It has probably escaped no one’s notice that Tesla is having a good month. At the time of writing, GM, Ford, and Rivian have all inked deals to use NACS in their vehicles. So, it looks as if the supercharger network has won and CCS is dead. But, is it really? Let’s take a peek at the NACS resources:
Well, interestingly, this new standard has this tidbit: “Power Line Communication is superimposed onto the control pilot line while DC charging.” Hmm, well, it turns out that NACS uses CCS as the communications system. So, no, CCS is not dead, it has merely shed its ugly skin and adopted a new mask. This is ultimately why it will be so simple for all three automakers (and likely MANY more) to create adapters which will allow their existing fleet to use SuperChargers in the future. This was not very unexpected both because it is the path of least resistance and because newer Tesla cars already come with CCS hardware. But, an additional thing needs to be mentioned. Not all superchargers are the same. There are four generations of supercharger. Guess how many of them support CCS? Did you guess only the fourth generation? Because, that’s the answer. The first V4 chargers were opened on March 15, 2023 in The Netherlands. In the US some V3 chargers have been retrofitted with the “MagicDock” which allows them to connect to CCS vehicles. But, this means that not all Tesla chargers (or at the moment, even most) can support CCS vehicles. The above three companies are all targeting 2024 for rolling out their support for SuperChargers. Perhaps this is because Tesla also needs time to get ready to install more CCS compatible hardware.
The news of automakers jumping on the NACS bandwagon is quite welcome indeed. All too often the existing CCS infrastructure in the US has been about as reliable as a blind narcoleptic alcoholic babysitter. Nothing kills a person’s EV grin quite as effectively as advertising a fast charger that they need to charge at only for them to find that it has been broken for 6 months and the cable was stolen so a junkie could sell it for $4 to a scrapyard. The biggest argument against EVs has always been “but muh range!” The state of CCS infrastructure only reinforces the view that you could get stranded out in the middle of nowhere with no charge… and you can hear banjos in the distance. The biggest thing that gasoline vehicles have going for them is the fact that most locations have a gas station every 6 feet. This switch to NACS will hopefully result in a more reliable charging network for everyone.
Though, the same companies that produce the current “extremely well maintained ™” CCS chargers have mostly all said that they’ll add NACS cables to their chargers in the future. One can hope that somehow they’ll also find a way to keep their chargers working this time. Though, a large part of the difficulty with CCS has been the spreading of blame. With Tesla you have Tesla who makes the Supercharger, Tesla who installs the SC, and Tesla who services the SC. With CCS you have multiple companies that make the chargers, potentially other companies that buy and install them, and maybe even a different company servicing them. There is something to be said for the free market but sometimes monopolies can look attractive in a certain light. For sure the saying “the buck stops here” is apt for this discussion. In any situation you need someone who is responsible. As the system grows and as the web of companies grows the ability to blame it on someone dilutes. Every system needs a fall guy. Let’s call him Bob. It’s Bob’s fault that the charger in Nowhere, Arkansas doesn’t work. Bob had better get someone out there to fix it. If it doesn’t get fixed you know you can blame Bob and yell at him. This makes Bob a really unhappy guy whenever there is a problem but at least this influences him to fix it. Maybe we can go easy on Bob and let a whole department of Bobs handle it instead. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the help. But, even then you know to blame it on the Bobs. You don’t have to wonder who is going to fix it. It seems like Tesla has a Bob department but many CCS companies don’t seem to. So, a lot of people are cautiously optimistic that Tesla might be able to provide a bit of stability to the charging infrastructure. The rising tide will raise all the EV ships.
As an aside, you may wonder what Tesla was doing during the V1, V2, and V3 chargers. If they didn’t use CCS, what did they do? Ingineerix has a good overview of what Tesla does in their vehicles:
The answer is that Tesla uses “Single Wire CAN” to talk between the supercharger and car. What might surprise people is that the supercharger itself has no real intelligence. The car will tell the charger what it is to do and it will do it. After all, the car knows how much power it can take. Compared to CCS, the Tesla way of doing things is much simpler. I’m sure many people wish that all the other automakers had standardized on this system instead of designing CCS but here we are.