Bug or feature? New Tesla Superchargers charge other brands’ EVs for free

Emilee Geist

Over the weekend, news surfaced that some Tesla Supercharger locations let non-Tesla drivers charge their electric vehicles (EVs), for free.

Reports over at Electrek and Autoblog say that it’s a bug, on the other hand, CleanTechnica’s analysis of the situation suggests that it might be a hint at things to come thanks to EU legislation. Let’s take a look at what’s going on.

It all seemed to begin when German YouTube channel Nextmove demonstrated charging a VW ID.3 at a new Tesla Supercharger location in Germany. You can watch the video here, but the long and short of it is that they managed to charge a bunch of non-Tesla EVs, without paying a cent, at the new Superchargers.

[Read: Are EVs too expensive? Here are 5 common myths, debunked]

The “newness” of the Superchargers is an important detail here. Tesla’s most up-to-date units use a CCS charger, which makes them physically capable of connecting to modern EVs that use a CCS2 plug.

Historically, Tesla has used its own proprietary connector, which has a similar shape to a standard Type 2 charger, but uses a slightly different pin layout.

Nextmove showed the new Superchargers working with the VW e-Golf, VW ID.3, BMW i3, Opel Ampera-e (Chevy Bolt EV), Hyundai Kona Electric, Hyundai IONIQ Electric, Renault Zoe, and Porsche Taycan.

Credit: Wikimedia - CC
Credit: Wikimedia – CC

They were able to charge for free, because they’re not Tesla vehicles. When a Tesla driver plugs their vehicle into a Supercharger, the device recognizes the car and the account connected to it, through a digital “handshake,” Electrek writes. This is one of the big boons of using a Supercharger, there’s no complex charging process; you drive up, plug in, and the machines take care of the rest.

In this case, it seems that the new Superchargers recognized the non-Teslas as compatible cars, and began charging them. However, because there was no Tesla account connected to the car, Nextmove’s drivers didn’t pay anything for the service.

[Read: The UK’s first EV-only service station set to open soon]

CleanTechnica, suggests that this might actually be a feature that was uncovered a little sooner than it should have been. One of CleanTechnica’s writers was able to replicate Nextmove’s findings at a Tesla V3 Supercharger in the Netherlands using a Renault Zoe.

There is EU requirement that requires new Tesla Supercharging locations to make some of its chargers compatible with non-Tesla vehicles.

Clearly, letting non-Tesla drivers charge for free, is not a feature. But allowing non-Tesla EVs to work with Tesla Superchargers might be, assuming users also pay for the service. Some believe this is just an interim solution, it’s obviously not in Tesla’s interest to give away free electricity, and it only uses free Supercharging access as perk for some customers.

A Twitter user going by the name TeslaStars suggests that Tesla could let non-Tesla drivers use the company’s app to create an account, enable Supercharging, and be billed appropriately.

While some have called this a bug and others say this is a feature that’s likely to be rolled out due to EU legislation, it’s still unclear if Tesla has patched the free electricity to prevent it being exploited as it works out a more permanent solution.

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