Tesla officials have been talking about the possibility of opening up their Supercharger network to other automakers for years, but it never resulted in anything. In the meantime, it remains the undeniable leading electric vehicle fast-charging network in the world – both for coverage and for charge rates – and one of Tesla’s main competitive advantages.
But now Tesla CTO JB Straubel says that they are “actively talking to other car makers” about using the network.
The Tesla executive made the comment during a Q&A at Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 28th Annual Energy Fair in Wisconsin on Saturday. When talking about Tesla sharing its IP with other automakers, Straubel said:
“For things like Supercharger, we are actively talking to other car makers and we are trying to figure out a structure to work with them.”
Though he also acknowledged that congestion was still a problem on the network.
The last time that the possibility of Tesla sharing the network was brought up was back in September 2015. During a press conference in Germany, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla is in talks with “some [auto] manufacturers” about sharing the network.
Musk said Tesla would still own and operate all of its Supercharger locations and would only ask of other manufacturers to contribute to maintenance and electricity costs based on the usage of their vehicles on the network, but it never happened.
While the Supercharger network has been expanding significantly since Musk made the comment, it remained overcrowded. Therefore, it didn’t make much sense to add even more vehicles on the network by opening it up to other vehicles.
Today, all electric vehicles on the road other than Tesla’s are not capable of taking more than half of the Supercharger’s maximum charge rate, which means the vehicles would have stayed longer at the charging stations and it would have crowded the network even more than it already is. Here’s a line of Tesla vehicles waiting for a spot at a Supercharger in the Bay Area earlier this month:
But Tesla has since announced even further expansions of the network and they have also introduced a new pay-per-use system that could facilitate the introduction of new vehicles from other automakers on the network.
It makes Straubel’s new comment that Tesla is still talking to other car makers about using the network even more interesting.
Tesla has also joined the CCS charging standard association, which means that they plan to take steps to promote the system, which could, in turn, mean broader compatibility at their Superchargers than their current proprietary connector.
Furthermore, if we are to believe several automakers, Tesla will soon not be the only electric automaker with vehicles capable of charging at 100kW+ charge rates. Especially German premium automakers, like Porsche, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, have all announced new electric vehicles coming in the next 2 years (some as soon as next year) that should be able to accept significant DC fast-charging.
Could one of them end up having access to Tesla’s Supercharger network?
Right now, it sounds like a worrying idea for current Tesla owners, but if the company follows through with its latest expansion plan, which aims to double the number of chargers by the end of the year, it should fix most of the current congestion problems.
But then the Model 3 is set to come on the network in masses by the end of the year. Though it’s important to note that Tesla has already warned that the vehicle will not have free access to the network like almost all Model S and Model X vehicles on the road today. It should result in lower usage per vehicle on the Model 3 fleet than the Model S and Model X fleet.
What do you think? Could Tesla open the Supercharger network to other automakers? Let us know in the comment section below.