Lucid Motors is not expected to be among the first movers to adopt Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS).
The Wall Street Journal‘s Stephen Wilmot had an opportunity earlier this month to speak with Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson and ask him about the whole CCS1 to NACS transition.
As we can see in the video (see from about 7:00 here or a small part in a tweet below), Lucid’s boss does not appear to be too excited about NACS. He pointed out that the CCS1 and NACS are just plastic plugs with some copper. The far more important thing, in his opinion, is not the plug, but the high-voltage (a level of 1,000 volts), which must be utilized to reduce the current (assuming the same power) and losses, and thus increase efficiency. That’s fundamental, according to Peter Rawlinson.
The Lucid Air model is known for its ultra-high efficiency, long range (over 500 miles, according to the EPA), and ultra-fast charging capability, which is beyond Plaid. One of the key elements to charge quickly (at up to over 300 kilowatts) is the high-voltage battery system of up to around 900 V.
The Combined Charging System (CCS1) charging standard fully supports such a voltage level today, and there is a growing number of CCS1 fast chargers ready for up to 350 kW of power at up to 800-1,000 volts. In other words, CCS1 does the job for Lucid.
In the case of the NACS, as far as we know, Tesla cars and Tesla Superchargers (V3) are currently using a voltage level of up to 500 V (DC output). This significantly limits the ability to fast charge cars with a higher voltage battery – like the Lucid Air, Hyundai Ioniq 5, or Porsche Taycan – as long as there is no special on-board solution for that.
We saw this issue in a real-world test (50 kW charging of a Lucid Air) when Tesla opened some of its chargers to non-Tesla EVs. It was very well presented by our colleague Kyle Conner (Out of Spec) below:
Without increasing the voltage, Lucid does not have much interest in getting access to the Tesla Supercharging network today (through an adapter or natively), because the charging power will be too low and non-competitive, as compared to CCS1 chargers at Electrify America or other networks with 800+ V chargers.
A similar voltage-related concern was raised also by Hyundai Motor, although we believe that it has a lower impact because a lower voltage on the E-GMP cars (600-800 V depending on the battery pack) and a lower peak charging power (220+ kW versus 300+ kW on Lucid). But the nature of the issue is exactly the same. Power output will be compromised (by the way, the same concerns the 400-500 V CCS1 chargers as well).
EV manufacturers, which already adopted higher-voltage battery systems, want a higher-voltage fast charging infrastructure. Ultimately, more and more EVs are expected to be equipped with such battery systems, because this is simply a more efficient solution.
Peter Rawlinson says that 1,000 V (on the infrastructure side) is the future and we agree. For high-end, and most of the mainstream electric cars, we will probably see 600-1,000 V battery systems. There might be a segment with 400 V battery systems as well – entry-level/smaller batteries.
Tesla Hints At 1,000 V – It’s Coming
Tesla, when announcing the opening of its proprietary charging connector in November 2022, said that there is a 1,000 V configuration of the NACS connector, compared to the currently used 500 V version. Moreover, it will be capable of supplying up to one megawatt of power.
In other words, as soon as the company (and other OEMs) will start producing 1,000-volt chargers, plugs, cables, and inlets (vehicle side), the issue will gradually fade. The CCS1 chargers initially were also only low-voltage 50-100 kW units.
Another thing is that Ford, General Motors and Rivian, which joined the NACS coalition, would not decide on the switch without securing a clear path of supporting higher-voltage battery systems, which they are using already or intend to use in the future.
This makes us completely calm that NACS will support 1,000 V and maximum charging speed. Maybe in one year, maybe in two, most likely it will be combined with the 350 kW V4 charging stalls (longer cable is needed to reach charging inlets in various EVs).
As we understand, Lucid’s position is more related to its current interest – they will not benefit much from the Tesla Supercharging network today and they might not be willing to support Tesla (competitor), as long as possible, to eventually join once everything is ready (if the entire market will really move towards NACS). That’s a totally reasonable position.
The last element is that Lucid is interested in bidirectional charging – Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) applications, and this also must be fully outlined by Tesla, so other OEMs could consider adoption. Maybe CharIN will help to standardize NACS to avoid misunderstandings.
One more thing pointed out by Peter Rawlinson is that one of the most important things in the EV industry in the US is to support overnight/home charging (AC Level 2) because this is the dominant way of recharging EVs. The grid requires strengthening. We would also add the issue of street charging for those who don’t have a dedicated parking spot.