Tesla will open its Supercharger network for other electric cars in 2022 to tap billions in government subsidies with Magic Docks
The California energy agency has proposed granting Tesla US$6.4 million in subsidies for a rural Supercharger network buildout that seems to be just the start of government funding flowing Tesla's way for EV charging projects. While Tesla's efforts to do the same in Texas fell on deaf ears and the grants went to previous applicants there, recent regulatory filings show that it plans to play a major role in the government's US$7.5 billion project for a nationwide cross-platform charging infrastructure buildout.
The increase in Tesla's grant application turnover comes at an opportune time as President Biden's administration prepares to start disbursing the US$4.75 billion portion of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure fund meant for individual states. The rest of the government largesse that is included in the US$1 trillion White House infrastructure bill which Congress voted on last year, will go to projects that offer to populate the EV charging desert of rural areas and disadvantaged communities.
In order to qualify for the subsidies, however, Tesla will have to open its Supercharger stations to other car brands, at least partially. In a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, Tesla argued that it should get government subsidies for each newly built Supercharger stall as long as there is a reciprocal Common Charging Standard (CCS) one for other electric cars built there, too. In addition, the government should let it have as many "non-rebated" Supercharger stalls around as it sees fit.
Today, there is no single DCFC connector that can serve all EVs in the US. There are currently three DCFC connectors utilized in North America: CCS, Tesla and CHAdeMO, however, the CHAdeMO standard is being phased out in North America. The combined charging system (CCS) and Tesla as the predominant connector types in the US. While the Tesla connector is currently only used by Tesla vehicles, Tesla vehicles are the majority of DCFC capable vehicles on the road, whereas most new EV models utilize CCS.8 To serve as many vehicles as possible with IIJA funded stations we recommend establishing a connector ratio as an eligibility threshold for rebated connectors. The program should, at a minimum, have CCS at a charging site to be eligible, but not require CHAdeMO or Tesla connectors at the site. However, Tesla or CHAdeMO connectors should be eligible for rebates as long as there is a CCS connector at the location for every rebated Tesla or CHAdeMO connector. In other words, the rebated connectors should be installed in locations co-located with multiple connector types, the ratio should only apply to rebated connectors, and should not restrict the overall site size. Operators should be able to install additional non-rebated chargers if they choose.
According to the White House fact sheet about the EV charging infrastructure buildout push, Tesla will "begin production of new Supercharger equipment that will enable non-Tesla EV drivers in North America to use Tesla Superchargers" by the end of 2022. Elon Musk is on record saying that Tesla will open up its Supercharger network in the US to non-Tesla cars as it does in Europe, but he stayed mum on the exact timeframe.
A recent leak of a combined Tesla-CCS Supercharger stall solution that Tesla calls the Magic Dock, however, indicates that the government's year-end deadline is not that far off. With the Magic Dock, Tesla solves the government subsidy conundrum in one fell swoop by simply attaching a CCS adapter to a Tesla connector. By using one and the same Supercharger stall frame, the two connectors can service both Tesla and other electric vehicles via some sort of attachment mechanism that is yet to be revealed.
Thus, Tesla would both get a government grant for each new Magic Dock, and continue serving its cars with its own exclusive charging standard across the newly built government-subsidized charging infrastructure throughout the US.