Read about March 2024 updates, including Ford's release of NACS adapters.

What is NACS

NACS, the recently renamed Tesla connector and charge port, stands for North American Charging Standard. NACS describes the charging hardware native to all Tesla vehicles, destination chargers and DC fast-charging Superchargers. The plug combines AC and DC charging pins into a single unit. Until recently, NACS could be used only with Tesla products. But last fall the company opened the NACS ecosystem to non-Tesla electric vehicles in the US. Tesla says it will open up 7,500 destination chargers and high-speed Superchargers to non-Tesla EVs by the end of next year.

Is NACS really the standard?

NACS has been a Tesla-only system since the company began producing vehicles in volume more than a decade ago. Because of Tesla’s disproportionately large share of the EV market, NACS is the most widely used connector in North America. Many studies of public charging uptime and public perception have shown that Tesla’s system is more reliable, available, and streamlined than the constellation of non-Tesla public chargers. However, since many people conflate the NACS plug with the entire Tesla charging system, it remains to be seen whether switching to the Tesla plug will alleviate all of the concerns non-Tesla drivers have. 

What is CCS?

CCS stands for Combined Charging System. As explained here, it  combines lower power level 2 chargers (the J1772, on the top) with high speed DC chargers (on the bottom) for a quick charge between 55kW and 350kW. 

The CCS plug and receptacle are bulkier and heavier than NACS hardware, but have the engineering benefit of separating the AC and DC charging pins. Until recently, CCS could deliver a higher voltage charge than NACS, but with the rollout of Supercharger V4, this should be changing.  

Was CCS really the standard?

Through 2023, most non-Tesla EVs adopted the CCS system in the USA and it still is the most widely available charging station (note: Tesla has more individual charging ports). Despite support for CCS from CharIN (Charging Interface Initiative e. V.), a non-profit organization that works for charging standards, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, no charging plug ever became official in the US. 

What is all this talk of plugs vs. protocols?

Both CCS and NACS refer to plug types, as above, but they also refer to underlying software and authentication systems that the charging hardware uses. NACS plugs can be used with either Tesla software or with CCS protocols, meaning that the switch will be as simple as swapping out one plug for another. CCS plugs, however, cannot “talk to” NACS software. The Tesla Superchargers that are compatible with CCS plugs must all have CCS compatible software. 

Is the switch to NACS a hardware or software change? Will the authentication and handshake protocols change?

For the end user, this is only a hardware change – it is like switching an iPhone and USB charger. All a driver needs to charge a CCS vehicle at a NACS station is an adapter, and same goes for a Tesla that wants to charge at a CCS station. The underlying software and handshake protocols (how the car communicates with the charger) will likely remain unchanged and most non-Tesla companies will still use CCS software. 

Who is switching to NACS?

As of March 1, 2024, the list of car companies that have announced a switch to NACS at some point in the future is:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • Fisker
  • Ford
  • Genesis
  • GM
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Kia
  • Lexus
  • Lucid
  • Mazda
  • Mercedes
  • Mini 
  • Nissan
  • Ram
  • Polestar 
  • Porsche
  • Rivian
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

In the meantime, Tesla has begun adding its Magic Dock adapter to select Supercharger sites, enabling CCS-equipped non-Tesla EVs to recharge on Tesla equipment. 

Vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, that use the increasingly rare CHAdeMO connector will not be able to participate.

When will cars start getting adaptors? New hardware built in?

Ford has confirmed that they will supply adapters starting in 2024, but most automakers don't plan to fully integrate NACS into models until 2025 or 2026. Why the delay? There is a non-negligible engineering and design effort to fit NACS charge receivers into body styles built around CCS: there are different numbers of electric connection in each plug style, thus different wiring, and not all charge ports are in the same position on a car as they are on a Tesla. There are also software and communication protocols to switch. 

The charge port (only showing AC right now) on a Hyundai Ioniq 5

Will new Fords, GMs, etc. still be able to use CCS?

Until the NACS hardware is built into new brands, all non-Tesla EVs can continue to charge at CCS with no adapter. Once the NACS hardware becomes standard, car makers such as GM, Polestar and Volvo say they will offer adapters to enable NACS-equipped vehicles to connect to CCS chargers. Other manufacturers likely will promote similar arrangements.

How will non-Tesla cars pay at Tesla superchargers? 

Non-Tesla owners can download the Tesla app, create a user profile and designate a payment method. Billing is then automatic when a charging session is completed. For now, the app can direct owners of CCS-equipped vehicles to charging sites that offer the Magic Dock adapter. 

Are Ford and other companies paying Tesla for use and maintenance of their superchargers?

According to reports, GM and Ford say no money is changing hands for access to Tesla chargers or NACS hardware. However, there are suggestions that Tesla will be paid - in user data - from all the new charging sessions that will happen. This data may help Tesla reverse engineer proprietary information about their competitors’ tech and drivers’ charging habits. 

Will non-Tesla companies start installing their own NACS chargers?

Major non-Tesla charging networks already are going public with plans to add NACS to their sites. Those include the ABB Group, Blink Charging, Electrify America, ChargePoint, EVgo, FLO and Tritium. (Revel, which operates exclusively in New York City, has always incorporated NACS into its charging hubs.) 

Screenshot from Electrify America pre-NACS switch

At the same time, a group of seven major automakers is joining together to build a new charging company across the US. The group includes General Motors, Stellantis, Hyundai/Kia, Honda, BMW and Mercedes Benz. Charging stations built by this group will include both NACS and CCS. 

Will third parties start manufacturing and selling NACS chargers and adaptors?

Third-party NACS chargers and adapters already are widely available for purchase, especially since Tesla made its engineering specs open source. The standardization of the plug by SAE should streamline this process and help ensure the safety and interoperability of third-party plugs. 

Will NACS become an official standard? 

In June 2023, SAE International, a global standards authority, announced it will standardize the NACS connector, ensuring that suppliers and manufacturers “may use, manufacture, or deploy the NACS connector on EVs and at charging stations across North America.” This standard is called SAE J3400 and is listed as a work in progress.

Why is NACS “better”?

The NACS plug and receptacle are smaller and lighter than corresponding CCS equipment. The NACS handle, in particular, is more slender and easier to handle. This can make a big difference for drivers who have accessibility issues. The NACS-based Tesla charging network, known for its dependability and convenience, has the most charging ports (CCS has more charging stations) in North America. 

However, it is important to note that the NACS plug and the Tesla Supercharger are not fully interchangeable - non-Tesla operators can offer NACS plugs that may have different uptime or reliability standards. 

Why is NACS “worse”?

Arguments against NACS are that it is a network designed by one company for proprietary use. Accordingly, the plugs on current charging stations are short and rely on the charge port being in the rear left hand of a vehicle that backs into the spot. This means that the chargers can be difficult for many non-Teslas to use. A driver must also set up and pay through the Tesla app. Credit card or one time payments are not available yet.  

The ability to pay by credit card without an app or membership is nice

A larger concern is that what drivers like about the Tesla network is the implementation, not the specific plugs. Charging a Tesla at the Supercharger network is easy, fast, and there are almost never any issues. But will that same experience be replicated for a Ford driver at a Tesla station? What about a GM driver at a third-party NACS station? There is concern that once NACS charging is owned and operated by companies other than Tesla, the stations will be plagued with the same reliability and access issues that CCS stations have today. 

Finally, most Tesla chargers today supply a lower voltage charge than CCS chargers. This is important because a higher voltage means lower current, lighter charging cables, and potentially less long term battery damage. 

Is NACS a faster or safer plug?

Both connectors have established a strong safety record, but NACS can deliver DC charging rates of up to 1 MW – more than double the CCS maximum rate of 360 kW. However, since the voltage in NACS chargers is still lower (400V) than in high-powered CCS (800V), the current (amperage) going to the battery in NACS may be higher, depending on the car’s maximum charge rate. 

Will Tesla be able to turn off access to the superchargers if management changes its mind?

Not likely. While Tesla management is known for being mercurial, they are certainly not dumb. Because non-Tesla customers would be pumping millions and millions of dollars into Tesla coffers by charging their EVs at Superchargers, there would be very little incentive for Elon to cut them off. Tesla also gets a big PR boost, a lot of free advertising, and all that sweet, sweet user data in exchange for “winning” the charging wars.