Ford strikes deal with Tesla to gain access to rival charging stations starting 2024

By Hyunjoo Jin, David Shepardson and Abhirup Roy

(Reuters) -Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it has agreed with Tesla Inc to allow its electric vehicle owners to gain access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in North America in early 2024.

The tie-up between the rivals makes Ford the first major automaker to embrace Tesla's proprietary charging standard, giving the automaker access to the biggest network of high-speed Superchargers in the United States.

Access to charging stations is considered one of the main hurdles so far to broader acceptance of electric vehicles, analysts have said.

Tesla said last November it would open its proprietary charging design to other automakers and charging network operators.

A Tesla-developed adapter will provide Ford EVs fitted with the Combined Charging System (CCS) port access to Tesla’s V3 Superchargers. Ford will equip future EVs with Tesla's own charging standard, removing the need for an adapter for direct access to Tesla Superchargers, starting in 2025.

"The idea is that we don't want the Tesla supercharger network to be like a walled garden. We want it to be something that is supportive of electrification and sustainable transport in general," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during an online Twitter Spaces conversation with Ford CEO Jim Farley.

"We love the locations, we love the reliability, your routing software, the ease of use of the connector, the reliability of it," Farley said.

"Tesla storms through the train station like 300 kilometers per hour Shinkansen," Farley said, referring to Japanese bullet trains. "We're learning a lot."

Tesla had 17,711 Superchargers, accounting for about 60% of total U.S. fast chargers, which can add hundreds of miles of driving range in an hour or less.

Farley on Thursday announced the partnership during the Twitter Spaces conversation. Twitter is owned by Musk.

The event comes just a day after Twitter crashed repeatedly during a highly anticipated live audio chat between Musk and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, setting back Musk's efforts to promote the social media firm he bought for $44 billion last year.

The Musk-Farley Twitter Spaces conversation lasted about a half hour and came off without technical glitches.

Farley said earlier on Thursday at a Morgan Stanley forum that "on the infrastructure side, I think it's room for some collaboration between the auto companies, which is totally unnatural for us."

Farley added, "I think we need to start – I mean, I think the first step is to work together in a way we haven't, probably with the new EV brands and the traditional old companies."

For example, he called it "totally ridiculous" that the industry has multiple plugs for its charging networks and "we can't even agree on what plug to use."

Musk earlier this month tweeted: "I think Ford’s overall strategy with EVs is smart. The electric F-150 (Lightning) has high demand."

He also defended Ford over its losses on its electric vehicle business. "Always tough with margins for new vehicle lines, especially when there are major technology shifts."

Farley said on Thursday that Ford should take the lead to reach out to a new company like a Tesla or a Nio Inc or BYD "to kind of work together in a non-natural way as competitors. I think you'll see Ford do that just because that's what kind of company we are."

This year, Tesla has started to expand beyond its proprietary connectors and incorporate the rival CCS standard at some of its charging stations in the United States, as the Biden administration seeks to provide billions in subsidies to expand charging networks.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Hyun Joo Jin and Abhirup Roy in San FranciscoEditing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)