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Biden Administration, Tesla Take Steps To Increase Charging Coverage and Availability

Biden Administration, Tesla Take Steps To Increase Charging Coverage and Availability

Frustrated with the non-Tesla charging network in your area? Things might be changing soon, thanks to new funding and standards from the Biden administration, and the opening of Tesla’s Supercharger stations to other EV makers.

First, at the White House: As part of its goal of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the US by 2030, the Biden administration is directing $5 billion in new funding towards a new charging network that serves more people. The funds will be awarded by contract, and the published standards require non-proprietary functionality and “chargers that are convenient, affordable, and accessible to the broadest number of people”.

The standards also specify charging stations every 50 miles along and no more than 1 mile away from major highways, prohibit membership-dependent access, and call for more stations in rural and tribal regions. They do not, however, specify a baseline of power delivery requirements for these chargers. So it is unclear just how many high-speed DC current chargers vs. low-speed AC chargers will be installed as a result of these standards.

The administration also said it will be seeking counsel from experts re: creating market incentives for residential chargers, where most EV charging happens.

Second, at Tesla: during a July investor call, Elon Musk revealed more details about that company’s long-awaited Supercharger perestroika. EV drivers in Europe and China, where charging cables are standardized, will simply need to download a Tesla app. For drivers in the US, where they aren’t, things will be a little more complicated.

In order for a Ford F-150 Lightning, for example, to charge at a Supercharger, it will need an adapter. Will that come from Ford or somehow be attached to the Supercharger station, in a way that prevents theft?

There’s also the issue of capacity: part of the appeal of Tesla is the dedicated charging network, but once that’s open to all other EVs on the roads, odds are there will be some backed-up lines at Superchargers. Musk mentioned the possibility of dynamic pricing: if your car charges more slowly than a Tesla, you’ll be paying more for the time.

Most important, however, is Supercharger production, which at this point is far outstripped by Tesla’s vehicle production. Adapting the network to open it to other makes is “only useful to the public if we’re able to [build Superchargers] faster than Tesla vehicle output,” Musk said. “So this is a lot of work for the Supercharger team.”

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