The NACS (J3400) Charging Connector Will Bring Stability to EV World

Tesla NACS Connection
Credit: Tesla


There's a moment in the "Nosedive" episode of Black Mirror that should have concerned automakers. The Lacie Pound character (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) has to rent a vehicle but because of her shrinking social status, is forced to drive an older EV. When she goes to charge the vehicle, the port and cable are not compatible leaving her stranded. 

While the episode is a critical take on social media and its influence on our lives, that small scene speaks volumes to those in the electric vehicle world.

With three fast-charging connections in the United States today (CCS, CHAdeMO, and Tesla's NACS), it's not hard to imagine a world 10 years from now where owners of a Nissan Leaf find it difficult to charge their CHAdeMO-outfitted vehicles. Up until recently, that issue seemed to be on a course to become even more complex as time progressed. CCS (Combined Charging System Type 1) had been the connection of choice for most major automakers while Tesla had its NACS (North American Charging Standard)-enabled stations. There were two competing charging connections and that would result in two standards forever locked in battle with those working on those stations would have to continue to keep pace with two standards at once. 

Then something happened, automakers began to announce that they would abandon CCS for Tesla's NACS. Tesla has the most robust charging infrastructure in the country and is the king of EV sales. Automakers, frustrated with the unreliability and sparseness in some markets of the CCS-based EV charging infrastructure, had decided to move to NACS over the next few years. For future EV owners, it could erase one of the biggest issues currently plaguing EV owners, an unreliable charging infrastructure. 

As of the writing of this post, of the major automakers selling vehicles in the United States only Stellantis has yet to announce it would incorporate NACS into its future vehicles. 

Still, there are millions of electric vehicles on the road with CCS ports. Those EV owners will likely have to buy adaptors or search for compatible stations as CCS gets phased out at stations. But that's not going to happen for a while. For those with CCS experience, that will still be plenty relevant over the next few years. 

But looking into NACS should be a priority. When Ford announced it would migrate to NACS in future EVs, SAE moved quickly to begin working with those in the industry to set a standard. 

On December 12, 2023, SAE said the J3400 North American Charging Standard Electric Vehicle Coupler Technical Information Report (TIR) “was developed through broad-based industry consensus in the SAE Hybrid-EV J3400 TM NACS Electric Vehicle Coupler Task Force.” 

This report gives the developers of NACS connectors critical parameters concerning the engineering and development of the connector. In other words, it sets a framework for those in the industry to start building vehicles, chargers, cables, software, etc for the inevitable launch of NACS as the main way electric vehicles are charged. 

Dr. Rodney McGee, Ph.D., P.E., chairman of the SAE J3400 NACS Task Force and research engineer at the Transportation Electrification Center at the University of Delaware said, "SAE J3400 provides a blueprint for cost-effective mass electrification of transportation in North America." 

The standard will likely have its final release in the fall of 2024. So you have time to learn everything you need to be prepared for the mass adoption of the connection. 

The quick announcements of adoption by nearly all major automakers and charging providers add additional stability to the EV landscape. Knowledge of the CCS connection will be useful for at least the next decade. Yet, the majority of training will now focus on a single connection instead of three. 

In the grand scheme of automobiles, the rise of mass EV adoption is relatively new. That means additional shakeups are likely on the horizon. But with each change, SAE is there to help standardize the future so that all vehicles, regardless of the automaker, will safely and quickly charge from a majority of the stations out in the world. 

Black Mirror foretold the future, but it could have been far worse and a single standard sets us on the path for a future where eventually, all vehicles and chargers work together seamlessly. 

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