16-03-2021 | | By Sam Brown
Recently, electric vehicle charging station provider EVgo announced that it would be adding charging ports compatible with Tesla electric vehicles. Who is EVgo, why do electric vehicles use different connectors, and why is using the same connector critical for electric vehicles' future?
EVgo is a company in the US that develops and installs electric charging stations in public areas so that users of electric vehicles can charge their vehicles when out and about. EVgo has over 800 fast charging locations across the US and is currently the largest charging network.
Founded in 2010, EVgo has continued to develop charging station technology and now servers over 200,000 customers. Evgo’s vision for the electric vehicle industry is to place electric charging stations where they are most needed. Doing so helps push the industry towards the use of electric vehicles.
Anyone who is a user of either Apple or Samsung smartphones understands the hassle of needing the right cable for charging their devices. An Apple lead won’t fit into a Samsung USB port, and a Samsung USB lead certainly won’t fit into an Apple charging port (whatever it is).
As it turns out, electric cars are somewhat the same with different producers of electric vehicles using different charging cables. However, the use of different charging cables depends on the charging being done with the vehicle.
Charging levels in electric cars indicate what voltage and how much power is being sent into the vehicle. Level 1 charging is the use of standard household electrics (i.e. 120V in the US), and such charging cables are generally usable with all makes and models of electric vehicles.
Level 2 charging uses 240V instead of 120V, and such units require a dedicated charger. As such, level 2 charging cables can differ depending on the make of vehicle. Furthermore, the increased power transfer over the cable means that the charging unit and vehicle typically require careful communication to ensure both work optimally.
Level 3 charging (using CHAdeMO technology) uses DC fast charging operating at 480V. Again, such charging stations require specialised cables to allow the vehicle and charger to communicate so that both operate safely and optimally. The Tesla Supercharger is a level 3 charging station that only works with Tesla vehicles.
The electric car industry is nowhere near maturity, and electric cars are still costly than their petrol counterparts. While there are attempts at getting all electric cars to use the same equipment, each electric vehicle manufacturer decides to do things differently.
For example, some car chargers can transfer so much energy that the cable itself needs to be water cooled, while others can trickle charge a battery over days. As such, each cable type has different requirements, some requiring communication lines while others can afford to be nothing more than just a pair of prongs.
With no industry standards that all car makers can agree too, electric vehicle manufacturers will try to use the same cable for as long as possible. However, as soon as a new feature is integrated that requires an additional data line, or the increased power puts pressure on the cable, a designer will probably design a custom cable that works perfectly with their product.
Recently, the charging company EVgo announced that they will be retrofitting their charging stations to accept Tesla vehicles. Recognising that Tesla vehicles are increasing in popularity, enabling such vehicles to charge at EVgo stations would make charging more convenient for Tesla customers. Still, it would also further encourage electric vehicles' purchase.
Currently, EVgo is rolling out 400 Tesla charging cables across its network and plans to continue integrating Tesla charging ports into an additional 200 stations. Since EVgo charging stations obtain their power from renewable sources of energy, the charging of more electric cars will continue to help to reduce CO2 emissions globally while increasing revenue for the company.
This example with EVgo retrofitting Tesla chargers shows the problem caused when businesses decide not to follow agreed standards. For the electric vehicle industry to truly take off, it needs to be cheaper and needs to be convenient. Imagine how the car industry would be if cars only accepted petrol from certain petrol stations with a specific nozzle? Customers would have to choose a car not based on price, but based on what petrol stations were available, and if those stations would continue to support their nozzle.
The sooner the electric vehicle industry creates a unified standard cable that all vehicles can use, the easier it will be for users to adopt the technology.