Electrify America recently announced a major change to how the network conducts its business. On August 17th, 2023, the network switched from a set pricing structure that offered consistent pricing on all of its locations around the country, to a dynamic pricing structure. In doing so, the network began charging different fees from location to location, depending on the cost of electricity in the area.
The company sent out an email announcement to its customers alerting them of the new pricing rules and also indicated that the terms of service had been updated as well. When I read the updated terms I noticed something that I hadn’t before, there was a section that stated 3rd party adapters that weren’t made by automakers were not allowed to be used on the network.
A variety of EV charging adapters that are currently available
EVgo has had a similar policy in place for many years now, so I looked up its terms of service and found the language that prohibits non-automaker-made adapters and found the network also specified which adapters are allowed, all of which are made by Tesla.
So I reached out to Electrify America and EVgo to ask about their respective policies to ask for clarity and received responses from both networks. Electrify America responded with a simple but clear message but EVgo was much more descriptive and followed up its original response with a second email from another company representative.
Electrify America’s Response
Regarding the adaptors, based on testing in our lab:
Electrify America only permits the use of adapters sold by automakers on its chargers. Adapters sold by automakers are certified to work with their vehicles. Use of any other adapter on our chargers is prohibited. The integrity and reliability of third-party adapters cannot be guaranteed and therefore are not permitted on our network.
A Kia EV6 charging at an Electrify America fast charging station
The decision to call this out specifically and require “Authorized Adapters” is for safety reasons – we have seen unauthorized adapters for CCS to NACS not contain a locking mechanism for the latch, which would allow removal during a charge, which is a serious safety concern for arc flash. There is also concern of the quality of construction of these unofficial adapters, as neither the vehicle or the charger are aware of the presence of such an adapter and will not limit the current because of it (Tesla’s adapter is rated at the full current and charge curves of their vehicles). A poorly made adapter could be at risk of thermal overload (or worse) if it is subjected to high currents for extended periods.
EVgo approach on adapters basically follows the CharIN published approach that allows for adapters only made by the vehicle manufacturer for use with their vehicle. EVgo also investigates the adapter before approval, including teardown and written report to manufacturer. To date we have approved only 3: Tesla AC adapter, Tesla Chademo Adapter, and Tesla CCS1 adapter.
There is considerable activity in industry right now around adapters.
The traditional IEC approach has been to forbid use of adapters with CCS, this is due to multiple safety concerns.
However simply saying in a standard it is not allowed, does not prevent its existence.
Now we have multiple automakers announcing intent to produce and at least one state proposed legislation requiring NRTL approval of the adapter that comes with vehicle.
So there is now activity for standards bodies to address adapters specifically so they can be evaluated properly by third party NRTL.
EVgo employees are involved in SAE and IEC activity on this topic.
EVgo is also involved with the ChargeX consortium of national labs that is addressing this problem with a special group. A draft of an FMEA was circulated last week by the group. (Failure Mode Effect Analysis.)
Thanks for working on this topic. Although we have a policy that forbids use of unapproved adapters, we have no way to enforce, and there is not general awareness of the issues involved.
Both companies cited that they are concerned with the potential safety risks associated with customers using non-automaker-supplied adapters and establish that if a customer uses a non-approved adapter and the use of such causes damage or injury, the network will not be responsible.
But the question becomes, is this a valid concern, or are the networks being unnecessarily cautious? The answer is probably a little of both.
There are a lot of adapters on the market now that allow Tesla owners to charge from a J1772 AC charging source as well as from CCS1 DC chargers. Doing a quick search on Amazon, I found the least expensive one to be $59.99 and the most expensive one to cost a whopping $5001.71. There’s a large gap in quality as well as how much power the adapters can safely accept.
Without a proper safety certification and without testing by the OEM that produces the vehicle, it’s impossible to know which adapter is made to withstand the power that will be flowing through them at high-powered DC fast charge stations.
Additionally, some adapters are designed without proper safety systems that prevent disconnecting the adapter from which power is flowing through them, which is a really dangerous thing when you’re charging at 400 volts to 800 volts and pumping 500 amps from the charger to the vehicle.
Rivian charging at EVgo station
Is this policy enforceable?
In one of EVgo’s responses, the network admitted that there is no way to properly enforce the rule. It’s not like they are going to send the “adapter police” out to visit its thousands of chargers and ban customers from using the network.
Electrify America didn’t officially admit the lack of ability to enforce the rule, but conversations that I’ve had with company representatives indicated that they also realize it’s a rule that would be very challenging to enforce.
So, be careful out there. Ensure any EV charging equipment you purchase comes from a known source with safety certification and a long warranty. Typically, the longer the factory warranty, the more confidence the manufacturer has in the quality of the product, and the less likely you’ll encounter an issue.