2023 was an exciting year for EV charging. In some ways, the stories of 2023 were a continuation of trends from 2022 and before, but in other ways, the whole charging landscape has changed. Let’s take a look back at this year’s most impactful stories and why they mattered so much.
#1: The NACS Transition
Both in terms of excitement among readers and impacts, the story of other manufacturers adopting Tesla’s NACS plug was right at the top. It started with Ford’s CEO Jim Farley trying to take a road trip in an F-150 Lighting. He chose to do this in California, where Electrify America’s not-so-great first generation chargers had taken the biggest beating, so his experience was less than stellar.
This and some conversations with EV owners at EV charging stations led Ford to get into talks with Tesla about getting access to Tesla’s network. A big check and some more talks later, and Farley ended up meeting with Elon Musk on Twitter to announce access via adapter starting in 2024 and Ford models equipped with the port from the factory starting in 2025.
GM followed pretty quickly, proving that it wasn’t just Ford that would do it. Then, most of the rest of the industry followed pretty quickly after that. But, it was only about a week ago that the last holdouts (VW Group) jumped in and adopted the plug.
Charging stations are increasingly getting set up to adopt a dual plug solution, with CCS and NACS support at the same time, but often in a modular fashion. So, we’ll probably see both plugs at most places for a decade or two until the CCS1 cars start disappearing from the road. And CHAdeMO? That’s going away faster, being replaced with NACS in many cases.
#2: “We Charge North America”
Problems with the CCS charging network and the transition to NACS resulted in another big story: a new charging network. BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis all saw how bad things were going with Electrify America, EVgo, and ChargePoint. These companies really had no choice but to jump on the Tesla train, but you could probably imagine that the execs weren’t too thrilled about the idea that a competitor would control so much of the industry.
So, they got together to announce a new network, but not much has been revealed yet. They seem to have given the effort a working title of “We Charge North America”. The plan is to build a reliable and high-featured charging network that helps the automakers still have some say in their futures. If the new joint company can come up with 30,000 stations as planned it’s going to make a big dent in the EV charging problem.
#3: Pilot/Flying J, GM, and EVgo
Another big charging story was a partnership between Pilot, the company that operates both Pilot and Flying J truck stops, and GM. The goal is to build hundreds of new charging stations at the truck stops, and then have EVgo operate them.
There are several reasons these stations will be amazing. First, they’re going to be located at great places. Pilot and Flying J truck stops have restaurants, bathrooms, and plenty of drinks and snacks. They usually have a place to sit and chill, too. They’re being built with canopies over them to keep the sun and the rain off, and they’re set up as pull-thru spaces so that people towing trailers won’t have to do any funny things like unhook or back in and block a row of parking spaces.
The first station recently opened, and plenty of others are in the advanced stages of construction. Expect some review articles once the one not far from my home opens up.
#4 CCS Charging Improvement Plans
I know the Tesla fanatics thought that it was game over for all of the other charging providers, but they aren’t all getting the memo, apparently. Instead, they’ve all announced not only plans to improve, but after months, they announced that the plans were already resulting in better reliability.
Electrify America’s plan is pretty aggressive. Instead of working to fix existing stations, the company is working to rip the oldest ones out and replace them with the latest design. In fact, the last of the Dieselgate money the company was required to spend in California is going to at least partially go toward doing that. This won’t happen right away, and sucks for the company, but the current problems could prove to be a blessing in disguise as it pushed everyone to compete more and up the quality.
EVgo is already seeing reliability improvement from its program. Better charging installation methods, better training, better monitoring, and faster fixes are all coming together. The company aimed for an improvement to a 95% first attempt success rate by New Years, and to push closer to 100% during 2024.
ChargePoint has a similar plan to improve. Monitoring, including a new Network Operations Center (NOC) is underway. This monitoring includes watching things like charging websites and social media for complaints, too. More companies are being pushed to pay for service plans, and installers are now supposed to take courses to get better at making fewer mistakes.
2024 Should Be Even Better
With all of this progress, the whole charging landscape should be set for a great 2024. On top of the biggest stories of 2023, other ongoing stories like the NEVI (Infrastructure Law) program’s buildout are pushing up the number of reliable and accessible chargers everywhere. By the end of 2024, the number of public charging stations is going to be a lot bigger than today.
Combine that with continued growth of Tesla’s Supercharger network, new adapters that are coming out for non-Tesla EVs, and the public EV charging situation is going to be better than ever.
The real question now is whether the growth in EVs can be spurred enough in 2024 to get to the point where more private investors are willing to put money into charging stations. Even with all of the planned growth in charging today, many places are still left out and the sheer number of needed stations by the 2030s is going to be mind boggling. So, we need to keep pushing for more.
Featured image by EVgo.
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