There are several aspects of electric motoring that seem complicated and confusing to potential would-be electric car drivers, and the business of actually getting electricity into the things looks to be one of them.
Life would be much easier if there were only one type of cable connector, but seemingly, there are loads. That’s because different types of chargers work at different outputs, so different types of cables and connectors are needed.
Luckily, in this advice guide, carwow fills you in on all aspects of getting power into your electric car, so even if you don’t currently know your CHAdeMO from your Chargemaster, we’ll have you up to speed in no time.
Rapid charger connector types
These are the fastest way to charge an electric car, and depending on the model of the car, these are capable of juicing-up your average EV in just a few minutes. Bear in mind, however, that these chargers can only be used on cars that have rapid-charging capability, and that there’s more than one sort of rapid charger, and each uses a different selection of connectors.
Let’s start with the most powerful type, which is known as the Ultra-Rapid DC (Direct Current) Charger. These operate at speeds of 100kW or more, with the most common outputs being 100kW and 150kW, as in the BP Chargemaster units below. Although in some places in Europe, up to 350kW is achievable. A 100kW point will charge your car up to 80% in around half an hour, while a 350kW can do it in less than ten minutes.
Then you have Rapid DC chargers, which operate at 50kW, and will recharge your battery in under an hour. Both these types of charger are tethered – which means that a charging cable is attached to the charger so you don’t have to use your own – and the connector on the end of that cable will always be either a CCS (Combined Charging System) or a CHAdeMO (an abbreviation of ‘Charge de Move’ – don’t ask!).
However, there’s also another type of rapid charger, the AC (Alternating Current) variety, which operates at 43kW. This takes a wee bit longer to charge your car than a 50KW DC charger, but the difference is minimal. The big difference with these, though, is they use a different connector known as a Type 2. We’ll come back to this one in a little while.
But we’re not finished yet. Like with many things, Tesla does things its own way. The company has its own network of DC superchargers that operate at up to 150kW that only Tesla drivers can use, but these use either a Tesla Type 2 or a CCS connector.
The Tesla Type 2 connector is present on all Tesla superchargers and can be used with the Model S and Model X, although many drivers use adapters that allow them to use other kinds of public rapid charger.
The Model 3, meanwhile, has switched over to using the CCS standard, and while this isn’t yet available across all of Tesla’s own supercharger network, it’s currently being rolled out.
Fast charger connector types
Most fast chargers operate at either 7kW or 22kw, and work with AC rather than DC. Depending on the capacity of your vehicle’s battery, a 7kW connection will charge your car in six to eight hours, while a 22kW connection will do it in two or three. Some of these chargers are tethered, but most are untethered, which means you’ll need to use your own charging cable.
The thing to remember here is that AC chargers use different connectors to DC chargers. If your car’s DC charging port is of the CHAdeMO variety, you’ll have a second port that allows you to take on AC charge.
In this case, there are two types of connectors, Type 1 and Type 2. You’ll find Type 1 ports on older electric cars, while Type 2 ports are more commonly found on newer EVs. For instance, the Mk1 Nissan Leaf uses a Type 1 while the lastest Leaf has a Type 2.
If your car’s DC port is a CCS, though, your AC charging port will be a Type 2 that’s actually built into the same port design as the DC connector: notice the corresponding shape and pin arrangement between CCS and Type 2. That accounts for the ‘Combined’ bit of the ‘Combined Charging System’ moniker.
Hopefully, you shouldn’t have to worry about all this too much because it’s likely that your car will come with a cable with the right sort of connector on it (although some don’t, so if you need to buy one, you’ll need to figure out which type you need). It’ll only be in the unlikely event that the AC charge point you come across is tethered rather than untethered that you might get caught out. And happily, you never have to worry about what sort of connector needs to be at the charger-end of your charge cable, as all untethered AC charge points use the Type 2 connector (so in essence, your charge cable will always be Type 2 at one end, and either Type 1 or Type 2 at the other, depending on your car).
It’s worth noting, too, that although all-electric cars can be plugged into fast chargers, provided they have the right cable, they might not be able to use the charger’s full capacity. For example, certain types of Nissan Leaf will only draw a maximum of 3.3kW, even if they’re plugged into a 7kW or 22kW charger.
It’s also worth noting that many plug-in hybrids – such as those from Volkswagen and Land Rover – only use AC charging as their batteries have a smaller capacity and so have less need for higher capacity DC charging.
And remember the AC Rapid chargers we mentioned earlier? These always use a Type 2 socket, so you should be able to use your regular AC charging cable. That does mean, though, that the only car capable of using the full 43kW capacity of one of these chargers is the Mk1 Renault Zoe, which only uses AC charging. The Mk2 Zoe, meanwhile, offers both AC and DC charging.
Slow charger connector types
Slow chargers only operate at up to 3kW, so are the slowest means of charging up your electric vehicle. This means your car will need to be plugged in for several hours to get any meaningful amount of charge into it, and that’s why slow chargers are most likely to be found at homes or workplaces (although home chargers can operate up to 22kW, and some public chargers do operate at 3kW).
Such connections will usually take the form of either a low-capacity wallbox charger, or a good old-fashioned three-pin domestic plug in a household socket (although it’s strongly recommended that you don’t use a domestic socket on a regular basis).
What happens when you drive an electric car until it runs out of charge? Watch our video below.
Slow chargers are AC connections, so aside from the domestic three-pin plug, the other connectors involved are usually either Type 1s or Type 2s.
We say ‘usually’ because there is one more possibility. You can also buy an adapter that will allow your AC charging cable to be connected to a Commando socket. You’ll probably recognise one of these if you’re into your camping, because these are the types of connectors used to hook up a caravan to mains electricity, and they’re also found in various other industrial and commercial sites. This gives you a means of connecting to a power supply in areas like these.
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