The Messy State of Electric Car Charging: What You Need to Know

Tesla seems to have won the battle of the plug, with Ford, GM and others adapting the NACS outlet for electric car charging. Superchargers will be available for most, but will the changeover be easy?

The Tesla Ccs Adapter Lets Tesla Owners Charge At Ccs Chargers. Photo: Tesla
The Tesla CCS Adapter lets Tesla owners charge at CCS Chargers. Photo: Tesla

But don’t let it deter your electric car dreams. 

Electric cars have officially entered the mainstream as more and more people are starting to make the switch. For most people, charging is convenient because it’s mostly done at home. But when you need to charge on the go, public electric car charging is a must, and it is proving to be one of the biggest challenges electric car owners face. It can be confusing, and things are evolving FAST! But there is an end in sight as the battle for the EV plug standard seems to be coming to an end.

Think back to when you got your first smart phone. It came with a cord, but you probably needed an adapter to plug that cord into a wall outlet. Then, you needed a dongle to could charge it on your computer, or in the car. Eventually, you got a new phone and you probably needed a different cord or adapter other than the ones you already had. Pretty soon have a drawer full of cords and converters convenient for different devices and hopefully, one that works for yours.

Well, that’s where we may be headed with electric car charging, for good and for bad. 

Types of Electric Charging – What You Need to Know

There are currently three main types of electric car charging: Level 1, which is a basic household outlet. Level 2, which is equal to the outlet a household clothes dryer uses, delivers double the amount of power of a standard household outlet.

Level 2 is also the most common type of public electric car charger. This is also what most people get installed in their homes for charging an electric car and are for when you have a good chunk of time to charge, like overnight. 

Then there are DC Fast Chargers, which is what you’ll use when you need a really quick charge, like on a road trip. DC Fast Charging is only for fully electric cars, not plug-in hybrid electric cars – other than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, though more PHEVs should be able to use Level 3 in the future.

Typically you can get all your charging done within 30 minutes to an hour. Breaking down the types of plugs that deliver a charge, and a fast charge, is where things start to get a bit more complicated. 

Related: Charging an Electric Car is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Most Electric Car Charging Is Done At Home With A Level 2 Unit Like This Autel Home Charger. Photo: Autel

Most electric car charging is done at home with a level 2 unit like this Autel Home Charger. Photo: Autel

Types of Charge Plugs: Tesla, CHAdeMo, and CCS

Currently, there are three different types of charge plugs: Tesla, CHAdeMO, and CCS. Tesla plugs can only be used by Teslas (mostly; keep reading).

CHAdeMO is one of the early plug types and also the slowest charging; it was used for Nissan Leafs and other early entries, but this type is starting to be phased out.

CCS has been the standard and used by pretty much every electric car maker, including newer Nissans that don’t use CHAdeMO.

At many public charging stations you will typically find both CCS and CHAdeMO, but Tesla charging stations only have Tesla plugs. This is how things have been for pretty much the past decade and the lack of standardization has been a consistent headache for both drivers and businesses.

The Tesla Ccs Adapter Lets Tesla Owners Charge At Ccs Chargers. Photo: Tesla

The Tesla CCS Adapter lets Tesla owners charge at CCS Chargers. Photo: Tesla

The Battle for the Plug has a new winner!

As more companies entered the electric car charging market and built public charge stations, it  seemed like the battle for the plug was favoring CCS. Every non-Tesla vehicle utilized it and government funding went to help the expansion of public charging networks.

But with more public chargers than any other network, Tesla had been under pressure to make its chargers available to non-Tesla owners, especially as the biggest gap is in DC fast chargers, which Tesla has a lot of. Last year, the company conceded and added non-Tesla chargers to a small number of its stations. 

But then, in November 2022, Tesla announced its intention to make their EV charging plug design available to other auto makers. They called it the North American Charging Standard, NACS. At first it seemed like no other manufacturer wanted to go along with Tesla. They all seemed invested in continuing with CCS.

Then, on May 25th, 2023, the CEOs of Ford and Tesla joined for a public briefing to announce that Ford would begin using NACS. This news shook the auto industry and the response was a shockwave of conflicting input: excitement, happiness, anger, apprehension, and even some distrust.

Following Ford, GM announced the same, and shortly afterward, Rivian, Volvo, and Polestar have followed suit. Major CCS charging station companies have announced their intended inclusion of the NACS plugs in their charging stations and the landscape of electric car charging has literally changed in an instant.

As the industry makes this change over to NACS, electric car owners, especially those with older cars, will can use an adapter. Also, cars sold with CCS ports after this announcement will likely receive an adapter or be advised to buy one as the industry works toward 2025 when new vehicles will have an NACS port built in.

Related: How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

The Nacs Cable And Plug Are Far More Petite And Maneuverable Than The Ccs Ones. Photo: Tesla

The NACS cable and plug are far more petite and maneuverable than the CCS ones. Photo: Tesla

Why is this announcement good news?

  • Having a standardized charging system is good for everyone. It just makes things simpler. Whether that be CCS or NACS, a non-proprietary standard is so important. Think how USB-C is available on most all non-Apple devices – and how Apple had to make the change, too
  • The Tesla Supercharger network is really expansive and now some CCS vehicles will have access to over 12,000 Tesla Superchargers with more to come
  • The NACS connector is much smaller and easier to handle than the bulky CCS connector. The design of the CCS also makes it more finicky about how it is plugged in. You know those old Micro USB cables that you couldn’t plug in unless you lined up just right? The CCS connector is like that, only worse. 
  • There is often divisiveness between Tesla fans and everyone else, but other cars adopting NACS may remove some of the US vs THEM mentality
  • Tesla has committed to making the charging process as simple as possible even if you do use an adapter

Why is there opposition to this news?

  • The goal is to simplify fast charging, but the transition can be messy with confusion, and equipment incompatibility
  • Some Tesla owners are concerned about non-Tesla vehicles clogging up Tesla superchargers, especially in areas that already experience quite a bit of congestion at chargers
  • Some people choose not to support Elon Musk and now they may not have any other option in the future

Related: Electrify America Has New Labels for Electric Vehicle Charging

Evgo, Ea, Blink, And Chargepoint Are Some Of The Charging Companies That That Will Be Adding Nacs Connecters To Their Stations. Photo: Patrick Anderson

EVgo, EA, Blink, and Chargepoint are some of the charging companies that that will be adding NACS connecters to their stations. Photo: Patrick Anderson

What does this mean for people in the market for a new electric car?

This means that the pickings just got better for you. If you pick one of the non-Tesla vehicles that has already made an agreement for NACS then you can look forward to having access to both existing CCS charging stations and many Tesla superchargers by around 2024. If you pick an automaker that hasn’t made an agreement yet, not to worry. They will likely be facing intense pressure to switch, so things could change soon. And if you already have a CCS vehicle, you should look forward to using a Tesla adaptor soon!

It’s hard to speak definitively since so much will depend on how the situation evolves. What will happen to the CCS charging stations as these partnerships develop? Will the Tesla charging plug work as seamlessly with every other vehicle as it does with Tesla’s? Will automakers include both CCS and Tesla ports on their vehicles? 

And if you find all this all stressful? Don’t. It is important to note that, if you can charge at home, the charging port really won’t matter. You’ll just get a station or cord that matches your car and your charging outlet, and you are set for majority of the time. There will be more options for adapters you can leave in your trunk so you can charge anywhere. And if you need to charge on the road, your in-car navigation or phone apps can help you find the right type of charger. 

In the end, there are a lot of changes happening with charging standards, but the good news is that it’ll all be better for electric car owners with more charging stations and faster charging. And in a few years, more options and flexibility than we have now.

Have a thought or comment? Share it with us on social media! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!

Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

An enthusiastic supporter of everything she’s passionate about, Liv got her first Electric Car and immediately made a YouTube... More about Liv Leigh