Buying an electric car can be a big change – not only are there worries about range but how to actually charge the thing, too. You’ll need to think about the types of connector and cables you’ll be using, where you’ll plug it in, and how long it’ll take to charge.
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Types of connector
There are several types of connector your new electric car could use. Four main types are offered – all of which will need different cables, although these should be provided when you buy your electric or plug-in car.
Type 1 (J1772)
The Type 1 connector has a five-pin design and was originally the standard agreed on in America. Some of the most popular plug-in vehicles use Type 1 connectors, including the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota Prius Plug-In.
Type 2 (Mennekes)
The Type 2 connector – also known as Mennekes – has been adopted as the European standard. It has a seven-pin design and is found on lots of European vehicles including the Mercedes C350 Plug-In, Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3. This connector seems to be the industry’s preferred type going forward so expect it to become even more common.
The CHAdeMO connector is usually found in addition to Type 1 connectors, especially on Japanese and French models. This can be used at rapid DC chargers to achieve up to 80 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes on some models.
The CCS connector looks very similar to the Type 2 but has an extra connector beneath to enable charging at rapid DC charging stations offering similar charging times to the CHAdeMO system. Cars with Type 2 connectors can usually use CCS connectors, too.
Types of charger
Charging your electric car is completely different than filling up with petrol – there are a variety of chargers available. It’s worth knowing that many fast chargers aim for an 80 per cent charge in their cycle – after that, the charging rate slows to extend the life of the battery.
Slow chargers are normally found at home using a standard three-pin household socket. It’s convenient if you have off-street parking and very cheap – usually only £2 worth of electricity is enough for a full charge. The disadvantage is that it’s very slow and can take up to 12 hours to deliver a full charge, depending on your model.
Fast chargers require further installation when fitted at home and are found in many public places. Thanks to their faster charge rate, it’s possible to halve the time taken for a full charge to around four hours for most vehicles. Fast chargers tend to have a Type 2 socket so you need an additional Type 1 to Type 2 cable if your car has this older socket. Faster charging times are great, but the systems can cost hundreds of pounds to fit.
Rapid chargers (DC)
Rapid chargers are typically found at places like service stations. This is where the CHAdeMO and CCS connectors on cars really come into their own – allowing an 80 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes. These have cables built in, so you don’t need to worry about bringing one with you.
Rapid chargers (AC)
A reasonably new development, rapid AC chargers are similar to the DC version but use alternating current instead of direct. They reach the crucial 80 per cent charge level in a similar time, but use only a cable with a regular Type 2 connector. Only a few cars can use them, however, so there are less than 500 in the UK.
Tesla’s Model S has the capability to charge at a much faster rate than most other electric vehicles, so the brand’s installed its own special chargers in various locations. These use a standard Type 2 connector and take roughly 30 minutes to give an 80 per cent charge but, considering the Tesla has notably bigger batteries than many rivals, this gives a near 200-mile range.
Where can I charge my car?
Your car should arrive with a cable that can go from your car to a standard three-pin socket. This can take a long time so it may be worth forking out a few hundred pounds for a special wall box that gives you much faster charges. To make this as easy as possible, you’ll probably need off-street parking.
Depending on what range your plug-in has, you may need charge it at work to get home again. Many workplaces with parking facilities have invested in a couple of charging spaces so this isn’t too much of a stumbling block.
85% of plug-in drivers charge their vehicles at home or work but there are going to be plenty of occasions where you may need a boost. Slow and fast chargers are found in a variety of places – motorway service stations are the most obvious place to find rapid chargers, but you can also find them at holiday parks, shopping centres and most IKEA stores.
What cables do I need?
Rapid chargers tend to have cables attached, but it’s advisable to keep at least one cable in the car should you get caught short. Here’s a few of the cables you can use…
3-pin to Type 1 or 2 – for plugging in from a Type 1 or Type 2 connector to a standard 3-pin socket, useful at home or in public.
Type 1 to Type 2 – for connecting a fast charging point with a Type 2 connector to a vehicle with a Type 1 connector.
Type 2 to Type 2 – for connecting a fast charging point to a vehicle with a Type 2 connector.