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Rivian is the latest to enter the pearly gates of Tesla's Supercharger network

Tesla Supercharger behind gates with blue illustrations of nuts, bolts, and lightening bolts
Image Credit: Joshua Fernandez // Unsplash. Illustrations by Nate Merritt. Graphic by Miquéla Thornton.

Tesla has scored another win on its road to electric vehicle charging dominance.

The company has added the upstart car manufacturer Rivian to its stable of partners that include Ford and General Motors.

With the addition, Tesla proves that its juice isn't just from its cars. Elon Musk's energy company is quickly becoming just that.

The shift to a more publically available Supercharger network can likely be credited to the Inflation Reduction Act for the federal dollars it siphons to companies making primarily American-made chargers. that are available to more than one type of EV.

Tesla is one of many partners for what the Biden Administration calls the Made-in-America National EV Charging Network, and while the move from private chargers to public may not have been catalyzed without the IRA, ultimately what's good for the manufacturer of the world's top-selling electric vehicle is also good for consumers.

Tesla's charging network is seen as the most reliable in the industry, and having reliable charging is going to be the surest pathway to the mass adoption of electric vehicles.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lays out, not only does this network have to be reliable, but it has to be publically available and vast to the point of gas pumps that currently dot the nation. A Reuters analysis cited by the bureau indicates that at least one public charger is needed for every 10 to 15 EVs, even with drivers charging at home.

Range anxiety and concerns over charging access are two of the reasons that consumers are reluctant to make the switch.

With more access, those concerns should fade, and more drivers may willing to make the switch.

Electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive on Tuesday said it struck a deal to expand access to Tesla’s fast-chargers to drivers of its vehicles, further cementing the EV leader’s dominance in the U.S. for owners looking to power up.

The deal gives Rivian drivers access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in the U.S. and Canada starting in 2024, using an adapter for Rivian’s R1T and R1S models. Future Rivian models will incorporate Tesla’s charging-port configuration, starting in 2025.

“We’re excited to work with Tesla and to see collaborations like this help advance the world toward carbon neutrality," RJ Scaringe, Founder and CEO of Rivian said in a statement.

"The adoption of the North American Charging Standard will enable our existing and future customers to leverage Tesla’s expansive Supercharger network while we continue to build out our Rivian Adventure Network," he added. "We look forward to continuing to find new ways to accelerate EV adoption.”

Rivian EV drives through mountains overlayed with illustration of blue motor
Image courtesy of Rivian with illustration by Nate Merritt

Rivian’s agreement follows similar deals Tesla reached in recent weeks with Ford Motor and General Motors. Both automakers also said they are incorporating the Tesla-style charging ports on future EVs starting in 2025, and their customers will get to use the about 12,000 Superchargers.

An already confusing landscape of U.S. EV charging stands to become even more so as automakers move swiftly to adopt the Tesla connector. Since Ford last month became the first automaker to declare plans to make the switch, a wave of charging companies and equipment manufacturers have said they would be able to support Tesla’s charging setup.

But the question remains: Could Tesla’s charger become the U.S. standard for EV charging?

WSJ’s George Downs explores this question, the challenges facing America’s charging network, and what funding is up for grabs.

Some analysts say automakers’ embrace of the Tesla connector, and the deals to broaden Supercharger access to non-Tesla owners, are a mixed bag for consumers. On one hand, many EV owners stand to instantly broaden their fast-charger access.

On the other, most of the chargers now in operation at stations across the U.S. use a separate charging system. According to Eleftheria Kontou, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois who studies EV infrastructure.

Migrating to the one Tesla uses, while it has benefits, could further push the industry away from a universal charging standard that some policymakers say is the best way to encourage EV adoption and avoid confusion.

Nearly all non-Tesla manufacturers today use the a charging standard known as the Combined Charging System or CCS. The U.S. federal government, which has put billions of dollars on the table for building out a highway network, backs CCS. Europe uses a similar CCS standard. Most U.S. automakers rely on a network of third-party charging providers, such as EVgo and ChargePoint.

Tesla uses a different connector, known as the North American Charging Standard, or NACS. Its Supercharger network includes more than 19,400 fast-chargers in the U.S. at nearly 1,800 locations, according to a U.S. Department of Energy database, and is widely regarded as the most reliable.

While Tesla drivers can buy adapters that allow them to use CCS fast chargers, the reverse—an adapter that lets a CCS driver tap a Tesla charger—isn’t sold today.

Around a million EVs on the road in the U.S. have CCS connectors, and more are on the way, said Cathy Zoi, chief executive of fast-charging provider EVgo. The company already has Tesla connectors along with CCS connectors at many of its sites, she said.

“There’s going to continue to be a significant demand for CCS charging,” Zoi said. “Even if every single [automaker] decided tomorrow that they were going to go to NACS, it would be years before that would be effectuated.”

Jeep maker Stellantis said Tuesday that it is evaluating Tesla’s charging standard. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai said that they are exploring different charging options for the future.

Rivian said it would continue to build out its own network of charging stations, many of which are at or near outdoor destinations such as state and national parks. Those stations are currently CCS compatible. For future stations, Rivian will switch to the charging hardware used by Tesla, the company said.

Rivian’s shares rose about 5% in afternoon trading Tuesday. Tesla shares were up 3.4%.

While most charging happens at home, stress over EV road trips is hindering wider adoption, analysts say. Nearly half of car shoppers who won’t consider an electric vehicle point to the lack of charging stations as the primary reason, according to a J.D. Power study released last week.

As the Biden administration pushes for a standard and for more publically available chargers in order to accelerate adoption, Tesla believes that the NACS will come out on top.

“It’s great to see the industry coming together to adopt the North American Charging Standard," Rebecca Tinucci, Tesla’s Senior Director of Charging Infrastructure, said in a statement. "By doing so, we’re collectively ensuring all EV drivers have access to easy to use, reliable charging hardware."


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