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Kentucky becomes the first state to mandate Tesla’s charging plug — It likely won’t be the last

A neon-lit Tesla charging stations
Image Credit: Stephen Mease // Unsplash

The Bluegrass State is going green with highway electrification. As part of its plan to boost accessibility in the electric vehicle revolution, it’s mandating that all charging companies in the state must include Tesla's plug if they want a slice of federal funding.

The funding comes from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, or NEVI, Formula Program which is a part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act. The goal of the program is to provide states with funding to deploy charging stations where they’re needed most, and ultimately create a national charging network.

Last year, Kentucky received nearly $70 million for this feat.

Now, as Reuters reports, Kentucky is using its share to not only build out its infrastructure but to mandate that each charger include Tesla’s “North American Charging Standard” (NACS), as well as the Combined Charging System (CCS), in order to access Kentucky’s federal dollars.

Kentucky is the first state to do so, but Texas and Washington have also shared plans that they will do the same. The reason is as Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Julien Devereux told the publication CNET, is to increase accessibility no matter what type of EV a consumer has, whether it’s a Tesla, or one that uses the current national standard, CCS.

“Having the most common connectors available at each charging station will provide more options for EV drivers,” she said.

Still, some wonder if it’s the right move.

Last month, the White House said EV charging stations with NACS plugs would now be eligible for billions of dollars in federal subsidies, as long as they also included the CCS charging connector, which the administration has long wanted to be the industry go-to.

Using a charger that isn’t compatible with your car requires a converter, which puts even more borne on consumers, many of which are hesitant to buy an EV because of issues like range anxiety and the (lessening) lack of charging stations. Some argue that continuing to have two charging options only increases worry.

Still, Tesla argues that the NACS is twice as powerful as CCS while being half the size. That’s why in order to drive around the issue of two ubiquitous charging types, Kentucky is cutting out the middle man and requiring both.

Kentucky, Texas, and Washington adopting NACS rides behind Tesla’s other recent victories in making itself the charging standard with regards to automakers, with Ford and Rivian adopting NACS. Last year, it also made the once-proprietary technology open to other automakers.

In addition to the fact that thanks to the Biden Administration’s NEVI program, Tesla plans to more than double its full nationwide network of Superchargers, opening a portion up to anybody with an EV, it’s closer and closer to cementing itself as the standard charging type in the U.S. as it competes with CCS for the top spot.

Still, not everyone is jazzed about the idea — a group of EV charger makers and operators, including operator ChargePoint Holdings and prominent manufacturer ABB, is pushing back against Texas’ plan, saying that the move is “premature.”

“Time is needed to properly standardize, test, and certify the safety and interoperability of Tesla connectors across the industry,” they said in a letter to the Texas Transportation Commission obtained by Reuters.

By 2030, the Biden Administration plans to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers along America’s highways and in communities. The goal is to make charging predictable, reliable, accessible, and vastly available, making the experience as simple as filling up a tank of gas. Still, some argue that without one singular standard, these ambitions are a (tail)pipe dream.

However, as seen by Tesla’s (and other automakers') eagerness to comply with the administration’s request for publicly available chargers in exchange for funding, Kentucky’s grand scheme of requiring both standards may prove beneficial.

Kentucky will show whether or not mandating charges to be equipped with both NACS and CSS alleviates the existing problems with EV charging, hopefully opening the gate for wider adoption as we strive to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.


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