Setting the Standard: How the SAE J3400 Connector Will Change EV Charg — Lectron EV Skip to content
Setting the Standard: How the SAE J3400 Connector Will Change EV Charging

Setting the Standard: How the SAE J3400 Connector Will Change EV Charging

Between May and December last year, major carmakers announced they were adapting Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) from 2025 onwards. This meant that other than Tesla’s own line of electric vehicles (EVs), competing brands like Lucid, BMW, Ford, and GM will now use the same receptacle in their EVs.

It’s one thing to band together and agree on using a connector, but it’s different to have it recognized and greenlit for commercialization. Here’s the thing, NACS isn’t a “standard” just yet. At least not until SAE International says so. SAE International is the regulating body for all things automotive and is the same proponent of the SAE J1772.

In June 2023, SAE announced that it would standardize the connector following Ford and GM’s switch in May. Less than six months later, the organization released the Technical Information Report in record time. The publication of the TIR is a significant milestone in the development of EV charging infrastructure. With the establishment of crucial engineering and development parameters, developers now have clarity on key aspects required for the deployment and commercialization of the NACS connector, which is targeted for Fall 2024.


In December 2019, Tesla started a test run in select European cities on non-Tesla Supercharging. In 2022, the company released the Supercharger design to third parties in a bid to make it the fast charging standard in North America. Not to be confused with the Tesla proprietary plug, the NACS is a slightly modified version that uses power-line communication (PLC) instead of CAN bus. Additionally, it employs the same ISO 15118 protocol used by Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors, making it electrically compatible with any CCS-enabled EV. This compatibility, along with the compact and robust design of the connector as opposed to the clunky CCS, became Tesla’s main selling point for the standardization of the NACS.

Implications for Industry and Consumers

The standardization of the NACS connector under the SAE J3400 umbrella carries significant implications for the electric vehicle industry and consumers.

For car manufacturers, adopting a unified charging standard simplifies production processes by eliminating the need to develop and maintain proprietary charging solutions. This streamlining can lead to cost savings and greater efficiency in manufacturing. Additionally, a standardized connector promotes interoperability among different EV models, enhancing convenience for consumers and encouraging broader EV adoption.

From the consumer's perspective, the standardization of charging connectors offers greater flexibility and peace of mind. With a consistent connector across various EV models, drivers can confidently rely on public charging infrastructure without worrying about compatibility issues. This interoperability promotes EV ownership by reducing barriers related to charging accessibility.

Moreover, the widespread adoption of the NACS connector is poised to accelerate the expansion of EV charging networks. As more manufacturers embrace the standardized connector, charging station operators are incentivized to invest in infrastructure development, leading to increased charging options and improved coverage.

Market Readiness

While the Fall 2024 target for the “official” standardization of the SAE J3400 looks plausible with the rate at which things are developing, Tesla is retrofitting, albeit slowly, its Superchargers with the “Magic Dock” to onboard CCS-enabled non-Tesla EVs to the charging network. This adapter allows up to 250 kW of charging, but some users are reportedly getting a maximum of 42 kW. Meanwhile, third-party manufacturers such as Lectron have released their own version of a NACS-to-CCS adapter to aid this slow rollout, allowing access to 12,000+ Superchargers nationwide.

Tesla said it is prioritizing early adopters GM and Ford for a February 2024 access, “once they have the charge port and software to interface with our charging stations”. This seemingly confirms the company is releasing a specialized adapter exclusive to the two carmakers. Other brands would have to wait as the rollout is set to be implemented in stages as shared by Tesla design manager of Charging Infrastructure Jenny Pretare.

Electrify America, one of the biggest charging solutions providers in North America, has already expressed its support for the standardization, promising to add the NACS connector option at existing and future charging stations by 2025.

With backing from no less than the White House, more than twenty EV manufacturers have signed up to the NACS alliance since GM and Ford’s announcements. The most recent signee is Stellantis, which is looking to fit its 2026 model with the connector.

Once SAE International officially recognizes NACS, access to a more robust fast-charging network will be widely available, without the limitations of connector compatibility. This could also be the solution to the long-standing issue of range anxiety which is still one of the main reasons for the slow EV uptake. With rapid charging easily accessible and standardized across various EV models, drivers will have greater confidence in the reliability and convenience of electric vehicles.

Moreover, the adoption of NACS as a standardized connector has the potential to spur innovation in charging technology and infrastructure. As automakers and charging station operators align around a common standard, investment in research and development for faster, more efficient charging solutions is likely to increase. This could lead to advancements such as higher charging capacities, improved battery technologies, and smarter grid integration, further enhancing the appeal and practicality of electric vehicles.

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