The charger’s connective capabilities point to a back-end payment system which — combined with its relatively low price and potential for non-proprietary use — could present a competitive challenge for incumbent providers
Tesla recently released its third generation Wall Connector Level 2 charging system, which features an updated design and up to 77 kilometres (44 miles) of range per hour of charge. Most significant, however, is the charger’s Wi-Fi connectivity, which would facilitate remote access and over-the-air updates, and could allow for potential connection to a back-end charging payment system.
Although not as fast as DC fast chargers, Level 2 chargers are a step up from the chargers which are typically included with electric vehicles that use standard 120V wall outlets. They are commonly installed at homes and public parking destinations. Level 2 chargers require installation by an electrician and can charge a fully depleted battery within the course of a few hours.
A section of the Wall Connector installation manual specifies that “commercial use” is covered for 12 months under warranty. The definition of that phrase, which follows, could be making provision for the development of a Tesla “pay-for-use” charging network:
“For warranty claims specific to Wall Connectors, ‘commercial use’ means Wall Connectors used for purposes other than charging at a residential single family home for daily personal use, which includes… locations that allow (including by being listed online or publicly) for pay-for-use charging”
That 16 of these charging units can share a power source also suggests they were designed with intent for sale to apartment buildings (in which 27.9 per cent of Canadians live) or other large buildings, such as hotels, retail centres and parking lots.
Currently, owners of such buildings pay for the electricity drivers get from Tesla chargers. A back-end payment system, if deployed, would be able to receive user payments directly. A share of the funds could then be divided between the building owner and Tesla for providing the service.
At a price point of $635 (or US$500) Tesla’s charger is less expensive than many competing Level 2 chargers connected to payment networks, which are typically in the $1,500 range.
Currently, the charger is only compatible with Tesla vehicles. There are indications, however, of the potential for future compatibility with a wider range of EVs. For instance, a section of the charging manual which addresses device fault codes reads as follows:
“If the issue persists and the attached vehicle is manufactured by Tesla… contact Tesla. If the vehicle is not manufactured by Tesla, contact the vehicle’s manufacturer.”
This could refer to drivers using J1772 adaptors (a North American standard connector for Level 2 charging in non-Tesla EVs) on Tesla connectors. However, as has been noted on social media and seen in a Toronto public parking lot (see photo), Tesla has previously released wall chargers built with J1772 connectors. If Tesla were to release a J1772-compatible version of their Wall Connector connected to a back-end payment system, the hardware costs would likely be, by some margin, the cheaper option for building owners.
Even if the chargers remain solely Tesla-compatible for the long term, with the back-end payments system and lower price they would still be a compelling proposition for building owners to consider: 54 per cent of new battery electric vehicles sold in the first nine months of 2019 in Canada were Teslas.