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Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison battled over America’s electricity standards more than a century ago. This year, US electric vehicle maker Tesla is again gaining ground in a formats tussle. At stake is the infrastructure needed to make motorway driving less of a struggle for EV owners.
Volkswagen this week announced that it may adopt Tesla’s North American Charging Standard. The German car company’s move matters. The US has the world’s third-largest EV market, after China and Europe, with almost 1mn vehicles sold last year, according to Atlas Public Policy. Including Canada, EV sales grew 54 per cent year on year in March. Demand for charging will increase.
Volkswagen’s 2016 diesel emissions settlement with the US and California included $2bn to build out charging stations. This is now 80 per cent complete. It does this through its subsidiary Electrify America. Tesla may not have the largest charging network, but it does have the biggest share of fast chargers, which do the job in a half-hour. Second ranked for these is Electrify America.
Electrify America uses a popular connector standard known as combined charging systems, which also permits rapid charging. This will not go away. To qualify for President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act subsidies, Tesla has had to agree to open up its network to other car brands. That means using the CCS plugs. Tesla has compromised for less before. It adopted the EU’s version of CCS from 2019.
The focus on rapid charging is bad news for US-listed charger networks such as ChargePoint (the largest). Its market value of $3bn has dropped more than 70 per cent in two years. Regardless of standards, ChargePoint, as well as smaller Blink, uses a high proportion of slow charging stations. EVgo looks a safer bet, having opted for fast charging. None will make money much before 2025.
EV owners demand more fast charging stations. The US government wants more EVs sold. Standardising plugs is an important step for both.
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