The Mercury News

Tesla will open some chargers to all electric vehicles

- By Jack Ewing

Tesla will open some of its fast chargers, which had been exclusive to its customers, to all electric vehicles by the end of next year, the Biden administra­tion said Wednesday as it announced a broad effort to improve charging and encourage more people to buy battery-powered vehicles.

The company's network of fast chargers has been a key element in the company's success by giving drivers confidence that they will be able to charge cars during longer trips. The company's network also has a reputation for being faster and more reliable than the networks available to owners of electric vehicles made by other manufactur­ers. Those chargers require drivers to download special apps and often are hard to use or out of commission.

Tesla accounts for more than half the fast chargers in the United States, and its network could provide a significan­t boost to the Biden administra­tion's plans to encourage electric vehicle ownership and fight climate change. Financial incentives to car buyers and manufactur­ers, part of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Democrats in Congress last year, are already making some electric vehicles as cheap to buy as comparable gasoline cars.

The Biden administra­tion said 7,500 Tesla chargers will be open to other vehicles by the end of 2024. Of those, 3,500 are fast chargers capable of recharging a vehicle in about half an hour to an hour. The rest are slower chargers at hotels, restaurant­s and other destinatio­ns that are already available to owners of other car brands if they buy an adapter.

Tesla has about 17,700 fast chargers in the United States, according to the Department of Energy, meaning that most of the network will remain closed to electric vehicles made by General Motors, Ford Motor, Volkswagen and others.

Tesla said the opening of its network would be part of a major expansion. “Our U.S. network will more than double by the end of 2024 to support our growing Tesla fleet and new EV customers,” the company said on Twitter without providing further details.

By opening its network, Tesla can earn revenue from owners of its competitor­s' vehicles, but may also diminish one of its main advantages as it faces stiffer competitio­n from establishe­d carmakers.

“It's a double-edged sword for Tesla,” said Ben Rose, president of Battle Road Research. “It helps to grow the industry. It demonstrat­es that Tesla wants to be a team player. On the other hand, this reduces a competitiv­e advantage vis-a-vis the other manufactur­ers who are way behind in creating their own charging networks.”

Tesla already allows other vehicles to use its chargers in a pilot program in 14 European countries, including France, Germany and Britain.

The company's network in Australia and Iceland is also open to other cars.

Tesla's decision to open its network means the company will become eligible for some of the $7.5 billion in grant money that Congress authorized as part of a bipartisan infrastruc­ture law passed in 2021. The money is meant to help create a nationwide charging infrastruc­ture. The administra­tion announced rules for the program Wednesday, including requiremen­ts that the equipment be manufactur­ed in the United States, and that chargers function without specialize­d mobile phone apps.

Chargers will be required to accept a standard form of payment, such as credit cards. Another possibilit­y is that apps for charging networks like ChargePoin­t or EVgo would be programmed to work with other networks, in the same way that an ATM card from one bank can be used at the machines owned by other banks. California, which has more electric vehicles on the road than any other state, already requires chargers to accept major credit cards.

The fragmented charging system in the United States is a major frustratio­n for electric vehicle owners, who often find that they must download apps and enter personal details and payment informatio­n before they can charge. The procedures used to activate charging equipment also differ from company to company, leading to confusion.

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