In some ways, this is hardly news at all. Since Aptera re-emerged in 2019-2020, all of the vehicle’s prototypes have had a Tesla plug that hides behind the autocycle’s small license plate.
At the beginning, Aptera couldn’t tell us what its final choice of plug would be, but it seemed to be its preference. Fitting a small Tesla plug behind a motorcycle license plate would be a lot easier than trying to cram a CCS plug in there. Plus, the aerodynamic design of the whole vehicle would be compromised by trying to put a CCS plug anywhere else but the very small back panel, which was already too small. And, since then, the shape of the car has only gotten thinner in the rear.
At the time, Aptera said it would offer 3 kW and 6 kW Level 2 charging, and hoped to offer at least 50 kW of L3 charging. 50 kW sounds very slow, like charging a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Bolt EV, but when that battery pack is pushing a car that’s three times more efficient than the average EV, you end up with something like 500 miles per hour through efficiency instead of just brute force of electrical power.
The Tesla Plug Petition
As development continued, not much more was said about the charging port. More important things, like designing a good cockpit for people of different sizes, developing the solar technology out, finishing the battery pack’s design, power electronics, and many other things were happening. But, as the design process got to the third stage (out of four, aka “gamma”), Aptera started talking about charging ports again.
But, this time, Aptera wanted everybody to adopt the Tesla plug. In a petition at Change.org and in other places, the company advocated for making Tesla’s plug the standard plug for the United States. Why? Because they think the J1772 and CCS plugs are large and cumbersome, expensive, and otherwise problematic. So, they asked Congress to mandate the Tesla plug as the national standard. While the petition did manage to get 40,000+ signatures (as of this writing), it was also panned in EV media and among non-Tesla enthusiasts as a publicity stunt or even an attempt to get Elon Musk to buy Aptera.
Personally, the naysayers may have been right on this one. The time for getting the United States to adopt Tesla plugs as the national standard has come and gone, and years ago. The best time would have been in 2010. The second best time would have been before the #Dieselgate settlement, because that was before Electrify America vastly increased the number of CCS plugs (and gave the CHAdeMO network a smaller push). Now, with all of those CCS stations and CCS cars out on the road, the cat’s a ways out of the bag.
Tesla Opens Its Plug Standard, Calls It “NACS”
Interestingly enough, Tesla did sort of respond to the petition, even if they didn’t mention it. In a blog post, the company said that it was opening up the standard for all manufacturers and charging station owners to use. Plus, Tesla gave its system a new more neutral name, the North American Charging Standard, or NACS.
The reasoning by Tesla was pretty similar to that of Aptera. The Tesla plug is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and they claim it can support up to 1 megawatt of charging (about double what the best water-cooled CCS plugs can do). Plus, there are many more Tesla Supercharger stalls than EV rapid charging stations by all other companies combined, so it is the much more common plug in North America.
Now Aptera Has Made It Official
With the Tesla/NACS standard now open and available for use by all manufacturers and charging providers, now there’s basically nothing in the way of Aptera officially announcing its intent to use the Tesla plug on its vehicles. So, that’s what the company did recently.
But they kind of buried this announcement. In a Thanksgiving email to investors and reservation holders, the company announced a lot of other things, and left its official choice of the Tesla plug as sort of an afterthought. “We are willing to bet the buzz you generated around the petition played a part in this, and we look forward to incorporating NACS in our sEVs. Thank you for challenging the status quo.”
Further details haven’t been released on charging speeds, billing, adapters, or any of that, but I’ll be sending the company an e-mail to see if they’re ready to share any of that information.
What’s Great About This
While I’ve been critical in the past of the company’s devotion to Tesla design philosophy (minimalist interiors, etc.), I still think this is the best fit for Aptera.
As I mentioned earlier, the most aerodynamically-friendly place to put a charging port is on the very back of the Aptera, and there’s never been a lot of real estate there. Early prototypes might have been able to fit a CCS plug sideways, but now the back is even thinner. Putting any kind of plug elsewhere on the vehicle would end up introducing a door or a cover of some kind, and that would cost range in a vehicle that’s designed for absolute maximum efficiency.
I’d bet that the license plate is already a design compromise, but one that’s necessary for legal reasons. So, by hiding a little Tesla connector back there, you’ve got room to stash it away behind the plate with zero additional aerodynamic penalty.
What May Be Challenging
Tesla already has software capability ready to go to support the charging of non-Tesla EVs at Supercharger stations, and other companies are starting to offer charging with the Tesla plug. That’s really not a problem. But, there are still some things to work out.
For Tesla’s stations, some Aptera drivers may decide to behave irresponsibly and not just charge enough to get to the next station (perhaps with some buffer for emergencies). When that happens, and Apteras start sitting at a Supercharger for over an hour, it’s going to get Tesla owners annoyed. This may be solved with a reminder, pricing that discourages long charges, etc.
Another question that will need to be addressed is adapters. While I’m sure it’s something that can be worked out, it would be better if Aptera were proactive on this. I know they’d like to have every upcoming NEVI (Infrastructure Bill) station offer Tesla plugs, changing that this late in the game seems unlikely. With a narrowly-Republican house, it might even come at the cost of serious damage to the whole program to make changes at this point.
So, we’ve got to assume that Aptera owners are going to want to charge at CCS stations using adapters. At the time deliveries begin, it would be good for Aptera to test different aftermarket adapters and let people know what works and what doesn’t. Working with adapter manufacturers would also be a great thing.
Featured image by Aptera.
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Source: Clean Technica