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Not all NACS-standard charging adapters are up to standard. And that’s a problem.

One of the biggest barriers to wider EV adoption – the Balkanization of EV charging connector technology – was finally addressed in 2023 when nearly every major auto manufacturer agreed to adopt the SAE J3400/Tesla NACS fast-charging technology. 


When Tesla released the technology in November 2022, EV OEMs and charging infrastructure started to get on board. But it will take time to make the transition in supply chains, manufacturing, distribution and importantly industry standard development, standardization and implementation.


By 2025, nearly all major passenger vehicle OEMs will equip their newly built EVs with the NACS charging port. Over time, other EV charging companies will retrofit their chargers to the NACS standard, too.


2024 and before


So, where does that leave the roughly 3 million EVs currently on the road in the U.S., as well as all those expected to be purchased in 2024? On the proton side, many EV OEMs will shift lanes and facilitate access to the Tesla Supercharger network this year. On the electron side, those owners will need an EV charger adapter to charge their non-NACS vehicles.


While companies like Ford and Rivian will provide their owners with Tesla-developed adapters, other EV drivers have been relying on CCS1/2 and CHAdeMO EV charger adapters from online retailers to carry with them in their vehicles. This is where the risk to public safety comes into full view.


Multiple online retailers have been advertising and selling charging adapters in the U.S. that aren’t certified by an EV charging, standard-developing organization specific to EV charging adapters. These adapters have caused multiple, catastrophic charging event failures. UL and SAE are currently under development for release in 2024


I, along with my EV-PV colleague Ethan Lipman, have been working as part of the North American Charging Interoperability (NACI) Task Force of the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN).


The NACI Task Force was formed in the summer of 2023. It’s composed of over 300 energy, transportation and safety professionals (including the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation), working within six sub-groups dedicated to assuring EV charging user safety and seamless compatibility and interoperability between JA3400/NACS and ISO 15118/DIN Spec 70121 standards. That includes developing implementation guidelines, promoting best practices and establishing a certification process for charging adapters. 


The public safety risk of EV charging adapters is a top priority for the NACI Safety & Functionality subgroup, which I lead along with Cuong Nguyen from ABB, and the Connection subgroup led by Olivier Sakhri, Head of Product Management at Brugg eConnect, and Mariano Rigotti, EV Charging AIPG at Amphenol. 


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) responded to a report we filed detailing public safety risks from the NACI Task Force stating: “The charging adapters that are the subject of your report appear to be designed for motor vehicles. Motor Vehicle Equipment is excluded from the definition of consumer product in the Consumer Product Safety Act.” The Commission representative pointed NACI to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Keeping the momentum, the NACI Task Force filed the exact same report with supporting exhibits to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the current public safety impact from non-OEM-approved adapters. 


Our NACI task force isn’t alone in its concerns. The public safety threat was also made clear via multiple product hazard analyses from CharIN membership and the Department of Energy.


And this isn’t a recent problem, either. CharIN warned the industry and the public about adapter issues back in 2019, with a position paper detailing technical challenges related to “overheating leading to hazardous situations.” 

 

The goal of the filing with the NHTSA is to work with the agency to provide a clear path to adapter safety. The first step is to request an immediate halt to the sale and distribution of anything but UL 2252-certified and/or OEM-approved adapters.


This action is pending, so stay tuned for updates.


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