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What does the Ford-Tesla charging partnership mean for customers?

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Ford Motor Co. shocked the auto industry last week with the announcement it would give its EV customers access to 12,000 Tesla Superchargers throughout the U.S. and Canada. This left us with a few questions on what that means for current and future customers and how this Ford-Tesla partnership is supposed to work.

We have a few answers, and one big elephant-in-the-room question.

When will customers get access to Tesla Superchargers?

The only answer we have right now is via the official press release: early next year. To us, this means anywhere between January and March of 2024. So, current customers still have between 6 and 8 months to wait for access.

But, when they do get access, the network of Tesla Superchargers will officially become a part of the BlueOval Charge Network, which means the chargers will show up in the Ford app and via the infotainment software.

How will Ford owners use Tesla charging?

Currently the Ford F-150 Lighting, Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit are fitted with the Combined Charging System (CCS) port – and this is what the majority of non-Tesla DC fast chargers use. Tesla, however, uses a North American Charging Standard (NACS) port. So, to plug a Ford vehicle into a Tesla charger would be like trying to plug an American-made computer into a socket in Europe. The parts don’t fit, and the current is different. So, current customers will need an adapter.

After following up with Ford directly, a spokesperson said: “The NACS adapter will be available for current and future Mustang Mach-E, F-150 Lightning and E-Transit customers. We will share details of how the adapter will be made available to customers closer to Tesla Superchargers becoming available on the BlueOval Charge Network.”

It is unclear from this statement what “will be available” means. Is this an extra cost? Or will it be free? We won’t find out until the end of 2023.

But here’s where things get really interesting: Future Ford EVs will be built with the NACS port exclusively – which means bye, bye CCS.

Wait, what is NACS?

OK, let’s back up a minute. We have a lot of alphabet soup here. So, let’s give a (very) brief history of EV charging.

One of the original EVs in the U.S. was the Nissan Leaf, and it used the CHAdeMO port, which was developed in Japan in 2010 by the Toyoko Electric Power Company and the five major Japanese automakers. In addition to the Leaf, you’ll see this charge port on the Kia Soul EV and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

CCS came along in 2012 and is developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), and it competed directly with CHAdeMO.

At about the same time, you had Tesla entering the scene and forging its own path. It developed its own charging standard. In 2022, it made the specs of this proprietary system available to all EV makers and (arrogantly?) renamed it the North American Charging Standard. Tesla’s stand on the name is that there are 60% more NACS equipped vehicles than CCS ones, the port is more compact, and its network is far more established. Thus, Tesla makes the case that NACS should become the connector of choice for all EVs moving forward.

The elephant in the room

So, that’ brings us to the elephant: The Tesla NACS argument makes sense. The Tesla Supercharger network is more robust and doesn’t appear to be constantly broken. In a time where current charging networks are failing miserably, does it make sense for all future EVs to adopt the Tesla charger?

With Ford Motor Co. being the first major automaker to make the switch, the answer appears to be yes.

The bottom line of the Ford-Tesla partnership

Ford is making the official move away from CCS and to NACS in 2025, which means there will be a mix of Ford EVs with both port configurations as the automaker makes the transition. The Ford spokesperson confirmed in a follow up that NACS-to-CCS and CCS-to-NACS adapters will be available (there’s that phrase again) to owners throughout this transition.

So, the next few years are going to be interesting. Will other automakers switch? And what happens to the nascent infrastructure being built? Will it too convert to the Tesla way?

In the back of my head, there’s a Pinky and the Brain quote on repeat as Elon Musk (the Brain) and his Telsarati (Pinky) do what they do every night: Try to take over the world.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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