call that his team “has a good solution for that.”)

This adapter would likely have to be certified (something typically done by third parties like UL) and some basic software written to handle the “handshake” that happens between a car and the charger before electrons start flowing.

If Tesla allows other electric vehicles to charge on the Supercharger network, it could be a big boost for the nascent — but growing — EV market. The company has already built out almost 3,000 stations and nearly 27,000 connectors worldwide, which can charge at faster rates than most other networks.

Plenty of already-open charging networks likeEVgo, ChargePoint, and Blink have recently gone public and plan to use much of that fresh funding to expand their networks. But unlocking the Supercharger network to owners of other EVs could more immediately help alleviate the twin headaches of finding available (and working) chargers and time spent charging.

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