Tesla intends to allow non-Tesla electric vehicles access to its Supercharger network in the United States by the end of 2022.
“Later this year, Tesla will begin production of new Supercharger equipment that will enable non-Tesla EV drivers in North America to use Tesla Superchargers,” the White House said in a statement.
Show me the money
But the move by Musk is far from magnanimous — it’s all about the money. Specifically, it’s about getting a piece of the $5 billion being offered under President Joe Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“If they do plan to open up, that would make them eligible for funding from the infrastructure bill that’s going towards the national EV infrastructure,” said Sarah Nielsen, executive director of Transportation-Renewables and Storage at Michigan-based Consumers Energy. “I’m sure that’s something that’s on their mind, because that would make them eligible for those dollars by opening up their network.”
The move comes after Tesla opened their Supercharger network to non-Tesla vehicles in Europe for the same reason, which TheDetroitBureau.com first reported more than a year ago. It’s been offered in the Netherlands, France, Norway, U.K., Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland since November 2021.
The company has more than 35,000 Superchargers worldwide, 6,798 of which are in the U.S. Currently, there are 47,243 charging station locations in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy.
Politics playing a part
If there’s any indication of the Biden administration’s attitude towards Tesla, it can be seen in the June 28, 2022 White House statement, where the Tesla announcement is buried in a list titled “Key Industry Investments.” Tesla is listed below Electrify America, Siemens, ABB E-mobility, ChargePoint and FLO.
It’s not surprising given President Biden’s continual omission of Tesla as he hails the EVs being produced General Motors and Ford Motor Co. And Tesla vehicles remain the subject of dozens of investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many pre-date the current presidential administration.
Certainly, there’s no love lost between the two. After Musk was not invited to a White House event in February, one attended by GM CEO Mary Barra and Ford CEO Jim Farley, Musk tweeted the president is “a damp sock puppet in human form.”
Enhancing a tarnished image?
Some observers commented it’s a case of UAW influence among Democrats; GM and Ford plants are unionized, Tesla plants are not. So the move may be about money, but also may soothe the ongoing tension as well.
“It’s a potential way of Tesla to make friends where they don’t think they have them within the government,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president, Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions LLC, told TheDetroitBureau.com. “With Biden administration proposals for unionized labor and everything else, Tesla has not been at the front table for these discussions, and Elon Musk must be looking for ways to become part of that discussion.”
But the move also enhances Musk’s image.
“Opening up the Supercharger network makes you a lot more approachable than being a private company with a private EV network and, and no labor union. So it’s at least one way to make them look a little better,” Fiorani added.
What it entails
For non-Tesla drivers to use Tesla Superchargers, they will need to download the iOS or Android Tesla app, version 4.2.3 or higher, and purchase an adapter in order to utilize the company’s Superchargers, as Tesla employs a unique connector in the U.S.
That said, the move could lead to longer lines at Tesla charging stations, although the total number of Tesla vehicles far outnumber those from other manufacturers.
“The potential is there for longer lines for chargers. However, Tesla dominates the EV landscape at the moment,” Fiorani said. “So the trickle of other brands of EVs showing up there aren’t likely to increase the wait time too much.”
This is partially due to the fact that you have to plan ahead by downloading the app and buying the adapter for Tesla’s proprietary plug, Fiorani said.
A bigger problem looms
More than possible long lines, the biggest problem facing drivers using public charging stations — Tesla or otherwise — is their lack of maintenance. Despite having more than 100,000 plugs available for public charging in the United States, not all of them function. Given the scarcity of other chargers in some American locales, this is a growing, and unaddressed, problem.
“All these stations need to be more needs to be better maintained than they are currently, especially with the growth of EVs that’s coming over the next few years,” Fiorani said.