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Will 2024 Be the Year of Car-Charging Made Easy (or Easier)?

Seamless and easy car-charging is the goal for drivers and the auto industry. But getting to complete interoperability is still an elusive target requiring widespread coordination among multiple stakeholders and standards.

A row of empty Tesla chargers.
The day when electric cars drivers can simply plug their car into a charger and walk away — no more fumbling with apps or tapping credit cards on card readers that may or may not work — could be coming soon.

In fact, maybe even next year.

“We’re closer than ever to getting to that vision, but there’s still work that has to be done to ensure that it can actually happen,” said Francesca Wahl, senior charging policy manager at Tesla and chair of policy committee at Charging Interface Initiative North America (CharIN NA).

Wahl sees 2024 as the “pivotal year to make that happen.”

Next year, Tesla will begin allowing other vehicles to charge on the car company’s Supercharger network.

“Our goal is to provide the exact same customer experience that our Tesla drivers receive,” said Wahl, during a Dec. 6 panel organized by the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA).

To prepare for this change, Tesla is having to look closely at technology protocols other vehicles use for a plug-and-charge experience, said Wahl. “I think it’s forcing us to look at our products and make sure they meet the needs of not just our vehicles, but other vehicles as well.”

Tesla is certainly well known for its cars. In fact, Tesla vehicles regularly top the list of most preferred and popular EVs in the United States. However, the company’s proprietary charging network is equally notable. So much so, that car companies like Ford and General Motors have formed agreements with Tesla to allow its cars to access the Tesla network, starting next year.

Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia have announced they will switch to the North American Charging Standard (NACS), the charging plug created by Tesla, allowing its cars to use the network as well, which includes some 20,000 fast chargers in the U.S. Both Ford and GM plan to build new EVs with the NACS charging port, firmly establishing the Tesla plug as the standard.

Tesla chargers are unique in that they seamlessly communicate with the vehicle. There are no screens or card readers — hardware that can easily malfunction. The car company stores payment information in the cloud, allowing these transactions to occur behind the scenes and eliminating the need to tap cards or mobile devices.

This is the sort of customer experience the EV industry would like to develop, regardless of the car or charging network a driver pulls up to.

“We need focus, laser-sharp focus, on moving this market forward. We need scalability,” said Oleg Logvinov, CharIN NA board chair and CEO and president of car charging technology maker IoTecha.

It’s not entirely clear when the car and charging industry will develop to this level of interoperability. It will require the coordination of data and equipment standards, as well as the ability to authenticate and process payments.

“A lot of things have to fall in place in order to replicate the seamless plug-and-charge experience that we have for Tesla drivers, but it is the goal,” said Wahl.

“We’re closer than ever to getting to that vision. But there’s still work that has to be done to ensure that it can actually happen,” she added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.