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GM and Ford's electric vehicles will now be able to use Tesla's superchargers

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This week, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, made a surprise appearance on Twitter...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARY BARRA: Hi, Elon. Thanks for joining.

ELON MUSK: Absolutely.

SIMON: ...With, as you can hear, the head of a rival car company.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARRA: And so I'm really excited to announce our collaboration with you and with Tesla. And by the way...

SIMON: That's Mary Barra and Elon Musk announcing that GM vehicles will adopt Tesla's charging technology. This sounds familiar. That's because Ford did the same thing just a couple of weeks ago. Camila Domonoske covers cars and energy for NPR, joins us. Camila, thanks so much for being with us.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Yeah, happy to be here.

SIMON: So what does this mean, two big car companies, GM and Ford, adopting the Tesla system?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah, well, let's start with what it means for drivers. So if you drive a Ford or a GM electric vehicle today, you will be able to use Tesla Superchargers starting next year, which is a big deal because those are much more reliable than most of the fast chargers that are out there. But more significantly, anyone who buys a Ford or GM in the years ahead - which, according to these companies' plans, will be a lot of people - they'll have built into their car the kind of charger that Tesla uses. So they'll be able to use Superchargers without having an adapter. It'll be built in.

SIMON: Yeah. Why are three big rivals cooperating? I mean, it's so different than, let's say, you know, Gillette and Schick - you can't have the same replacement system, and that's their business plan.

DOMONOSKE: Right. So for Ford and GM, having better chargers available to their customers is a benefit to them. They think they'll be able to sell more cars because people won't be as worried about going on road trips because they know they'll be able to use these Tesla chargers. But the big winner here is Tesla. And, one, they get money from people using their chargers. That's a revenue stream that's going to be expanding. But, two, I think the more common comparison is Betamax and VHS. For a while there was this big contest, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

DOMONOSKE: And it wasn't clear which one would win. So in the U.S. there have been these two charging systems, the one that Tesla uses and then the other one called CCS, which was a charging system that other automakers could use. But, you know, it wasn't as reliable. So now with this deal with Ford, with GM, a deal with the White House to allow more access, Tesla is really reaching out to expand - instead of having a walled garden just for Teslas, Tesla chargers for everybody, which is a big shift.

SIMON: So is this good news for the big federal push to try and build more chargers?

DOMONOSKE: It's interesting. All the billions of dollars that are going to build more chargers - they actually specify that they need this other charging system 'cause no one anticipated that Tesla would open up like this. So it'll be interesting to see how that plays out, whether that changes. But, you know, I'll just note there are adapters. It is possible to, you know, charge across the systems. That is doable. There will be a lot more chargers, whatever the technology is, because this is such a big push as part of the fight against climate change, to get more EVs out there.

SIMON: Camila Domonoske, thanks so much for being with us.

DOMONOSKE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: June 9, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
In an earlier version of this story, we inaccurately characterized the relative size of Betamax and VHS cartridges.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.