Tesla and its founder are big fans of showing off their technology and innovations to others. They’re quite like Apple back in the days of Steve Jobs who just couldn’t wait to show you that mouse or those cool click-on icons he’d apparently invented and added to his new personal computer.
In fact, Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t invent those technologies, they were already made by others and acquired by Apple for their own use.
It’s not that unusual for a larger company to acquire technology from others and apply it to their own brand. Thinking about this might now have you wondering about Tesla. One area of Tesla technology we want to focus on in today’s blog is that of their chargers.
Tesla offers a number of charging devices for at-home and public charging. But who makes them? Does Tesla make these themselves? Or is there a partnership with some other firm? Let’s find out together.
Background: Tesla Tech Partnership
Before we delve into the world of Tesla charging, let’s think for a second about one industrial partnership at Tesla that we do know about, and that’s their partnership with Panasonic. Since Tesla’s earliest days, it has been known that Panasonic was the source of the lithium-ion battery cells that the company used in its vehicle battery packs.
In those early days, Panasonic even had shares in Tesla, but it has since sold off those shares at some point summer 2021.
Despite the share sell-off, Panasonic claimed that their working relationship with Tesla was not changing and the 2 companies would continue on their joint efforts to develop the most cutting-edge battery technology for use in electric vehicles.
What we learn from this is that Tesla has always been willing to partner with the right people to get the technology it wants in the quantity it wants. So, how about the charging technology, where does that come from? The short answer to the question is…Tesla…we think.
Tesla’s Charging World
First, let’s be clear about what charging technology exists currently in the Tesla portfolio. There are three key items:
- Level 1 factory-issued NEMA 5-15 110-volt charging cable
- Level 2 “Wall Connector” Home Charging wallbox – latest is Gen 3 model
- Level 3 “Supercharger” units that are placed within Tesla Supercharger network stations
The Gen 3 Wall Connector was released in the US in 2020, and then expanded to other markets in 2021. The latest generation was met with high praise from experts, being praised as a real game changer, especially compared to the more disappointing second-generation model, which lacked many of the basic protection features, as well as any kind of smart features.
The Gen 3 model has better built-in protection, meaning buyers don’t have to fork out more money to upgrade their protection with an expensive Type-B RCD, for instance. What’s more, it is smart and can be remotely operated using the Tesla app.
Another bit of good news is that the gen 2 and gen 3 models of Tesla’s Wall Connector are compatible with all J1172 plug EV models. That means if your home has a Tesla and a Chevy Bolt, for instance, the one charging point can be used to charge them both, you won’t need a separate charger for the Bolt.
As far as we know, the manufacturer of all this equipment is Tesla itself. There is no confirmed report of any other company being contracted to manufacture these technologies.
One thing we do know is that Tesla is quite secretive about who its suppliers and manufacturing partners are. The basic electronic components, including the electric motors, battery packs and chargers we know are made by Tesla, including the SuperCharger units which are manufactured at Giga New York (Buffalo, NY).
Secretive as Tesla is, other research has also shown that a number of other components we know are made by known partners:
- Windshields made by AGC Automotive
- Brakes made by Brembo
- Power Seats made by Fisher Dynamics
- Instrument Panel made by Inteva Products
- Battery chiller made by Modine Manufacturing
- Acoustic dampers made by Sika
- Liftgate gas springs made by Stabilus
- Power steering mechanism made by ZF Lenksysteme
The list of possible but unconfirmed partnerships is considerable, with a long list of US and global companies that might supply this, that, and the other.
Black & Veatch
One name that does keep cropping up when you look into Tesla’s partnerships in the charging arena is that of Black & Veatch (B&V). This company describes itself as a 100-percent employee-owned engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company. B&V’s role in the Tesla universe is to design and construct Tesla’s Supercharger sites.
There’s an important distinction to be made here. B&V characterizes their partnership with Tesla as being one with the lofty aim “to construct the largest contiguous electric vehicle charging system in the world.” Tesla has contracted them to design and construct Supercharger network sites. So, B&V do not manufacture the Supercharger units themselves. As we established further above, those are made at Giga New York in Buffalo.
What B&V does have to do, however, is create a workable site where those chargers can be installed, operated and maintained.
Tesla Wall Connector and Tesla Supercharger
We know that Tesla produces its own level 1 and level 2 chargers, the former of which is issued with every car and the latter is sold separately on the Tesla online store. The level 2 charger is known as the Wall Connector and sells currently for $550 with either an 8.5-foot of 24-foot cable.
It’s a sleek wallbox unit that offers charging of up to 44 miles of range per hour. The unit is also capable of power sharing, which allows multiple cars to be charged from the same box.
The Supercharger units are made in Giga New York, but plans are afoot to expand that production to China to help make the spread of Tesla’s network in China easier. Right now, Supercharger units that are being used and installed in China are also manufactured in the US and exported.
That may sound great for US business, but China has high import tariffs, and issues with the global supply chain have all helped it to make more sense for Tesla to expand Supercharger production to its Shanghai plant (Gigafactory 3).
As sales in China of Tesla cars continue to grow and China continues on its path to be the real go-to market for electric vehicles, it would also make sense for Tesla to manufacture its Wall Connector units there, but at the time of writing there’s no confirmation of any plans to do this. Right now, we only know of the plan to expand Supercharger production to Gigafactory 3.
Conclusion: Manufacturing Begins at Home
Tesla has shown an admirable willingness to invest in domestic manufacturing in the US, opening up plants in California, Nevada and New York, with a new Gigafactory under construction in Austin, Texas.
They invest overseas, too, notably in China and Germany, but it absolutely makes sense for them to do that to support international markets and boost capacity for these cars, the buyers of which are facing incredibly long waiting lists.
While it’s clear that Tesla relies on a network of partners for individual components, it’s encouraging to see that the “flagship hardware” of the company — batteries, chargers, electric powertrain components and whatnot — are made by Tesla themselves. It’s a great testament to a company well invested in its own technical capabilities.