Well, that was quick! Just 4 days ago, we reported that Tesla and the federal government were deep in discussions about how a.) at least some of the Tesla Supercharger network in the US could be made available to all EV drivers to help the Biden administration reach its EV charging goals, and b.) Tesla could claim a slice of the $7.5 billion in federal money now available to fund the administration’s EV charging goals.
Tesla Will Partially Unlock Supercharger Network
On Wednesday, February 15, the Biden administration announced the rules and regulations that will implement its nationwide charging program are now complete. As part of that announcement, it said:
“Tesla, for the first time, will open a portion of its U.S. Supercharger and Destination Charger network to non-Tesla EVs, making at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. The open chargers will be distributed across the United States. They will include at least 3,500 new and existing 250 kW Superchargers along highway corridors to expand freedom of travel for all EVs, and Level 2 Destination Charging at locations like hotels and restaurants in urban and rural locations. All EV drivers will be able to access these stations using the Tesla app or website. Additionally, Tesla will more than double its full nationwide network of Superchargers, manufactured in Buffalo, New York.”
The Washington Post has more details.”Tesla’s promise still leaves plenty of room for the electric vehicle maker to maintain proprietary control over its Supercharger network. Tesla has only committed to opening up 3,500 fast chargers, or around 20 percent of [its] overall fast charging fleet. The other 4,000 chargers could come from the automaker’s roughly 10,000 slower, Level 2 chargers.” Those Level 2 chargers are often known as destination chargers and are located mostly at hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls where drivers are expected to leave their cars parked for several hours while charging.
“That could keep one of Tesla’s most important competitive advantages alive,” the Washington Post says. “The Tesla Supercharger network has played a significant role in boosting sales of the company’s electric vehicles. While other car companies, like Nissan or General Motors, were trying to perfect the range of their EV batteries, Tesla was investing in both vehicles and their charging network. As three industry analysts wrote in the Harvard Business Review last year: ‘Tesla has been thinking about the entire vehicle system, with the aim of solving consumers’ core driving needs.’”
Our US network will more than double by the end of 2024 to support our growing Tesla fleet and new EV customers
— Tesla Charging (@TeslaCharging) February 15, 2023
The Biden Charging Plan
What does this all mean? Technical details are sparse, but it seems to indicate that Tesla will get to keep its owners happy while tapping into federal funds to help it expand its Supercharger network — something it was planning to do anyway. The White House announcement is quite extensive and covers many more areas of interest to CleanTechnica readers than just Tesla Superchargers. Here’s more from the White House press release:
Until now, there were no comprehensive standards for the installation, operation, or maintenance of EV charging stations, and disparities exist among EV charging stations in key areas, such as connector types, payment methods, data privacy, speed and power of chargers, reliability, and the overall user experience. A recent survey of EV users reported frustration with chargers that are too slow, too crowded, or that just don’t work. Under FHWA’s new standards, we are fixing this. The standards will ensure that:
- Charging is a predictable and reliable experience, by ensuring that there are consistent plug types, power levels, and a minimum number of chargers capable of supporting drivers’ fast charging needs;
- Chargers are working when drivers need them to, by requiring a 97 percent uptime reliability requirement;
- Drivers can easily find a charger when they need to, by providing publicly accessible data on locations, price, availability, and accessibility through mapping applications;
- Drivers do not have to use multiple apps and accounts to charge, by requiring that a single method of identification works across all chargers; and,
Chargers will support drivers’ needs well into the future, by requiring compatibility with forward-looking capabilities like Plug and Charge.
The standards will also help to ensure that these historic investments in EV charging create good-paying jobs and that EV chargers are well-serviced by requiring strong workforce standards such as Registered Apprenticeships and the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP). Through the White House Talent Pipeline Challenge, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has certified 20,000 electricians through EVITP.
Together, the standards will ensure that chargers operated by different networks operate similarly and provide the traveling public with a predictable EV charging experience — no matter what car you drive or what state you charge in.
When I opened my email this morning, I was treated to several versions of a story about a couple who recently went on a 1500-mile road trip in a Kia EV6 who say they had to stop to charge 12 times along the way. The inference many people will draw from that story is that they spent more time charging than driving.
According to Axios, which sponsored the trip, its purpose was to see if America is ready for the era of electric transportation. They say the answer is, “Not quite, but we’re making progress.” The takeaway from their experience is, “You can make a long road trip without fear of getting stranded, as long as you plan ahead. That means juggling route-planning apps and billing accounts with various charging companies, which can get confusing. And be prepared for the unexpected, like glitchy charging equipment touchscreens, billing questions and inoperable plugs.”
Those are precisely the sorts of things the administration’s EV charging initiative is designed to correct. The internet is replete with stories about chargers that won’t recognize a driver’s charging account, won’t connect, or just simply don’t work. Those stories are a black eye for EV revolution. Many people are skittish about making the move to an electric car as it is. Worries about being able to charge conveniently while away from home are enough to make them think twice about making the move.
The White House says, “This national network will give drivers confidence they can always find a place to charge, jump start private investment in charging infrastructure and electric vehicles, and support the President’s goal of at least 50% of vehicle sales to be electric by 2030.” If you are an EV driver or thinking of becoming one, that should be music to your ears.