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Joint Office Supports Charging Standardization to Enhance EV Charging Experience (Text Version)

This is a text version of Joint Office Supports Charging Standardization to Enhance EV Charging Experience.

Stephen Lommele: Today, we're talking about a hot topic in the EV industry: the transition towards standardizing charging connectors. And specifically, we're going to talk about CCS and the Tesla-developed North American Charging Standard, or “NACS”. So, we’re going to be discussing some of the implications of this transition for consumers, manufacturer , and the wider industry with a focus on how these initiatives that we’re working on at the Joint Office democratize access for EV charging.

Steve Lommele: So, I’m Steve Lommele. I’m the Communications Education lead in the Joint Office and we’re pleased to be joined today by Gabe Klein, the Executive Director of the Joint Office, who has been working tirelessly to ensure a more integrated and accessible charging landscape for all EV users. So, as we dive into NACS, the North American charging standard, we’ll explore the challenges, breakthroughs and what the future holds for EV charging. So, let’s get started. Welcome, Gabe.

Gabe Klein: Hey, thanks, Steve. And, I'd say—I'm working almost as hard as Steve Lommele.

Steve Lommele: Well, thanks. I appreciate that. So, our first question is: how is the Joint Office supporting the Biden Administration's goals of opening up this diversity of chargers and connectors to more vehicles?

Gabe Klein: Yeah, this is an important question because we are actively involved in—in very collaborative efforts with, you know, multiple stakeholders…

Gabe Klein: To transition what's currently called the North American Charging Standard—and if you've been reading about it, people refer to it as NACS—…

Gabe Klein: And convert it to an actual open standard…

Gabe Klein: An open industry standard called J3400, which for those of you that are driving an EV probably means nothing. But, for those of you in the space, it's important because it means it's actually moving from Tesla…

Gabe Klein: —From being a proprietary standard that they opened up in—I believe—November of last year to a truly open standard that's governing—that's governed by SAE and will then allow every company to play a role in working with this open standard.

Steve Lommele: Great. Well, can you talk a little bit about the Joint Office strategy to accommodate multiple connectors while ensuring a consistent and accessible experience for all EV drivers?

Gabe Klein: Yes. So, we ultimately want to pave the way for more EVs to charge at the greatest number of charging stations. And this is really about reaching true interoperability. So, our programs are designed to be flexible, to be able to respond to a world with multiple connector types. I think what's important for people to recognize, no matter where you sit, this was the situation already. It was going to be for the foreseeable future.

As we had the number one, you know, selling EVs at the time had NACS and then all of the others had CCS. So, no matter what, we were going to have that. But we're focused on allowing innovation while maintaining a reliable, consistent baseline experience for everybody in terms of usability, reliability, and that means regardless of the connector they use, and we are literally talking about the connector more than anything else.

Gabe Klein: Also, I think it's important for people to understand that…

Gabe Klein: The Biden administration is not focused on like: we need to mandate CCS or NACS or anything like that. It's really industry that needs to settle on the direction they want to go.

Gabe Klein: I do want to note also that with UH, UL certified adapters and multiple connectors in in many cases per charger…

Gabe Klein: We don't really see a significant issue with CCS and NACS both being adopted for the foreseeable future. It's not that hard, particularly since they are both going to use the same back-end protocols, to have an adapter or multiple connectors per port.

Gabe Klein: And it should be noted that every non-Tesla produced…

Gabe Klein: 2023,2024, until calendar year 2025—not even a vehicle year—is still going to have CCS port.

Gabe Klein: So, you know, we have to serve all Americans, all vehicles, and that's our goal and to achieve true interoperability for the public.

Steve Lommele: Now, Gabe, I heard you say, you know we're looking to industry to kind of settle on you know the—the right connector for vehicles at the for the NEVI program and for federally funded stations, there is a requirement of CCS on all federally funded charging infrastructure. So, what does that mean for the whole ecosystem?

Gabe Klein: Yeah, well, it's also important for people to know that CCS is the standard in Europe. It's been the standard here outside of Tesla's vehicles, and we actually, with our minimum standards, allowed NACS or other non-proprietary connectors to be utilized. So, we actually paved the way for this with the minimum standards that federal highways put out, but mandating CCS which by the way is the combined…

Gabe Klein: Charging system…

Gabe Klein: On all federally funded charging infrastructure as the primary connector ensures that most electric vehicles on the road today, including both Tesla and non-Tesla models and those that are soon to be launched, can utilize these stations. And people should note that Teslas can charge at CCS stations currently with an adapter. So, that world already exists, and that's how it's going to be for the foreseeable future, but it should not change the…

Gabe Klein: Customer experience or the reliability of stations.

Steve Lommele: OK. Well, can you talk a little bit about how non-proprietary connectors like NACS do foster market innovation and public accessibility?

Gabe Klein: Yeah, so, you know, allowing the addition of you know, non-proprietary connectors…

Gabe Klein: —In this case, NACS—gives us the flexibility to respond to market signals, to what the private sector is hearing from their customers or what they want to do, and support innovation, which I think is what you know, what this country is all about.

Gabe Klein: But it also, you know, ensures a baseline option that's universally accessible even to Tesla owners, while permitting the introduction of new connectors as the market evolves and companies make varied technology choices. And that's going to continue. You know, we are—we are in a world without borders in many ways, when it comes to vehicles, you know, we’ve got vehicles coming in from Asia…

Gabe Klein: From Europe, various parts of Europe, and obviously made here in the U.S. with more and more being made in the U.S. every day. But these are different companies, and they have different goals and they have different strategies worldwide. So, we have to…

Gabe Klein: I think in many ways be less dictatorial and more innovative and encourage consensus and collaboration whenever possible, but not dictate that.

Steve Lommele: Absolutely. And, so, pulling the thread on that idea of innovation a little bit more, as new connector types maybe come into the market like NACS—now called J3400—what are some of the challenges and requirements associated with implementing a new connector type?

Gabe Klein: Well, you know, we've, we've ensured that all the modern vehicles…

Gabe Klein: Can utilize CCS with readily available adapters, but we've also allowed, as I was just saying, NACS and other non-proprietary connectors to be supported by federal funding and this is important.

Gabe Klein: To answer your question more specifically, you know NACS right now—and this is important—is not an industry standard. So, when companies came out and started switching and saying, hey, we're going to start using NACS in 2025…

Gabe Klein: We—we heard from lots of them after. They're like, but we really do need this to become an industry standard, not to be controlled by a particular company.

Gabe Klein: And, so, although it's going through the SAE process to become what will be termed J3400, when it's an open standard, it's not done yet. And when a new connector is added to the open market, it's got to go through this rigorous standards development process and interoperability testing.

Gabe Klein: And it's just as much about safety, as it is to ensure seamless and reliable functionality with the equipment that's currently existing in the market today. So, every vehicle has to be able to work with every charger, right? And I don't know if people know that, like every vehicle gets tested with every charger before it gets released to the market. So, the Joint Office and our role is working with industry and standards bodies to ensure reliability for all equipment…

Gabe Klein: Funded by the federal government that's in this national network. And by doing that, we will actually also impact the quality and the standardization of the charging system that's not funded by the federal government because it has that market impact.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. And we've actually got at the Joint Office a National Lab-led effort to kind of bring industry together. Can you talk a little bit about what steps we're taking to ensure that every vehicle can connect to every charger for a successful charge?
Gabe Klein: Yeah, absolutely. So, we're focused on ensuring this—I mean, I'm going to say it a million times—interoperability, but that that is truly what it is, where a customer should not notice the difference pulling up to one type of charger or another with a different connector as long as they have an adapter or there's multiple…

Gabe Klein: Connector types, so, we're facilitating that between every charger and every vehicle. And, as you just noted, we're partnering with the National Lab-led ChargeX consortium to develop solutions whether it's to payment processing, consistent user interface and experience, vehicle charger communication, which is actually absolutely crucial…

Gabe Klein: And often a point of failure and then also diagnostic data sharing. Some of this is not like sexy, but it's really crucial to a frictionless charging experience for every citizen.

Steve Lommele: Yeah, absolutely. And I know you talked about the SAE process and moving next to the J3400 standard, and—and I know it's just a connector—but there's stuff that happens behind the scenes too, right. So, what does, what does moving NACS to an industry accepted open standard really entail?
Gabe Klein: Yeah, I guess in some ways I misspoke earlier. Yes, it's just a connector, but to your point, it's everything behind the connector, right. So, there's making the connector design public and that happened…

Gabe Klein: Late last year, but it involves ensuring technical protocols behind the scenes are in sync, As I was saying, for every car and every charger. It's about ensuring that that term interoperability, where every car works with every charger every time, and that it’s truly open and not controlled by one company. And that means that everybody can also enhance it over time. A truly open standard allows companies and even individuals to contribute and collaborate to make a standard better.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. And again, kind of like building on that theme of opening up the NACS connector, now J3400 to the entire industry, what's the significance of that SAE announcement that we saw back in June to actually take NACS through the SAE process?

Gabe Klein: Yeah, it's very significant and I'm actually proud of our role in it because it shows the value of what the Joint Office does, which is really convening, collaborating, bringing the best and the brightest from DOT—DOE together to solve problems, the labs—and in this case, outside standard—standards organizations like SAE. So, it means that any…

Gabe Klein: Supplier or manufacturer will be able to use, manufacture, or deploy the NACS connector, and there will be consistent protocols on the back end that will basically mirror CCS now…

Gabe Klein: So that we will be talking truly about the difference between connectors because of this standardization process. And this really paves the way for widespread adoption and encourages collaborative development in the future. So, you know it's great that Tesla opened it up—you know as as the Aussies would say, good on them for doing that—and now we're really helping to take this to the next level with SAE, so that all these companies…

Gabe Klein: Can really utilize it to the best of their ability to serve customers.

Steve Lommele: Yeah. And just to kind of hone in on that point, certainly meaningful for industry. And then, I assume it means a lot for the future of EV driving too. What does this mean: the driver level?

Gabe Klein: Yeah. And I mean, honestly, that's really what's important. It should mean that a driver shouldn't be concerned when they go to a dealership that they're buying a car and they need to think deeply about whether they're going to be able to charge it at certain stations or not. Because additionally, a lot of these companies have struck deals to utilize the Tesla Supercharger network, which is not the point of this conversation, but from the standpoint of the consumer…

Gabe Klein: I think we're heading towards a world where literally every customer in every vehicle will be able to use every station. I don't think we're going to have proprietary networks. We don't have proprietary gas station networks, right. It's in everybody's interest to have as much usage and utilization of the charging network as possible to maximize revenues and so forth, so…

Gabe Klein: You know, this—this like open market that we're creating for equipment manufacturers and suppliers to supply and support hardware and software, —to build this accessible, reliable network—it plays out in making the entire network less fragmented. And with the ChargeX Consortium, the EV chart portal that we're also building where we'll have incoming data from all the chargers…

Gabe Klein: We will not only be making sure that on the front-end customers should have the most seamless experience, but in the back-end, we'll actually be tracking it.

Gabe Klein: And, so, moving next to the openly available, you know, J3400 standard is going to safeguard interoperability and foster collaboration in the market. And for the consumer, they shouldn't even need to worry about that. They should just know they go by a Ford or GM or a Toyota or a BMW, whatever they purchase…

Gabe Klein: They will be able to charge.

Steve Lommele: Well, thanks Gabe. That's some really helpful insight. I know we covered a lot of ground. I was going to ask you if there's anything else we should touch on and you mentioned the data platform that the Joint Office is building EV-Chart to adjust data from the NEVI program and other federally funded stations. So, certainly lots going on. We talked about CCS and and how Tesla is has been working with industry to bring NACS to the J3400 standard along with SAE. And anything else that you want to touch on before we wrap up?

Gabe Klein: No. Just that like we, uh, we're so enjoying working with all the different stakeholders and we aim to continue and expand these efforts to work with industry…

Gabe Klein: Nonprofits, organizations, academia, national labs—I mean, this really is an all of society…

Gabe Klein: Set of goals and associated work streams, right. And the way we're going to get people to adopt it—whether they drive or whether they're going to ride electric—is by making it as seamless, easy, frictionless, and cost effective as possible. And I think by all working together, we can do that. And the President's efforts—you know, with the bipartisan infrastructure law, IRA—you know, they're amazing and now we got to carry them out…

Gabe Klein: To execute—and we're definitely in the implementation mode right now, and we need the private sector…

Gabe Klein: To work with us to get there, and I think this is a great example of it.

Steve Lommele: Well, thanks so much, Gabe. And to our listeners, please keep an eye on this space. We're going to try to do more of this in the future. Hopefully this is exciting. I—the electric feature is here and it's as exciting as it is transformative. So, until next time, everyone, drive and ride safely, and stay charged. Thanks so much everyone.

Gabe Klein: Thank you.