Tesla’s charging experience — which combines its Supercharger (DC fast charger) and Destination Charging (Level 2) networks — with its proprietary charging connector and integration is arguably the company’s greatest competitive advantage. Certainly the company’s brand awareness, tech leadership, and volume production capacity are key to its dominance in the US. But its seamless and simple plug in and charge experience with chargers located nearly everywhere is perhaps the foundation of Tesla’s success.
No other automaker can come close to the ease and ubiquity of the Tesla charging experience in the US. However, with the vast growth in fast charging networks such as Electrify America and EVgo, taking road trips in a non-Tesla EV is becoming easier. But the actual plugging in a charging connector from a fast charger, having the software authenticate that charging can happen and enable the payment process — is often a failpoint or a struggle.
Enter the industry standard charging protocol commonly referred to as “Plug and Charge” which is based on the ISO 15118 standard. In quasi technical terms, this is a standard protocol that specifies the communication between electric vehicles and the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) – the charging equipment. It enables authentication between the charging equipment and an EV (ensuring the necessary handshake between car and charger), enables payment processing, and power load management (how much power is sent to the EV).
Or in other words, it enables a Tesla-like plug in and charge experience. The challenge of course is that unlike Tesla with its own proprietary network, software, and connector, for Plug and Charge to work an EV needs to be Plug and Charge capable, the charging hardware needs to support it, as does the charging network’s software. Without any of those three elements in sync, then Plug and Charge is just a theory or more practically, your EV may only be able to use Plug and Charge at certain networks.
But good news is arriving. On June 23, GM announced that Plug and Charge will now be enabled on all current and upcoming GM EVs built on the Ultium Platform, including the GMC HUMMER EV and Cadillac LYRIQ, as well as with the Chevrolet Bolt EVs and Bolt EUVs that have DC fast-charging capability. However, at least initially, Plug and Charge on these GM EVs will only work with the EVgo network.
Updating our EVAdoption EV model database with these GM models, by my estimate as many as 15 BEVs could be Plug and Charge capable by the end of 2022. Now with supply chain issues and Vinfast being a new automaker, I won’t be surprised if we fall short of the 15.
But while a greater number of high-speed fast chargers and simply more chargers is important, especially to support Americans’ love of the road trip, a simple and easy to use charging experience is paramount. Until all the automakers, charging hardware makers, and charging networks support Plug and Charge — Tesla will continue to benefit from a superior charging experience.