• EV Charging Infrastructure
  • Public Charging
  • Federal Government
  • Automakers
  • NACS

What Connectors for Publicly Funded Chargers?

Sam Abuelsamid
Sep 06, 2023

Guidehouse Insights electric car

As of late August 2023, Fisker, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, Rivian, and Volvo have all announced plans to transition from the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard to the North American Charging Standard (NACS) developed and used by Tesla. Hyundai Motor Group is evaluating the change for its next-generation EV platform, and other automakers are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks and months. Some of the reasons automakers have chosen to make this change have been discussed in previous articles. However, the timing of these announcements just happens to correspond with a lot of government funding becoming available to expand EV charging networks.

When the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in late 2021, it included $7.5 billion in funding for expanding publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. The NEVI rules published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) stipulate that all chargers funded by the program must include a CCS connector. Other connectors are allowed, but CCS is a must—for now. A statement from the White House expressed support for including NACS connectors on funded chargers as long as there is also a CCS connector.

When the rules were being developed, NACS (or simply the Tesla connector, as it was known until earlier this year) was a proprietary solution restricted to one automaker, so mandating CCS, which was used by all other automakers, seemed obvious. However, as the industry quickly begins to pivot away from CCS, regulators need to rethink their approach to the program rules. Kentucky, Texas, and Washington have all announced that companies wanting funding in those states must also include an NACS connector.

More than 70% of the approximately 2 million EVs sold through 2022 in the US already use the NACS connector, since they were built by Tesla. While many more CCS-equipped vehicles will be built in the next couple of years, that number is likely to wane significantly beyond 2025 as other automakers make the transition to NACS. CCS-equipped EVs will probably be on the road into the 2040s, but they will almost certainly represent an ever-smaller percentage of the vehicle population over time, while the NACS population will grow dramatically.

With NEVI-funded charger deployments just starting to roll out, this would be the ideal time for the FHWA to change its rules. The NACS connector should become the mandatory standard for all publicly funded chargers. Some percentage of chargers at any given location should also be required to have CCS connectors to support that fleet.

Virtually all of the major charger manufacturers have already announced that they will be offering either new chargers with NACS connectors, retrofit kits for existing chargers, or both. Now that NACS is an open standard with no royalties paid to Tesla, this is the time to embrace this superior connector that will be easier for people to use. For vehicles with CCS, adapters will soon be available that allow them to use NACS chargers, so long-term support should be less of an issue.

If taxpayer dollars are going to be spent on infrastructure, it should be done in a way that benefits the greatest number of people. The market is quickly speaking and voting in favor of NACS, so let’s make sure that’s where the money goes.