General Motors said Thursday it will adopt Tesla technology to charge its electric vehicles, including selling models that use Tesla-promoted plugs.
The announcement, two weeks after Ford struck a comparable deal, is likely to make Tesla’s plugs the industry standard and crowd out companies racing to build similar networks as sales of electric vehicles grow. The deals mean Ford and GM vehicle owners will be able to use Tesla chargers, which are often the only ones available in many locations and have a reputation for reliability.
“This really almost doubles access to chargers” for GM customers, Mary T. Barra, the automaker’s chief executive, said during a streamed Twitter conversation with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and owner of Twitter.
Mr Musk said the deal “will be a fundamentally great thing to advance the adoption of EVs”.
But it could raise concerns that Tesla, which already dominates electric car sales, could overtake rivals in the fast-growing charging business.
While GM will get access to more chargers, Tesla will make money selling power to owners of models made by other automakers. Tesla charges owners of these other cars higher rates than owners of their own cars. The electric car company also needs to open up its grid to qualify for some of the $7.5 billion the federal government is spending to speed up the construction of charging stations.
By adopting Tesla’s charging standard, Ford and GM also risk becoming dependent on their most formidable competitor. None of the Michigan automakers sell nearly as many EVs as Tesla or operate a charging network.
The deal also has risks for Tesla. The popularity of its cars has caused congestion at the company’s charging stations in some cities and along some highways. Tesla owners may be irritated that they will now have to queue with Ford and GM cars
“I don’t think Tesla owners are going to be happy watching a Ford Mustang Mach-E charge up while they’re waiting in line,” said Ben Rose, president of Battle Road Research, which tracks the auto industry.
The battle between Tesla’s charging plugs and those currently used by Ford, GM and other automakers is reminiscent of the competition between Betamax and VHS videotapes in the 1980s. VHS eventually won the battle.
At one level, the competition between standards is a clumsy technical problem, with each side arguing that its plug is the better choice. But it could have long-term consequences for the millions of people who are expected to switch to electric vehicles in the coming years.
Tesla sells cars with a plug known as the North American charging standard. Ford, GM, and most other automakers sold plug-in cars using the Combined Charging System plug. The two are not compatible.
Fast chargers offered by companies like EVgo typically have both plugs and can charge Teslas as well as cars from manufacturers that use CCS, including Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo. For most of its roughly 10-year history, Tesla’s network, which operates more than half of the country’s nearly 30,000 fast chargers, has been closed to cars from other manufacturers, but the company recently began allowing some of its chargers to be used by other cars. .
The reaction of the contestants was restrained on Thursday. “We support all moves to increase EV adoption,” Brendan Jones, chief executive of Blink Charging, said in an email. He added: “We are watching the market closely and will adjust if we deem it necessary.”
Investors welcomed the deal. Tesla and GM shares rose about 3 percent in extended trading Thursday.
This year is shaping up to be decisive for GM’s electric car ambitions. The company is weeks away from offering a battery-powered version of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. It also plans to introduce electric iterations of the Blazer and Equinox sport utility vehicles.
Ford is working to speed up production of its electric F-150 Lightning at a factory in Dearborn, Michigan.
Mr Musk said during the interview with Ms Barra that Tesla would not use its control of the country’s largest charging network to disadvantage competitors. But if Tesla’s standard becomes dominant, other operators will rely on the competitor for the information they need to manufacture and install charging networks.
Jonathan Levy, EVgo’s chief commercial officer, said the company hopes the North American standard “will be published so that suppliers across the industry have access to provide more charging options for EV drivers.”
Starting in early 2024, owners of Ford and GM electric cars will be able to purchase adapters to connect to Tesla fast chargers. By 2025, both companies plan to sell vehicles designed to use Tesla’s North American plug. Owners would need an adapter to connect to CCS chargers.
By teaming up with an archrival, Ford and GM have admitted they need Tesla’s network to sell electric vehicles.
“Reliable, widespread public charging is a key enabler for expanding electric vehicle adoption,” Jim Farley, Ford’s chief executive, said in an email when the company announced its deal with Tesla last month. “The Tesla Supercharger network has proven reliability and has already established charging corridors in the US and Canada.”