The real reason Tesla is allowing rival car companies to use its EV charging stations goes beyond simple goodwill or financial gain. While Tesla’s Supercharger network is known for its speed and extensive coverage, the decision to grant access to competitors like Ford and GM is driven by a strategic move to tap into valuable data.
Tesla has always been data-driven, using cellular and WiFi connectivity to gather extensive information about its cars and users. This data collection ranges from monitoring braking system efficiency to tracking AC usage patterns. With the addition of data ports on its Supercharger stations, Tesla has the opportunity to gather even more information, and now, by allowing rival electric vehicles (EVs) to charge on its network, it can potentially collect data from its competitors as well.
The sleek NACS (North American Charging System) chargers developed by Tesla have not only larger holes for electricity but also smaller ones for data ports. These data ports enable communication between the charger and the EV, facilitating the exchange of information related to battery health, efficiency, and performance. While traditional gasoline pumps only need to know if the tank is full, charging EVs involves a more complex interaction between the charger and the vehicle’s battery management system.
Tesla’s streamlined approach to charging, known as “plug & charge,” allows for seamless communication and data exchange during the charging process. As other car companies start plugging into Tesla’s Supercharger network, Tesla can likely extract data from their EVs. This data can include battery charge status, charging rates, and potentially even deeper insights into battery system performance.
While Ford and GM may have implemented measures to prevent Tesla from directly accessing ownership information, Tesla’s extensive data gathering capabilities can still provide valuable competitive intelligence. Even basic information gathered during the charging process, such as charging preferences and patterns, combined with demographic and payment data, can yield insights into battery performance over time and contribute to grid load planning.
By tapping into the battery management systems of rival EVs, Tesla can potentially access even more data beyond charging behavior. These systems are interconnected with other components like the engine control unit, creating opportunities for Tesla to gather insights into a broader range of vehicle systems. While the technical details of Tesla and rival EVs are likely known through reverse engineering, the value lies in the massive dataset generated through charging, offering a wealth of information for Tesla to leverage.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has consistently emphasized the importance of data. Data plays a crucial role in Tesla’s self-driving technology, and Musk has previously charged researchers for access to data at Twitter. Additionally, Tesla is leveraging brain activity data from Neuralink users to improve its brain chips. Data is a prized asset in Silicon Valley, and for Tesla, it holds immense value and potential.
As other car companies develop their own charging networks based on the NACS standard, they too will have access to similar data from Tesla vehicles. However, Tesla’s unique approach to data utilization sets it apart. Tesla drivers have willingly allowed the company to collect information about them, creating a level of trust and rapport. While drivers of other brands might be hesitant to submit to extensive data collection, Tesla owners perceive the company as a trusted entity.
The shift towards becoming a data company aligns with Tesla’s trajectory. Initially perceived as a car company, Tesla has shown potential to diversify its offerings, including insurance services. Now, with access to a vast amount of data, Tesla can further improve the efficiency of its own batteries, enhance the range of its vehicles, and potentially unlock new revenue streams. The automotive data market is projected to reach significant values, and Tesla’s valuable dataset positions it well to capitalize on this growing market.
Tesla’s decision to grant access to its Supercharger network to rival car companies is driven by its desire to tap into valuable data. This data gives Tesla a competitive advantage in the auto industry and provides a lucrative opportunity to commoditize and sell data to other companies. Additionally, Tesla’s data-driven approach aligns with its goal of becoming a data company, potentially overshadowing its status as a car manufacturer. With access to extensive data, Tesla can improve its own battery efficiency, enhance the range of its vehicles, and potentially explore new avenues in the energy and utility sectors. As the market for automotive data continues to grow, Tesla’s strategic move to open up its charging network may prove to be a crucial factor in its long-term success and sustainability.